Jon Hernandez has become a kind of go-to man for credit unions that need help identifying growth opportunities.
Since 2002, he has managed several credit unions. Often what started out as requests from other credit unions for his insights led to such a high degree of involvement on his part that they eventually hired him as their “shared CEO.”
The first credit union he assisted was a small two-person shop that would ask him to attend its board meetings.
The board of his other employer at the time—$63 million asset CalCom Federal Credit Union in Long Beach, Calif.—gave Hernandez its blessing, “because they saw it as collaboration in the best tradition of credit unions’ openness to helping other credit unions.”
Sometimes his journey brought him full circle: He started with $25 million asset Mattel Credit Union in 1990, left in 1996, and returned in 2004 as CEO.
One of his collaborations was the formation of the Southern California Credit Union Alliance (SCCUA), a group that first met when the Great Recession began in 2008.
“We were all freaking out,” Hernandez says. “I called for a meeting of regional CEOs and expected 12 or so to show up. More than 50 wound up attending.”
Later, one especially fruitful event sponsored by SCCUA was when it issued requests for proposal that led to a presentation by core-processor vendors to an audience of 22 smaller credit unions.
“The vendors and the credit union personnel—who were not just CEOs but also information technology people and front-line staff—loved it,” he says. “Attendees saw four core-system demonstrations. One vendor, who only had five core processor clients in Southern California, came away with 11 new clients.”
In 2014, $70 million asset Nikkei Credit Union in Gardena, Calif., whose member base is Japanese Americans, asked Hernandez to assist it in regaining positive cash flow after losing money for three years. He helped the credit union recover in nine months.
During that time, however, he saw problems further down the road based on the long-held tradition that Japanese Americans are savers rather than borrowers.
Hernandez researched Asian populations in the Greater Los Angeles area and found that while other groups were served by credit unions, the Filipino community was not.
“I saw a possibility there, because based on our research and focus groups, Filipino Americans were more likely to take out loans,” he says.
In June 2019, Mabuhay Credit Union, a division of Nikkei, opened in Carson, Calif.