Michelle Dwyer “just fell into the job” at $62 million asset Franklin First Federal Credit Union in Greenfield, Mass. She’d been working in retail when she answered an ad from Franklin First offering a temporary teller position.
Well, not so “temporary”—she started at Franklin First in 2006 and by 2016 was the CEO.
“From the beginning the job here just fit,” says Dwyer, referring to her lifelong orientation toward community service. She has broadened community awareness of Franklin First by participating in various community activities such as Rotary Club, the 100 Who Care Franklin County group, and the Franklin County Regional Dog Shelter. (She loves dogs, especially Remy, her German shepherd.)
“We’d been missing a lot of opportunities to go out into the community and make ourselves known,” she says. “We wanted people to learn about us as we learned what kinds of services and products we could offer them.”
Dwyer’s concept of service extends to Franklin First, too. “There are 17 people here, all of them wearing different hats.” Sometimes the hats are ad-hoc. When the basement recently flooded, Dwyer quickly jumped in beside staffers to clean up—an all-night task. “I try hard to bridge any gaps between upper- and lower-level staff members. Jumping in is in our DNA.”
She asks staff members to develop career plans, not just about their future at Franklin First but also looking at interests outside the credit union industry. “We’ve set up a tuition reimbursement program to help staffers cover enrollment fees for courses at community or state colleges,” she says.
Dwyer’s recently introduced Pet Care Club and Credit Builder Loan programs have helped Franklin First’s members set aside money for veterinarian bills or build credit by paying back a $2,000 loan the credit union opens in their name.
Hovering in the wings is Dwyer’s next innovation: Offering small-dollar business loans, in range of roughly $1,000 to $2,000. “This fills a gap that small businesses face when asking for a business loan—most financial institutions will only make loans at a far higher amount, which often isn’t what a business needs or is looking for.”
Dwyer loves backpacking, and has trekked along the Appalachian Trail and Grand Canyon paths. Up next: backpacking in Glacier National Park, “the crown jewel” of America’s great parks.