While Chris Oldag didn’t spend all of his time lending as a credit union leader, he now has much more time to devote to the people and activities he loves after retiring from $1.4 billion asset Pacific Service Credit Union in Concord, Calif.
Oldag retired soon after winning the CUNA Lending Council’s 2022 Phil Greer Lifetime Achievement Award. Pacific Service’s former chief lending officer and senior vice president made a big impact, implementing a consumer loan origination system, a special interest vehicle financing program, and the credit union’s “We Love to Make Loans at PSCU” philosophy.
Oldag loved to make loans throughout his career, taking validation from serving members and hearing positive feedback.
“I often had members stop by the table where my family was having dinner to introduce themselves and thank me for helping them save money on a home loan or vehicle purchase,” he says. “By the end of my career, our Net Promoter Scores and other metrics all said our members were delighted and felt the love we delivered through lending.”
Oldag carried that love into every stop of his credit union career. He spent the bulk of his professional life at Patelco Credit Union in Dublin, Calif., which grew from $80 million in assets in 1983 to $4.3 billion in assets in 2009.
He got a taste of every aspect of the organization during that time, serving as a loan officer, branch manager, director of lending, vice president of lending and branches, senior vice president of lending, and chief lending officer.
Oldag also spent portions of his career in lending positions at several other credit unions.
Those experiences led him to develop several keys to successful lending. At its core, Oldag’s fundamental belief is that lending is never about technical methods like “a statistically accurate algorithm with reverse integrals broken out by a counting analysis system.”
“It’s not that at all,” he says. “My first steps begin with introductions. Get to know the member beyond what loan has been requested. When possible, identify opportunities to improve their financial lives with credit union products and services. When you see credit ‘imperfections’ or worse, identify if they represent a threat to our likelihood of being repaid.”
Oldag believes credit decisions should go beyond debt-to-income ratios, and that lenders should treat credit-challenged members with respect and with the expectation that they will improve along their credit union journey.
Similarly, he says there should never be a “force field” keeping people from becoming credit union members.
“If you make it impossible to join, the trickle of people who come through the door organically will be thinned even more,” Oldag says, noting that every interaction with a community member is an opportunity to build an impression. “The steps on the path to membership are filled with friction. Reduce them. Ask every one of your members to be an advocate for you. Trust them just like they trust you.”
Maintaining that trust throughout the member relationship requires keeping members’ best interests at the forefront long after they’ve taken out loans.
“Make and service loans with flexibility, understanding, and compassion, and always be aware of your concentration of risk,” Oldag says, suggesting credit unions lend with simplified policies, clear procedures, and robust testing that monitors the profitability of every product. “There's nothing better than improving the financial lives of those around you. If you have innate curiosity and love to see people getting ahead financially, you will love lending as a career.”