Every voice in a choir is important. “There must always be respect for the part you’re not singing,” says Arapahoe Credit Union’s Christine Eckhardt.
“The bass you don’t see carries as much weight—and emotional response—as the soprano you do see,” emphasizes Eckhardt, chief operating officer (COO) at the $144 million asset credit union in Centennial, Colo.
Whether singing in a community choir, coaching employees, or volunteering for a variety of causes, Eckhardt always listens closely to those around her.
She works to hear when the introverts are unwilling to speak and balances whispering voices with the exuberance of those typically standing front-stage.
The credit union world isn’t uniform, but she works to make it harmonic.
The mother of two sons, Eckhardt gained confidence from being raised in a “boisterous” family. Her father is an attorney, and her mother is a teacher and opera singer. Yet even her “confident, knowledgeable, and successful” parents know getting a mortgage can be intimidating. She also knows the world for her children will be no easier.
“Banking is scary,” Eckhardt says. “No one feels confident with every aspect of their money.”
But it’s also a tool people need to leverage. It’s her job to overcome that fear and empathize with each person’s situation and concerns.
Eckhardt’s credit union career began as a teller and moved through account service roles before she became a branch manager, vice president, and COO. Now, her priority is to focus on the success of the credit union’s staff and members.
She makes sure the front line gets help first and coaches loan staff to turn rejections into opportunities. Opportunities define her.
“We use the phrase, ‘Find a way to say yes,’” Eckhardt says. “Even if we can’t give someone a loan, let’s create a relationship.”
If credit card debt causes an auto loan to be denied, for example, the loan officer works to get that person on the road to success. This may not always mean new business for Arapahoe, but it’s the foundation for the member’s future success.
For Eckhardt, changing lives starts with sharing resources and talents. It’s about focusing a spotlight to make sure the audience has a clear picture, but supporting the many people the audience doesn’t see.
“We build on the strengths of each other.”