Jason Buchanan wasn’t thinking credit unions when he began his financial services career as a file room clerk at an independent bank in Waco, Texas.
Over the next 20 years he worked in successively larger financial institutions in a variety of roles, including credit analyst, compliance officer, and director of operational risk.
These opportunities prepared him for the start of his credit union career in 2021, when he was hired on as chief credit and risk officer at $1.5 billion asset Blue Federal Credit Union in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Buchanan hit the ground running. In his short time at the credit union he has deployed three probability of default models and launched a new loan origination system.
Buchanan is also leading two “industry first” initiatives that are part of Blue Federal’s “My Community” plan. The first project focuses on small business advising and education.
Buchanan’s team is creating a small business report card member businesses can use to identify weak spots they can correct with credit union assistance.
The second is the My Community Mortgage Program, a pilot initiative for first-time homebuyers that provides loans with no down payment and no private mortgage insurance.
Other Blue Federal members cover the down payment by pledging high-yield share certificates as collateral.
“This is a win-win for members who can afford a mortgage payment but not a down payment, and other members with funds to earn a great rate with a little bit of risk,” says Kim Alexander, chief strategy and growth officer.
Although Buchanan found working with global banking organizations fulfilling, he struggled to justify the high cost and limited availability of banking services.
“In the credit union industry, profits are dedicated to our members,” he says. “This is a mission I identify with every day.”
The COVID-19 pandemic proved the value of agility for solving challenges and serving members.
“Never solve today’s problems today,” Buchanan advises. “With each decision, think about the challenges you’ll face in 18 months. If you think you’ll require staff, resources, or other preparations, begin those efforts now.”
You can’t always avoid surprises, he says, “but if you aren’t thinking about the future, you surely won’t be ready for it.”