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When Gennifer Garner isn’t crisscrossing Colorado’s Front Range in her car to visit the six Ent Credit Union branches she oversees, she’s joining young professionals in their drive to become better credit union employees.
Those branches fan out over five counties around Denver and Fort Collins. The nearest to her home base is 35 miles and the farthest is 100 miles distant, so Garner has logged well over 100,000 miles in recent years—listening to audio books and podcasts—to get to where she’s needed.
“I had about a year when my branch was about five miles away. That was glorious,” says Garner, service-area manager for the $6 billion asset Colorado Springs-based credit union. “Getting around to the different branches, I settle in for the day. Like a true Coloradoan, I have a Subaru. It’s my best friend most days.”
Garner and her team of branch managers have opened two new locations so far this year, with three more expected later in 2020.
Garner, who started her credit union career with Ent 12 years ago as a teller, today devotes a good deal of time to ensuring young credit union professionals develop and thrive. She helped form the 130-member young professionals group at Ent five years ago and serves on the board of the Colorado Young Credit Union Professionals.
“Gen is a role model for young professionals,” says Bree Shellito, Ent’s senior manager of community education. “We jokingly call it the ‘Tree of Gen.’
But she can take personal responsibility for many of the successful young—and young at heart—professionals within the walls and halls of Ent Credit Union.”
Garner’s involvement with young professional groups has stoked her enthusiasm and passion for the industry.
“It unlocked the credit union movement for me,” she says. “It’s constantly refocusing on professional development, the philanthropic aspect of what we do as a movement, and how we can change members’ financial lives and their perceptions on finances.”
Her most recent project focuses on members’ experiences during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, when lobbies were closed and much of the credit union’s interactions were done digitally.
“We quickly learned how many members weren’t comfortable using an ATM, online banking, or mobile deposit,” Garner says. “So my new initiative is to make sure that not only our members understand the basics of banking, but that our employees are confident in speaking to our members in a simple way.
“It helps us connect with members. Knowledge is power.”