Kathy Lucas
Kathy Lucas

Unconventional and Unpretentious

'We're not the tie-wearing, loan-denying type here.'

November 1, 2015

CHANCES ARE pretty good that if the maintenance man at the Streator (Ill.) Onized Credit Union didn’t show up for work, CEO Kathy Lucas would be mowing the lawn.

“A couple of months ago, I did a stint as a teller at our high school’s onsite credit union,” says Lucas.

Starting her service at the north-central Illinois credit union as a teller three decades ago taught Lucas to pitch in where needed. She clearly embraces the Credit Union Rock Star honor—but notes she’s not a solo act.

“I’ve been with the band here for 30 years, the last nine as lead singer,” Lucas says. “We love to create new music every day.”

Lucas has led the credit union to remarkable growth, with an emphasis on member services and professional development. When she took over as CEO, the credit union had 12,000 members and $88 million in assets. Today, those numbers have swelled to 26,000 members and more than $200 million in assets.

“We don’t just want your car loan. We want all of your business, and we’re happy to prove it,” she says. “We believe in the VIP treatment for all of our members. I don’t care if you barely have enough money to start an account. We think those people are a gold mine.”

The community has come to expect that Streator Onized, under Lucas’s energetic leadership, will do things just a little differently:

▶︎ At a recent local parade, while other businesses were throwing candy from parade floats, the credit union handed out 1,000 slices of cherry pie.

▶︎ The credit union also has its own version of “Cash Cab,” based on the television show, in which employees drive to members’ homes and give them a chance to win cash by answering trivia questions.

▶︎ At Christmas, instead of hanging a couple of strings of lights, Streator Onized stages an animated light show that raises funds for charity.

▶︎ Credit union employees can wear casual attire in exchange for a $3 contribution that benefits a variety of local charities and causes.

“We’re not the tie-wearing, loan-denying type here,” Lucas says.

Lucas is a big believer in the value of professional development. In what she hopes will be an ongoing effort, she recently sent several supervisors on a road trip to four credit unions in Michigan to swap best practices.

“We love to motivate employees,” Lucas says.

Click here to meet all of Credit Union Magazine's 2015 CU Rock Stars