Spotlight: Beverly Gagne

SAFE FCU CEO says a sense of humor is an essential trait for CU leaders.

May 10, 2011

Who: Beverly Gagne
What: President/CEO, SAFE FCU
Where: Sumter, S.C.

A recent professional honor: Receiving the 2010 Business Person of the Year Award from the Sumter Chamber of Commerce. I was delighted to be chosen. It tells me that the community recognizes the credit union as a significant part of Sumter. Accepting the award gave me an opportunity to talk about our wonderful employees and our focus on making member contacts with the credit union a “SAFE Experience,” providing the highest quality of service to all members. This was the first time the Sumter Chamber selected a woman for this honor, which made it even more personal for me.

The secret to success­­­ful­ly managing 15 branches in eight unique communities: Having a talented and cohesive team of managers and employees who love their jobs and care about the members. No one person has made the credit union a success; it’s a team effort from start to finish.

What I enjoy most about the communities my CU serves: The chance to serve new segments of members. Each community is unique in size, population, and economy. SAFE Federal contributes directly to the growth and progress of the smaller communities. In larger communities, we get involved in and support proven community outreach projects and activities. Our field of membership includes eight South Carolina counties.

My vision for the CU in the next decade: The credit union is positioned to exceed $1 billion in assets during this period, and we hope to expand service statewide as opportunities become available to enter additional communities. We plan to add small-business services and provide business loans as the economy recovers. We’ll naturally expand employment opportunities for more South Carolina residents.

One of the most valuable characteristics a CU leader can have: A sense of humor. Laughter disarms an angry person, levels the playing field, and eases communication. I’ve used this technique with employees, volunteers, and members when appropriate. Our senior management team uses humor frequently to convey points that otherwise would make people feel uncomfortable.

A CU is the perfect place to work: If you want your work to improve the lives of those you serve. In addition, the opportunities for advancement in the credit union industry are numerous today.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned during my CU career: Credit unions continue to live their philosophy and mission every day.

How I’d describe myself to someone who doesn’t know me: I’m a 59-year-old woman with a 30-year-old outlook on life. I enjoy people, especially my children and grandchildren. And I enjoy music, gardening, movies, and travel. I’ve been abundantly blessed with a loving family, a fabulous job, and the opportunity to travel throughout the U.S. The only thing I need is more hours in the day to enjoy God’s many blessings.

My family life is abundant: I was the fifth of seven children growing up. I’m fortunate that my mother is still living and will be 88 if she makes it to October. I’ve been privileged to raise nine children: five stepchildren, two biological children, and two adopted children. I was married for 37 years. 

Favorite vacation destination: The beach. I try to spend a week on the South Carolina coast each summer with several children and grandchildren. We fish, parasail, visit the water park, shop, and visit area attractions. My greatest fun is watching grandchildren play in the ocean and on the sandy beach. We try to plan our week around July Fourth because the fireworks along the beach are out of this world.

Favorite movie: “The Notebook.” It’s a great love story based in South Carolina. A poor country boy and a rich city girl fall in love one summer. Even though her family finds him unacceptable as her mate and manages to keep them apart for several years, the two finally rekindle their relationship and live a committed, happy life together. I love the movie’s scenery, and the theme that love conquers all. I guess I’m just a romantic.

I’m thankful because: I was in an automobile accident in March in Pennsylvania. When I returned home, I was showered with flowers, cards, calls, and visits from friends, employees, and credit union asso­ciates wishing me a fast recovery. Nothing means more in life than knowing people care about you.