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Joanne Todd’s financial education mission has taken her all over the globe. But whether in Kenya or Connecticut, Todd brings the same energy and approach to financial inclusion and literacy.
“It’s about meeting people where they are and getting to know their needs,” says Todd, who started her career as an 18-year-old manager at a $500,000 asset manufacturing credit union.
Forty-two years later, she’s president/CEO at $112 million asset Northeast Family Federal Credit Union in Manchester, Conn.
“I couldn’t believe they put a teenager in charge of a credit union,” Todd says of her early leadership experience. “I’ve had opportunities to pursue different careers, but the credit union’s connection to community keeps me coming back.”
The economically polarized community Northeast Family Federal serves gives her frequent opportunities to accomplish her mission. The low-income designated credit union’s bilingual staff includes eight financial counselors who connect with a community that is largely Hispanic.
“Many of our staff have walked in members’ shoes,” says Todd, noting that the credit union’s mission statement is to be members’ best financial friend. “They come from underserved backgrounds and work with members to find out what their situation is.”
Todd brings that education-based mindset wherever she goes. She joined a group of teachers on a trip to Kenya in 2004. Upon returning home, the group formed American Friends of Kenya, which makes annual trips to Kenya and sends supplies throughout the year, including at least 500,000 books, to the African country.
While in Kenya, Todd conducts financial literacy workshops. She marvels at the culture’s ability to change people’s financial wants and needs, but she also sees similarities to the work she does in the U.S.
“The conversations are alike,” she says. “I’m trying to gain understanding and openness in a way that is forward-thinking and serves the community.”