In recognition of his unwavering belief and work in “seeking economic justice for all consumers”, the National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation) is pleased to announce Maurice R. Smith, CEO of Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU), as a recipient of the 2020 Herb Wegner Memorial Outstanding Individual Achievement Award.
Smith will be one of three Herb Wegner Memorial Award winners honored at the annual fundraising gala hosted by the Foundation at the Marriott Marquis on February 24, 2020 in conjunction with the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. Tickets and sponsorships are available here.
“Maurice’s resume reads like the definition of the Wegner Award,” said John Gregoire, chair of the Foundation’s Wegner Awards Selection Committee and President of The ProCon Group. “He has touched thousands of lives in his credit union career and has worked tirelessly on behalf of members while mentoring countless credit union leaders.”
Securing Financial Freedom for Members
Smith began his career in financial services as a loan officer for State Employees' Credit Union in North Carolina over 35 years ago. He joined LGFCU in 1992 as Executive Vice President, was promoted to President in 1999, and named Chief Executive Officer in 2017. He has been a passionate credit union advocate for nearly four decades.
LGFCU is designated as both a Low-Income Credit Union and Community Development Financial Institution. These designations play an important role in the way Smith and his organization serve members. They are passionate and dedicated to serving individuals who are unable to access financial services through mainstream institutions and work to provide opportunities for expanding financial products and services to the underserved.
Under his direction, LGFCU leadership constructed a Strategic Business Plan in which the capstone goal is “Securing Financial Freedom for Every Member”, with the core values of integrity above all; compassion for members and the communities where they live; using creativity to drive decision making; celebrating diversity; and maintaining a deep pride in supporting local governments and the communities they serve.
“His philosophy of equal treatment of all members and his belief that members deserve the dignity of access to affordable financial services are the guiding principles for our credit union,” said Mark R. Caverly, President of LGFCU. “He never wavers from his professional and personal commitments to helping people live better lives, and this promise is woven into the fabric of LGFCU.”
In direct response to membership desiring the opportunity to access financial services through different means, Smith spearheaded the creation of Civic Federal Credit Union (FCU), which launched in January 2019. Civic FCU is a digital-first chartered organization that offers new experiences to make it easier for members to interact with and use their money. Civic FCU was born to provide financial products and services to their field of membership that could not be met through LGFCU’s current charter and to provide access to members who may not be close to traditional branches. By serving in the leadership role for both credit unions, Smith demonstrates his willingness to take on a momentous challenge for the benefit of his members.
“Maurice routinely engages with members to hear their personal stories, then rolls up his sleeves to envision and employ creative strategies that meet their needs – not just for today, but well into the future,” said the LGFCU and Civic Board of Directors.
Elevating His Community
Smith was instrumental in another monumental project, the creation of the Carolinas Credit Union League Foundation. He championed the idea and the need for a philanthropic arm for the League, having a deep belief that credit unions should have a philanthropic-focused arm devoted to making a difference in member communities. He was nominated to the Carolinas Foundation Board in 2001 and served for twelve-years.
“Without his forward-thinking approach, influential spirit, and relentless compassion, the Carolinas Foundation would not be the organization it is today,” said Lauren Whaley, President of the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation. “His mark on the Carolinas Foundation alone is an inspiration to others in credit unions to make a lasting difference in the communities we serve.”
His commitment to community produced a partnership with the North Carolina State Firefighters’ Association (NCSFA) that provides benefits to one of LGFCU’s largest field of membership groups. This has generated over $2 million in donations to NCSFA, which provides education and services to the state’s first responders, those individuals who protect the citizens of the state. Smith’s thorough knowledge of his membership led him to discover a need for a business lending resource for first responder organizations, as many are volunteer-led. LGFCU launched a Commercial Lending department to fill the need, providing loans totaling more than $113 million in over 75 of 100 North Carolina counties.
Through Smith’s natural ability to build relationships, LGFCU formed a partnership with the School of Government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. LGFCU’s investment in the School of Government allowed them to develop two of their most influential programs that otherwise would not exist. The Development Finance Initiative (DFI) works with distressed communities to attract private investment for redevelopment projects, and the LGFCU Fellows Program trains emerging local government leaders. Smith believed they would have a positive effect on local government and its ability to improve communities. The DFI initiative is expected to infuse over $1 Billion into North Carolina through private investments over the next ten years.
Rooted in Involvement & Growth
Smith is well known for his leadership not only within his own organization and community, but across the credit union movement. Internally, he supports the ideologies of the industry leading to multiple staff members receiving their CUDE designation from the National Credit Union Foundation. This has catalyzed staff to lead the Principles and Philosophy Training at LGFCU, preparing the next generation of credit union leadership with tools and education to continue the credit union movement far into the future.
He readily volunteers his time and encourages his employees to do the same by providing time-off to participate in service activities that benefit the community. Smith serves as a role model and mentor to the memberships and staff of LGFCU and Civic FCU, to local government leaders, and to the Board of Directors.
He also serves on numerous credit union committees and boards at the local, state and national levels. Some examples of his service include: Past Board of Directors Chair, CUNA; Board of Directors, Carolinas Credit Union League; Chair, Filene Research Institute; Director, African-American Credit Union Coalition; Board of Directors, National Cooperative Bank; Board of Directors, Carolinas Credit Union Foundation; Member, Callahan Credit Union Financial Services Limited Partnership and more. He also provides leadership outside the credit union industry to strengthen his community including the North Carolina Minority Support Center, UNC School of Government Foundation, University of North Carolina-Wilmington and more.
Smith also worked to earn his Juris Doctorate from the North Carolina Central University School of Law and is licensed to practice in North Carolina, the District of Columbia and before the U.S. Supreme Court. He has expanded his breadth of knowledge so that he is prepared to take a seat at the table wherever decisions are being made with a thorough knowledge of how to best serve his memberships, communities and the credit union industry.
This education came in handy during his tenure as CUNA Board Chair when Smith met with the President of the United States to discuss credit union advocacy. At the following year’s CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference, the Vice President made direct reference to Smith’s work in his conference remarks. In addition, on International Credit Union Day, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a proclamation referencing the state’s commitment to the philosophies of credit unions as exemplified through Smith’s role as CUNA Board Chair.
“Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character,” said Adrian Johnson, African-American Credit Union Coalition Board Chairman. “I admire his authentic and genuine leadership, and he has demonstrated time and time again what the credit union industry is all about.”
Profiles on the other winners, John Fiore and Teresa Freeborn can be found on CUNA News.