“I have the best job in the world,” exclaims Schenck, president/CEO of the $21.3 billion asset credit union.
The readers of Credit Union Magazine named him the 2017 Credit Union Hero of the Year. He'll be honored Monday during the America's Credit Union Conference in Las Vegas.
Inspired to come to work every day by the opportunity to serve those who serve our country through military duty, Schenck’s enthusiasm stems from his experiences as a member of two credit union boards.
“I learned a valuable lesson about service: the importance of placing others before self and constantly focusing on member value,” he says.
Schenck views attracting, retaining, and inspiring the best and the brightest employees as one of his primary job responsibilities.
“Any organization is only as good as its people,” he says. “At PenFed, our teams are all united in our shared mission of helping our members do better financially. There’s no greater feeling than to work alongside them each day and to support them with the resources they need to be successful.”
Constant communication and a commitment to set the tone at the top keep PenFed’s workforce of 2,300 in accord, Schenck believes.
For example, employees receive a weekly message from Schenck that highlights staff who exemplify Pen-Fed’s values of service, gratitude, and empathy, and who have earned a “no speed limit” cultural award— a reference to the credit union’s fast-paced strategic growth campaign.
Service to members isn’t the only credit union operating principle PenFed puts into action. Social responsibility is an integral part of PenFed’s culture as well.
“Our culture of community service extends to every employee,” Schenck says. “Every day and every night, PenFed employees volunteer their time and money to support causes. There’s nothing more rewarding than giving back and helping others succeed.”
Schenck leads by example, most recently chairing the Washington Business Hall of Fame Committee, which raised a record $1.34 million for Junior Achievement of Greater Washington.
The PenFed Foundation raised funds to build the Defenders Lodge next to the Veterans Affairs (VA) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, Calif.
“Before we built Defenders Lodge and donated it to the VA, veterans who needed medical treatment were literally sleeping in their cars because hotels in Palo Alto weren’t affordable,” Schenck says.
PenFed CU’s James Schenck
on serving military veterans
Since its dedication less than two years ago, Defenders Lodge has provided more than 70,000 free hotel stays to veterans and their families.
The PenFed Foundation also raised more than $2 million to aid military heroes in 2016 with its Night of Heroes Gala and its Military Heroes Golf Classic.
Schenck is a firm believer in cooperation among cooperatives. “PenFed is committed to helping the credit union community,” he says. “One of the most rewarding aspects of working for a credit union is the ability to partner with other credit unions.
“We all share good ideas with each other,” Schenck continues. “When credit unions work together, we bring the added ability to scale and truly make a difference in people’s lives.”