Looking at an antiquated 1980s-era financial simulator, Matt Stephenson saw the framework for a tool that could lead his members to brighter futures.
Inspired by the simulator he saw as a student at Western CUNA Management School—from which he graduated with highest honors—Stephenson went home and built an updated version for use at Rogue Credit Union. A few years later, Western CUNA Management School adopted his model, too.
“It’s a flight simulator for credit union managers,” says Stephenson, the chief operating officer and executive vice president at the $1.3 billion asset credit union in Medford, Ore. “You can make big mistakes and nobody dies. It teaches cause and effect like nothing else I’ve ever seen.”
That financial simulation project serves as an early example of Stephenson’s desire to share his expertise.
He created a local version of the CUNA Management School at Rogue because he saw the value of investing in training and leadership exposure for his team. The two-year program is open to all Rogue employees but has proven so popular that only one-third of applicants get in. The results have been phenomenal, and sometimes surprising.
“Some of our biggest success stories are people who went through the program and realized they didn’t want to be a manager,” Stephenson says. “They’re still at Rogue, but it helped them figure out the best spot for themselves.”
Stephenson is especially proud of starting Rogue’s new loyalty program. This involved opening for every member “ownership” accounts that earn the highest dividend Rogue can offer. The credit union deposits cash into these accounts to reward members for actions that show loyalty.
“It’s the first time in my career where members truly associate a program with the credit union difference: I own the credit union, and because of that I’m getting benefits,” he says.
Co-worker Peggy Blair says Stephenson exemplifies the Rock Star spirit through his work at the credit union, as well as his service on a regional economic development commission, Rogue Community College’s budget committee, a local Rotary Club, and the Boy Scouts.
“A rock star is someone of influence, someone who shakes things up and inspires others, someone who is relentless in their pursuit to share their passion with others, someone who is bigger than life, but impacts others with genuine humility,” Blair says.
“Matt Stephenson fits the bill with being a true, inspirational leader,” she adds.