The 19th-century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that “nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
He never met Caitlin Brama, but he would have agreed it’s a fitting characterization of the president/CEO at $18 million asset Farm Credit Employees Federal Credit Union in St. Paul, Minn. Brama’s enthusiasm for credit unions and credit union philosophy is boundless.
“I tell anyone I meet who doesn’t understand the credit union difference to buckle up and prepare for my two to three business days of explanation,” she says, laughing.
Brama joined the credit union in January 2023 after serving as a branch manager at a larger credit union. She says the biggest change is having the freedom to test ideas and innovate without a lengthy chain-of-command process.
“That was my ‘aha’ moment: being able to grow and tap all the potential the credit union has to offer,” she says.
Being at the helm has a steep learning curve, Brama says. “As a branch manager, I could ask other managers within the credit union for help with day-to-day issues.”
Now she seeks advice from her network of credit union leaders.
“Not knowing what I don’t know is my biggest work challenge,” Brama says. “There are so many moving parts, and I’m trying to keep up with it the best I can. I stay open and honest when I need assistance. I keep in communication and lean into the leaders I’ve been privileged to get to know over the years.”
Brama is also grateful to her mentor at a Montana credit union, arranged through the Tristate Mentorship Match program, which involves credit unions in Minnesota, Montana, and Wisconsin.
“She’s my ally and cheerleader, but she also tells me to slow down, set priorities, and take one task and one day at a time,” she says. “She’s encouraged me to keep asking questions and learn the numbers, as well as the direction of the board.”
Brama remains in full learning mode, “continuously looking for strategic partnerships and opportunities to grow the credit union and better serve our members.”
In less than 10 years, Brama completed the Minnesota Credit Union Network’s Trailblazers Executive Readiness program and earned Credit Union Development Educator and Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor certifications.
She serves on multiple boards, and was named CU4Kids Volunteer of the Year in 2022.