Stop if you’ve heard this before: Man inherits motley crew and transforms them into an elite organization.
Sounds like “The Bad News Bears,” “The Dirty Dozen,” or “Major League.” Now, it’s the script of Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union in Charleston.
The once struggling credit union just completed its third acquisition in as many years, and is now the largest credit union in the southern half of the state. Along the way, it earned national awards and a clean slate from regulators.
The turnaround was a team effort, says Dan McGowan, the credit union’s executive vice president/chief financial officer (CFO). “Think of the emotions you feel when watching those ‘come-from-behind-to-win’ movies,” says McGowan. "That’s us—we were judged losers but now we’re clearly winners. We are the little credit union that could, and did, and continues to do great things.”
Three years ago, McGowan found himself in the role of outcast after he was ousted as CFO from a Florida credit union after losing his bid for CEO. That night he saw a job opening at Pioneer West Virginia Federal and applied in unorthodox fashion—mentioning he’d just been let go, so the timing was good.
The candor resonated with CEO C. Dana Rawlings, who was in his first year on the job. Rawlings called McGowan the following night and they hit it off immediately.
“For some reason, he seemed to think we would make a great team,” McGowan says. “Turns out he was right.”
Among his many achievements, McGowan engineered a tenfold increase in the credit union’s investment portfolio yield, developed a variable-rate certificate in which members’ return can only increase over its four- or five-year term, and conducted the forst financial literacy training program for the board of directors.
“Dan has the ability to see things how they can be, not as they are,” Rawlings says. “He’s relentless in his pursuit of excellence.”