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While Aaron Alsup believes cyber threats are a significant risk for credit unions, he doesn’t think they top the list.
Rather, he believes the most predominant risk facing credit unions is competition.
“Consumers expect top-of-the-line technology and safety when it comes to their banking needs,” says Alsup, vice president of enterprise risk management at $848 million asset Financial Center First Credit Union. “Instant gratification is satisfaction. When credit unions move too quickly to keep up with competition, it may leave them more susceptible to cybersecurity risk. And if they move too slowly to keep up with competition, it may be too late to meet the consumer expectations.”
To mitigate the risk of competition, Financial Center First is following a path that leads directly to its mission statement: We will be our members’ first choice for financial services.
Alsup says all of the credit union’s strategic projects are tied to the mission statement.
“Being our members’ first choice for financial services is how we control the risk of competition,” he says. “We bake that risk into everything we do.”
Since joining Financial Center First, Alsup found that the enterprise risk management department has primarily focused on NCUA’s seven risk categories: credit risk, interest-rate risk, liquidity risk, transaction risk, compliance risk, strategic risk, and reputation risk.
Therefore, the first assessment he conducted since joining the credit union in July was a top-down, enterprise risk assessment to “better understand the executive team’s view of risks and to understand their top concerns.”
That enabled him to identify, assess, prioritize, and control the risks specific to Financial Center First.
“However, as we head into what could be a recession, it will be vital to care for both member and employee needs with upmost care and attention,” Alsup says. “Stakeholder risk—internal and external—will need to be at the forefront in 2023. Financial Center controls stakeholder risk by following our core values: we care, we listen, we learn, we solve, and we act.”
Alsup, who holds a bachelor’s degree in social behavior from Indiana University and a master’s in enterprise risk management from Boston University, has tackled risk for much of his 16-year professional career, much of it in the insurance sector. He has built and implemented governance models in risk, operations, audit, and compliance.
One of his favorite parts of being a risk practitioner is that every day is different. Therefore, the career advice he would offer young credit union leaders is to learn as much as possible.
That includes selecting several mentors, learning how to work independently and collaboratively, and learning how to fail quickly.
When Alsup joined Financial Center First, he was drawn to the credit union’s vision: inspiring financial wellness.
“Growing up, financial wellness was not often discussed in our household and often I had to learn basic financial principles the hard way,” he says. “I’ve always had a passion for personal finance and helping others achieve their goals. Finding an employer with a similar passion is very rewarding.”
Upon starting his role, in which he oversees the credit union’s risk management, compliance, fraud prevention, and records departments, he quickly felt comfortable with the workplace environment.
“I was pleasantly surprised to learn humor is the way of the land here,” says Alsup. “The team is made up of passionate individuals with a keen sense of purpose.”