Andy Reed is proud of who he is and what he does.
That’s helped him open eyes throughout his 19-year credit union career, which started at American Airlines Credit Union, featured stops as CEO of Texas People Federal Credit Union and Baylor Health Care System Credit Union, and continues as president/CEO of Security First Credit Union.
As always, he’s stayed true to himself since joining the $482 million asset credit union in Edinburg, Texas, in January 2022.
While his path has been fruitful and relatively smooth, Reed spends Pride Month acknowledging that the path wasn’t easy for many members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Pride is about history, about being proud of what we do,” Reed says of what he thinks about during the annual June celebration. “One of the ways you oppress people is to deny them their history. So Pride is about history and learning about the community.”
Reed has been immersed in the community since he came out as an 18-year-old living in Miami. He recalls how his mom told him her only worry about him being gay was that he would have a more difficult life.
“I don't think I've had a rough life,” Reed says. “I've caught some hatred and slurs, but those people tend to be horrible human beings no matter who you are. So I told my mom, ‘I just don't have a victim mentality.’ I have more of a ‘try me on for size and see if I work for you’ mentality.”
That goes for the workplace, where he believes his mindset, education, and work ethic allow him to change other people’s viewpoints. When discussions among colleagues and board members mention Reed’s sexual orientation, they end with the consensus that it doesn’t matter.
“I’ve helped it become a nonissue,” Reed says. “And it hasn’t been by force or putting my foot down.”
This has come about by Reed being himself, doing good work, and building strong relationships.
With a workforce, board, and supervisory committee that's 100% diverse, Security First didn’t need to overhaul its diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Therefore, when Reed joined the low-income designated minority depository institution, he focused on creating a “best place to work” culture.
After experiencing high turnover for a number of years, staff stepped back to look at leadership, training, management, salary disparities, procedures, community engagement, and other factors.
Security First created an employee feedback group, “The Gamechangers,” with the idea that “happy employees make happy members, happy members make happy board members, and happy board members make happy executive teams,” Reed says.
Members certainly appear happy: Security First’s 2022 Net Promoter Score was 73 for English speakers and 94 for Spanish speakers. The credit union, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022, has also continued to sustain and strengthen its financial health.
“One of the reasons we were so successful my first year at Security First is because this is an open, diverse, supportive community,” Reed says. “We've taken a stand for collaboration and empowered people at every level.”
He loves how credit unions take a stand for members, empower people, and serve minorities, but he doesn’t see the same level of care in society overall.
“A lot of the political dialog is detrimental to minorities,” Reed says. “It’s sad. I don't know how people can be so devoid of empathy. The solution is to be good human beings.”
He recalls his childhood, when he would see somebody dressed in a way he wasn’t used to and his mom would say, “It's not your job to judge that as different. It's your job to see that as different and understand it. That's a human being, no matter what they're wearing.”
“She always taught us to respect everybody's choice to believe and do as they wish,” he says. “My dad was that way as well. They are my heroes in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The more you learn about different people, the bigger your world will be. Respecting you doesn't mean I have to agree with everything you do.”
Most people want to be happy and healthy. But if people are outwardly negative, Reed believes in not letting them win.
“Don't let that be something that stops you, limits you, or makes you think that you're less than,” he says. “If you do that, you're no better than the people who think that way. You'll win those people over if you do the basic things that humans do: Be kind, compassionate, and empathetic.
“Get on with being extraordinary people and living your dreams. I look at life as an opportunity. You can absolutely create whatever future you want.”