Sometimes, taking a side road on a career path can bring a new perspective.
Steven Leafgreen was pursuing a degree in microbiology in a “stroke of rebellion” from a father and an uncle who were both financial professionals. A college internship at a University of Iowa research genetics laboratory made him realize that although he had an affinity for and love of numbers, he also needed to engage with people.
A bachelor’s degree in economics and finance and graduate work at SMU paved the way for his current role as president/CEO at Western Vista Credit Union in Cheyenne, Wyo.
“I love taking numbers and turning them into action items,” he says. “I love it even more when I can convert numbers into creating an environment in which I can see my team experience success and growth, as well as seeing and hearing the stories where we positively impact our members’ lives.”
During his five years at the helm, Leafgreen has guided Western Vista through a core conversion, as well as the conversion of mobile banking and statements, the introduction of texting communication, the purchase of a new headquarters, and asset growth of $100 million—or about 30%—to $245 million.
Leafgreen attributes the credit union’s success to creating a culture that values staff and encourages them to find ways to drive better value and relevance to members. A key element in that strategy is holding listening sessions with the entire organization.
“Each year, the executive team sits down for in-person meetings to listen to staff, gaining insights and ideas and putting their feedback into action,” he says. “The meeting notes go directly to the board of directors and are used in strategic planning.”
Active in the community, Leafgreen has simultaneously served as board president for three organizations: the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, the Laramie County Library Foundation, and Wyoming Capital Access.
He’s also a board member for Melvin Brewing, and previously served on the advisory panel for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.
“Being a credit union CEO is fantastic,” Leafgreen says. “Unlike being the CEO of a Wall Street firm, where numbers are used to maximize a P/E ratio and equity value, here we get to make a direct, positive impact on the best asset there is: our members. Our mission is, ‘your finances, our focus.’ I tell my team as we grow bigger, we need to grow smaller. We need to find ways to build better and more meaningful financial relationships with our members.”