Marshall Boutwell used to define himself by his military service. Now, the 74-year-old defines himself by the work he does at $775 million asset Peach State Federal Credit Union and those the Lawrenceville, Ga., credit union has helped.
Boutwell’s U.S. Army service in Vietnam—where he served as a reconnaissance pilot and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, 12 Air Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry—set him up to succeed in the credit union movement.
He also credits support from Peach State Federal’s board for the credit union’s growth from $14 million in assets in 1994 to an institution with more than 200 employees and 72,000 members across 24 branches in Georgia and South Carolina.
“We focused on serving members and the growth kept coming,” Boutwell says. “We’re always looking for better ways to serve members and position ourselves. We don’t have a significant marketing budget because we spend our marketing dollars giving back to the community.”
Peach State Federal has provided more than $1.7 million in scholarships to high school students, while also offering scholarships to members engaged in career advancement.
The Peach State C.A.R.E.S Foundation has donated more than $950,000 to charitable organizations, school systems, and local art programs, while Boutwell and his wife, Lee, created the Lee and Marshall Boutwell Veterans Scholarship Fund in 2015.
Boutwell’s credit union honors include being inducted into the Credit Union House Hall of Leaders in 2013 and earning the Moses C. Davis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
Among Boutwell’s proudest achievements is his role in the Georgia-Poland partnership, which links credit union executives from Georgia with those in Poland. In 2021, Boutwell received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit—the highest award Poland gives to noncitizens.
His experience there led Peach State Federal to reach out to a typically underserved group: Bosnian refugees who settled in the area.
“Our policies were inhibiting our lending to this group because they didn’t have a credit history or they had a thin credit file,” Boutwell explains. “So we changed our policies to guidelines, which implied to my lenders and underwriters that they should listen to their stories and make judgment calls. If it makes sense, we do it.”
Peach State Federal eventually hired a member of the Bosnian community to translate. Soon after, a woman told Boutwell, “I want to work for you because of what you’re doing for my people.” She’s still a branch manager at the credit union.
This type of outreach is exactly what Boutwell believes credit unions should pursue. “We are here to serve people who need us and to be a trusted adviser,” he says. “Do the right thing and that will serve you well. What’s best for your members is ultimately best for you.”