Q: You began your career as a loan officer. What did you learn from that experience that still guides you today?
I remember when I left my small hometown for the big city of Raleigh to become a loan officer with State Employees’ Credit Union. This was 38 years ago. I was a mere 22-year-old kid.
My father, rest his soul, gave me some advice that I will never forget. He said, “Son, you will have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life as a loan officer. People will put their lives in your hands and trust you will make fair decisions.”
My father encouraged me to look beyond the numbers and listen to the stories that accompany every loan application. My father said, “This is how people know you care about them as human beings and not just an account number.”
I spent the formative years of my career as a loan officer. That job shaped who I am today.
I can hear my father’s voice in my ear. I often recount the conversations I’ve had with members sitting across my desk in the branch office. I remember moments of great joy when the loan made it possible for them to buy a new car, home, or other meaningful purchase. Then there are the interactions that haunt me, when I encountered members struggling to feed their children.
I don’t ever want to lose perspective on what credit unions do every day for members in every state. So often, credit unions are the lifeline between despair and family security. We must not lose our humanity and concern for others.
Credit union operatives should maintain a line of sight to the needs of our members and community. This is what gets me out of the bed every morning.
Q: What beliefs or behaviors led you to proudly label yourself a 'credit union nerd'?
One should not take oneself too seriously. Look, life can be hard. We see it every day. There is so much sadness in the world. So, if a little slapstick humor can make my message more approachable, I welcome the levity.
I really am a credit union nerd at heart. Who else would go bonkers about everything credit union?
I remember reading a book entitled “Credit Union Movement” when I was studying for my Certified Credit Union Executive (CCUE) designation in 1986. This book opened my eyes to the historical origins of cooperative credit and how the idea migrated from Europe to North America.
Today, while we don’t have a potato famine to contend with, the same ambitions of working-class people to build sustainable communities and businesses persist.
I might not get an Olympic medal for credit administration. I’m sure there is no Oscar for best asset/liability modeling. I’ve got something better. I have the gratitude of members who tell me how we have changed their lives.
I see the difference we make with honest, transparent pricing and policies. I am proud of our record of fair lending, to give every member an equal opportunity to thrive. This is our reward for a job well done. A bit nerdy? You bet it is.
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