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In 1985, when Julie Linch joined the staff of a Toledo, Ohio-based $25 million asset credit union with 7,000 members, it was meant to be a stepping stone.
As the operations manager, she oversaw the in-house computer system, automated clearinghouse, policies, newsletters, and financial statements. “Whatever we needed done, as many smaller credit unions can relate to,” she says.
Today, that credit union is $1.2 billion asset Directions Credit Union serving 100,000 members where Linch is senior vice president/retail delivery—as well as the 2022 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council Professional of the Year.
During her 37 years with Directions, “I’ve never wanted to leave,” she says. “It’s kept me on my toes. I like a challenge—it’s what’s kept me here so long.”
For most of her career, Linch has overseen the credit union’s branch network, helping grow it from one location to 22 offices throughout Northwest Ohio, Central Ohio, and Southeast Michigan.
Currently, she’s managing the conversion of branches to an interactive teller machine structure, streamlining transactions and freeing up staff to assist with more complex member transactions and education.
Linch has also managed back-office operations, including strategy and planning, card services, the contact center, and remote banking. She supervised the design and build of a main office, several branch builds and remodels, as well as the construction of a new corporate office.
Although the credit union and her responsibilities have grown and changed, Linch still places members at the epicenter. “That singular focus brings stability to the challenge. Things change so rapidly in products and the delivery of products, yet the basics about providing for our members stays the same. That’s the key to success.
“No matter what the size, credit unions are about the members, and as cooperatives we’re different,” she continues. “I feel a responsibility to those member-owners and to the member service reps who are helping them every day. As staff, we see our members out in our communities and we want to know we’ve helped.”
A member of the CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council for 25 years, Linch served on the Member Resource and Conference Committees for the past 12 years. She was the chair of the Member Resource Committee for six years and served on the Executive Committee for two terms.
Linch notes that networking has been a benefit of her service. “Contacts with other credit unions are so valuable as you’re rolling out a new service or just wondering how others are handling a project,” she says. “I’ve tried to help by contributing ideas for white papers, roundtables, and conference topics, but I’ve definitely gotten more ideas from others.”