news.cuna.org/articles/105332-energize-young-cu-professionals
Ronaldo Hardy

Energize Young CU Professionals

Ronaldo Hardy explains how millennials can be advocates and leaders.

June 12, 2015

What CUNA’s Young Professionals Committee aims to achieve: Our main goal is to energize the young professionals in our industry—to give them the tools and resources that will increase their passion for the movement and keep them a part of the industry long-term.

To accomplish this, we’re going to need to educate them on our industry, provide leadership development so they can see where the knowledge gained can take them further in the movement, and engage them in political advocacy.

Why advocacy among young CU professionals is important: When we hike up Capitol Hill during the GAC (Governmental Affairs Conference), I always make a point—while representing our state—to stand and speak on the issues credit unions face.

It’s important for our legislators to see and hear from multiple generations. It provides a more powerful voice because they see more people representing a larger part of our population.

On becoming a CEO at age 27: I have a cool story in that I didn’t wake up and say, “I want to go work for credit unions!”

Someone got my résumé and submitted it to a credit union, where I started at its phone center. I was committed to the role and wanted to learn more.

Eventually, I was a “Crasher” at GAC, where I was exposed to what we do from a legislative perspective, and I fell in love with it. Then, I was the national runner-up in a contest for up-and-coming credit union executives, which opened up many opportunities.

I had the CEO opportunity drop in my lap, and I decided to go for it. Three-and-a-half years later, I’m still doing it and loving it.

CUs’ recipe for future success: Obviously, we have to stay ahead of the curve with technology and be innovative or it’s going to be impossible to keep up with this (millennial) generation.

Things are moving at such an accelerated pace and we don’t have that luxury now of saying, “Let me sit back and watch another industry test something first before we jump in.”

As millennials, we’re more prone to connect ourselves to something that’s cause-related. Credit unions need to leverage a collaborative brand and get the message out to a broader audience.

You’d be surprised how many consumers don’t even know we offer the same products and services they can get at a bank, but at a much better deal.

Why I believe in CUs: What drew me in was the credit union mission. It’s so centered on helping people, and we often don’t realize how much we impact people’s lives by helping them make smart financial decisions, which positions them for success in all facets of their lives.

That’s something I wanted to be part of. I didn’t want to just be working and not have my work mean something.

I think that’s what’s going to resonate with young professionals—that we’re actually making a difference and really helping people.