Dick Ensweiler set off for college to become a basketball coach, but got sidetracked. After taking a summer job at State Central Credit Union in Milwaukee, he was hooked on credit unions.
“The treasurer/manager and I hit it off well to the extent that he promised me a position when I got out of college and the military,” Ensweiler recalls. “I took him up on it and he created a first-ever management training program. It paid off, and 18 months later I became the treasurer/manager of the Harley Davidson Credit Union.”
It’s almost 50 years later and, in a way, the Cornerstone Credit Union League CEO did become a coach—employing traits such as consensus-building, perseverance, and adaptability in the face of difficult circumstances. The most recent of the many credit union milestones he’s experienced over the years is the merger of the Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas credit union leagues.
“Leagues were facing shrinking numbers and finding it more difficult to provide full services,” Ensweiler says. “We saw value in a larger organization with broader reach. It took four years to get through all the questions, answers, and considerations, but once interested parties remained at the table, it took less than a year to come to an agreement.
"The merger is everything we hoped it would be. We’re more relevant now than before. With 650 credit unions, we have a bigger voice with potential partners, vendors, regulators, and national associations.”
Ensweiler also came to credit unions’ aid in 1974 when disintermediation caused savings rates to skyrocket from 6% to 22%.
“Credit unions could not meet members’ withdrawal requests and I was appointed to a task force of league presidents to find a solution,” he says. “We proposed to CUNA a new financial and support system—and created the corporate credit union network.”
He also played a key role in forging a partnership with Caja Popular Mexicana (CPM) in Leon, Mexico. Today, CPM has more than one million members, 330 branches, and $1 billion in assets.
“The CPM partnership has been successful and mutually beneficial,” Ensweiler says. “We’ve learned a lot from each other.”