Ask Jose Cajigas how he’s doing and you’ll always get the same reply: “I’m alive!”
“Sometimes you take things for granted—like you’ll be alive tomorrow,” says Cajigas, vice president of operations for $3.1 billion asset BCU in Puerto Rico.
But Hurricane Maria proved that isn’t a given, he says. “So you have to live deeply in your heart one day at a time and enjoy each day as if it’s your last.”
Living one day at a time kept Cajigas focused when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. His first priority was making sure all BCU employees on the island were safe.
Meanwhile, employees at BCU’s headquarters in Vernon Hills, Ill., did the same. The two groups had limited ability to communicate due to power and cell service outages on the island.
As communications were restored, Cajigas worked with the leadership team on the mainland to organize assistance for Puerto Rico staff.
“Less worries on the staff means more time to serve members,” he says.
As BCU addressed staff’s needs for water, food, and fuel, Cajigas’ focus shifted to creating a plan to assist members.
“I’m proud of the entire BCU team,” Cajigas says. “We’re a family, and everyone set aside their personal needs to jump in and figure out how we could help others.”
Cajigas joined BCU in 1992 as a collector for the credit union’s Puerto Rico branches. He learned that listening to members and offering a helping hand earned their trust, which helped decrease loan delinquency from 4% to 0%.
Listening to members continued to guide him as he was promoted to management positions.
Today, the island is still rebuilding. Challenges remain, with rural areas slowly regaining power and some residents relocating to the mainland.
Yet BCU’s business there is “better than ever” thanks to strong relationships with their company partners, employees, and members.
Cajigas knows “one day is all you need” to make a difference.
“I never feel alone because I have God by my side,” he says. “I have my family by my side, and I have 40 people working close to me, hand in hand, each of us connected to our extended BCU family in the states.”