The retirement wave of baby boomers has given way to a new breed of leaders in credit unions who are driven by a wave of cultural and technological influences that seem to reshape the future each day.
A panel of first-time credit union CEOs addressed their path forward during Discovery2023 from TruStage:
Each CEO started in their new roles this year.
Moderator Brandi Stankovic, chief strategy officer at CUSG, asked the panelists about how diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) shapes today’s leaders.
“DEI is good business because our members want to do business with people who look like them,” he says. “It’s important that we can relate to our members no matter what community they come from. We need to look at DEI not just as an HR issue but as a general business issue credit unions can use as a competitive advantage.”
Shearson agrees, adding that DEI goes beyond “the right thing to do” in building an organization’s culture.
“We’ve certainly seen the bottom-line effects,” she says. “Life is a lot more interesting when you have diversity around you.”
Salazar notes it’s also important for credit union boards to be aware of DEI.
“The board must ensure they represent our community,” she says. “Our nominating committee has made a point of ensuring that we’re recruiting candidates from all the communities we serve.”
The board must also consider the skills required to oversee a modern-day financial institution, Salazar adds.
“The competitive environment is changing so much,” she says. “Expectations have been raised for credit unions, so we’re raising the expectations for our board members and the skills and qualifications that we’re looking for.”
The panelists agree organizations must provide opportunities for employees to grow within their chosen career paths.
Salazar, who started as a teller, shares her approach to professional development.
“I put together a development plan and told myself that for the next two years I’m going to focus on this,” she says. “I had people within the organization who provided guidance and mentored me to help me accomplish those goals. After two years, I set new development goals, and that eventually led me to the position where I am today.”
That development included working in different areas of the credit union, including those outside of her comfort zone. Salazar recalls working in the finance department to prepare to prepare for the CEO role.
“I was very nervous about it, but I learned a lot,” she says. “I did have to take some additional training to learn about investments and asset/liability management. I did whatever I could to set myself up for success in that role.”
Great leaders almost always stir things up. Panelists agree that leaders must bring new perspectives and gain the confidence of all stakeholders in their organizations.
Cox uses himself as an example. As a new CEO, he came from another region to provide “a fresh set of eyes” and bring a new vision to the credit union.
“I think being an authentic and empathetic leader, and building trust are the critical pieces,” he says. “Letting people see you as authentic will allow them to be authentic, and it will foster great working relationships.”