THE FINANCIAL HEALTH of each and every member of $56 million asset Pioneer Valley Federal Credit Union in Springfield, Mass., is a top priority for Debra Hayward, vice president of lending.
Hayward’s commitment to members is what makes her a rock star, according to colleague Jennie McPherson, Pioneer Valley Federal’s human resources and administrative coordinator.
“When faced with financial hardship, temporary challenges, or long-term savings goals, our members know they can turn to Debra for guidance and education,” says McPherson.
Hayward began her career in the financial services industry more than 40 years ago as a teller. The experience contributed to her current mission and goals.
“As a head teller, I was able to take in loan applications and close the loan,” Hayward explains. “We didn’t do any underwriting in the branches. It was a good experience seeing the borrower so happy to have that new car loan or be able to pay off a few credit cards. I guess this may be what drove me into the lending area.”
Hayward believes in the power of financial literacy. She and her staff have participated in The Money Conference, a volunteer workshop at a local community college in which attendees sit one-on-one with them to discuss spending and savings practices, protecting assets from financial predators, and basic budget-building pointers.
McPherson says that Hayward has been instrumental in fostering the Credit Builder Loan, a program designed to assist young borrowers and those in need of credit recovery. It allows members with no credit or poor credit to establish payment history and to create a positive credit bureau report, without any risk to the credit union.
“Debra takes the credit union philosophy of people helping people to heart, finding both large and small ways to improve the financial well-being of each member she and her staff come into contact with,” McPherson says.
Hayward is committed to the credit union movement and its value proposition for members.
“It’s very different from a bank,” Hayward says. “You know your members—they’re not just numbers like at a bank. In the credit union, every member is treated the same regardless of how much money they may have. We’re dedicated to delivering in every service we offer to our members. It’s just knowing those members when they walk in our door and you see that smile on their face.”