One of the best parts of my job is getting to wake up every day and tap into the energy of the credit union movement.
CUNA’s mission is to support, protect, unify, and advance the movement. Leading that mission is an honor I never take for granted.
And it’s a privilege to meet incredible people every day who work shoulder to shoulder with CUNA to ensure credit unions continue to thrive and improve the lives of the members and communities they tirelessly serve.
Credit union people, quite simply, are cut from a different cloth. We’re a little more compassionate, a little more devoted to common sense, and a lot more fired-up than the rest of the financial services industry about the people we serve.
This is what sets us apart, and it’s why our story resonates when we tell it in D.C. and state capitals.
If you ever find yourself feeling stuck—like the work you’re doing is more of a grind than a calling—I encourage you to take a look around. You’re surrounded by amazing people accomplishing incredible things, at your own credit union and movement-wide.
Meet them at a CUNA or league event, hear their stories, and soak up their wisdom. I promise you’ll return to your work renewed.
I was reminded of this while reading about the four recipients of the 2018 Herb Wegner Memorial Awards, named in honor of the late CUNA CEO and awarded annually to credit union leaders who reflect his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership.
This year’s winners are retired CUNA Chief Policy Officer/Chief Economist Bill Hampel, Castro y Asociados President Angel V. Castro, Coastal Credit Union President/CEO Chuck Purvis, and Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates CEO Susan Mitchell. They’ll be recognized for their outstanding individual achievement during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference.
Here are four insights I gleaned from their stories and astonishing careers:
1. Be a catalyst for change. Leaders aren’t afraid to buck the status quo. Chuck undertook a number of bold innovations, including the introduction of personal teller machines that helped Coastal achieve record earnings only two years after the 2008 financial crisis.
Angel turned a network of small Mexican financial cooperatives into Caja Popular Mexicana, a $2 billion asset credit union with 2.3 million members. Big accomplishments often require big changes.
2. Don’t just lead—inspire. I admire how my good friend Bill Hampel inspired hundreds of CUNA colleagues over his long career with his superlative work, his eagerness to mentor, and his unshakeable authenticity.
I was similarly struck by this statement of gratitude from one of the many women Susan has mentored in her career: “She has always held a larger vision for me than what I would have held for myself, and set my target further than what I would have aimed for.”
We should all strive to do the same for those we’re entrusted to lead.
3. Update your models. If something isn’t working, re-evaluate your assumptions.
Early in his career, Angel realized Latin American credit unions didn’t place enough emphasis on financial sustainability, leading to insufficient reserves. So he worked with the World Council of Credit Unions to change that.
Similarly, Chuck examined Coastal’s fee structure and eliminated 20 account fees—foregoing $600,000 in fee revenue but giving his credit union an edge in member experience.
4. Believe in your core message. Bill was an amazingly effective advocate because not only could he explain mathematically why credit unions were consumers’ best financial choice, his passion for them was infectious.
Similarly, Susan grew the World Council’s Global Women’s Leadership Network into a powerhouse organization because of her iron-clad commitment to providing leadership opportunities to credit union women.
These examples are a powerful reminder that when you truly believe in what you’re doing, you’re unstoppable.
JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of CUNA.