When Mignhon Tourné stepped in as president/CEO in 2006, she faced circumstances few of her credit union colleagues encounter in their entire careers.
Hurricane Katrina had slammed through the area in August 2005, leaving ASI Federal Credit Union in Harahan, La., with two destroyed branches, displaced employees, severely distressed members, and plummeting capital that put the credit union under prompt corrective action.
Even though the situation was dire, ASI Federal’s leaders never considered closing shop. They knew the credit union was an economic lifeline for low-to-moderate-income people in the area.
“We took our mission to another level after Katrina,” says Tourné, who was on the credit union’s board for 20 years before she took over as president/CEO upon her predecessor’s retirement. “It was a time to stop freaking out and start thinking about how to reach out and help members and the community.”
ASI Federal kicked into high gear with its net worth restoration plan. Eighteen months later, the capital level was at 9%.
Today ASI Federal has $320 million in assets, 12 branches, and 155 employees that serve 55,000 members in southeastern Louisiana.
Two major blows followed in the years after Katrina: the Great Recession in 2008 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. “It was a triple whammy,” Tourné says.
By the time the recession hit, ASI Federal had received about $14 million in awards from the U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institution Fund. That money “helped us continue to elevate our mission,” Tourné says.
ASI Federal already was extremely active in community development work, so in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, the credit union enhanced its mission by creating A Shared Initiative Inc. (ASII). The credit union created the nonprofit to provide affordable lending opportunities and expand financial education and other services in the New Orleans area.
“We thought if we could put that work into a separate but sister organization we could expand it more deeply into the community,” says Tourné, who is also president/CEO of ASII.
ASII undertook many projects: funding the first food co-op in New Orleans, co-developing six houses in Musician’s Village in the Ninth Ward, refinancing usurious mortgages during the recession, and more.
After Katrina, ASI Federal took another step when it was chosen as one of seven financial intermediaries to make no-interest loans and grants to New Orleans’ small businesses through the federally funded Louisiana Business Recovery Grant and Loan Program.
ASI Federal’s and ASII’s work continues to improve the finances of businesses and individuals in the New Orleans area. Tourné has led the way for both endeavors, while also being active in several community organizations. She serves on the board of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.
Her love for credit unions and for the community she’s called home most of her life runs deep, and she’s given much.
Still, Tourné says, “I’m not really the hero. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I’m the CEO, and that’s a privilege. But you can’t get things done without a team of dedicated employees.”