Ray Lancaster is always looking for an opportunity to provide others with a better path financially.
One experience in 2014 offered him a big opportunity.
Lancaster, CEO of Pyramid Federal Credit Union in Tucson, Ariz., was secret-shopping in a pawn shop as part of the National Credit Union Foundation’s Development Education (DE) program when he met a tradesman who was stuck in a cycle of pawning his tools and buying them back to provide for his family.
Lancaster wondered if any members or employees of the $160 million asset credit union could be stuck in a similar situation.
“We have all needed help at some point in our lives,” he says. “Many people in our country are one emergency or event away from financial catastrophe.
I began to wonder what we could do to help.”
This experience drove Lancaster to begin several new programs. First, he began by incrementally increasing the credit union’s minimum wage to $20 per hour by raising it $1 per hour each year. This will be the third year of wage increases.
“I hope it’s an ongoing thing that will continue forever,” he says. “We should be the leaders in employee benefits and pay. If we’re good for the consumers, we should be good for our employees.”
Another program he added is a $1,500 line of credit with no interest for employees to provide a sound alternative to predatory lenders if they ever need a small loan.
Inspired by his experience in the pawn shop, Lancaster joined forces with a community partner to send constituents with high-interest payday loans through a financial counseling program. Upon completion, they get to replace their loan with a more favorable one from Pyramid Federal.
Inside the credit union world, Lancaster takes time to mentor the next generation of credit union leaders. He says that, second to attending the DE program, serving as a mentor is the best commitment he’s made in his career.
“Passion comes from finding like-minded people and feeding off of each other’s ideas and thoughts,” he says. “If anyone is feeling burned out on credit unions and what we do, I would highly recommend the DE program.”
In true embodiment of the credit union spirit,Lancaster is always looking for ways to help his community.
“Every day, we have an opportunity to help someone,” he says. “We decide whether we let that opportunity go to waste or whether we’re able to make a difference in their world."