E.C. Williams accepts the Phil Greer Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Lending Council Chairman Bill Vogeney (left) and Joe Brancucci, CEO of GTE Financial CU (right).
Following a distinguished military career, E.C. Williams found his true calling in the credit union movement.
He worked his way up from an entry-level position to become executive vice president/chief operating officer for MacDill Federal Credit Union (now Grow Financial) and GTE Financial Credit Union, both in Tampa, Fla.
Williams received the CUNA Lending Council’s 2013 Phil Greer Lifetime Achievement Award during the organization’s recent conference in Phoenix. Now retired, Williams examines his storied credit union career.
CU Mag: What was your original career goal?
Williams: I’m “old school” when it comes to career goals/aspirations. By that, I mean I’ve always believed that if I vigorously attacked every task/job/position assigned me with passion and performed to the best of my abilities, the opportunities would continue to present themselves.
It was up to me to ensure I was fully prepared to seize those opportunities when they were presented.
CU Mag: How and when did you arrive in the CU movement?
Williams: I sort of stumbled into the movement. When I was in the military, I worked in the financial sector for a couple of the board members of MacDill Federal Credit Union, now Grow Financial Credit Union.
They asked if I’d provide the supervisory committee with some training in financial matters, as well as organizational and leadership assistance. I agreed and found it was quite interesting and rewarding.
Shortly thereafter, in 1990, I decided to retire from the military and was undecided on my future, so I applied for an entry-level position with MacDill Federal. One of the board members I’d worked with actually invited me to his home and tried for several hours to discourage me from taking the job for a number of reasons.
Mostly, he thought the position was “beneath me” and would be a waste of my leadership and talents. He was convinced I would quickly become disenchanted and leave.
It’s a long story, but I discovered I loved the philosophy of credit unions, I loved helping members, and I was passionate about helping other employees strive to achieve their full potential.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, after a long and distinguished career in the military, I guess you could say I found my calling.
CU Mag: What are some highlights from your time as a CU lender?
Williams: The first thing that comes to mind is the tremendously talented team we were able to quickly assemble at GTE Federal Credit Union (now GTE Financial), and the turnaround we accomplished in a short period of time. Proving the industry “naysayers” wrong was one of the happiest moments of my business career.
One couldn’t ask for a more strategically focused board and executive management team. To a person, I found them intelligent, professional, creative, fun-loving, and passionate about the employees, members, and community. I will forever be indebted to them for allowing me to finish my career on such a high note.
Second on my highlight list would be my time serving the CUNA Lending Council. I’ll never forget November 2011 and how difficult it was for me presiding over the CUNA Lending Council’s annual conference in New Orleans after being a guest speaker in that very same hotel on 9/11, where I watched that day’s events unfold.
It was such an honor to serve with the smartest and most talented lenders/leaders in our industry, many of whom are now CEOs—and it didn’t hurt that we knew how to party after the day’s work was finished!
Finally, I also consider my time with Grow Financial a highlight. I’m extremely proud of the talented operational team and the many accolades and successes we shared over my 20 years there.
I’m most proud of the personal and professional growth and success of the talented people with whom I’ve worked and served. Nothing makes me more proud than to know people have achieved their dreams and/or reached milestones on their career journey, and I’ve possibly played some small part in helping them.
NEXT: Williams' approach to lending
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.