Spotlight: Lessons from a longtime leader
Address challenges with open and shared dialogue.
Pat Jury, CUNA Board chairman and Iowa Credit Union League president/CEO, recently shared insights on the credit union movement, advocacy, and leadership with Credit Union Magazine.
CU Mag: How big of an asset is your relationship with CUNA president/CEO Jim Nussle as you work to advance the CU movement?
Jury: I met Jim Nussle in the mid-1980s when he was running for Congress, and over the past 30 years we’ve had many opportunities to work together.
The relationship has benefited by our knowing one another and, probably more so, by our shared life experiences. We share the same home state, we’re the same age, and we both attended Drake University.
We come from a culture that values hard work, honesty, and transparency.
CU Mag: How would you describe your leadership style and philosophy?
Jury: My natural leadership style as a CEO is consistent with “servant leadership,” and I aspire to be authentic, accepting, present, and useful.
This approach has helped me consistently drive a culture within our organization where high performers, having a mission-based foundation, effectively support credit unions and their members.
With respect to CUNA, I’m mindful of my governance role and aspire to have the attributes of the best chairmen I’ve had the opportunity to work for.
CU Mag: What are your goals for the CUNA Board?
Jury: I consider CUNA to be the premier worldwide credit union association. With member credit unions having a choice of organizations to which they belong, ensuring we present a strong value proposition as we represent their interests is one of my priorities.
We’re a stronger system as we partner with state leagues. There’s no stronger organization from an advocacy standpoint than the collective power generated by member credit unions who support both CUNA and the leagues.
Our lobbying strength in D.C. and state legislatures is unrivaled and something I’m proud of.
Continuing to grow a strong, interdependent CUNA and league system is also a priority. Our members find great value in our collective advocacy efforts, including state and federal lobbying, political action, grassroots mobilization, and other forms of member engagement.
I’m focused on continuing our work in this area as we improve consumers’ financial lives.
CU Mag: How important is it for CUs to engage their members in grassroots work to tell their story to members of Congress?
Jury: The advocacy work of CUNA and state leagues encompasses many activities that build on each other. While professional lobbying and political action are critical, I believe the most important activity is grassroots engagement.
CUNA and the leagues are working together to communicate with credit union members about how public policy impacts their financial future through the Member Activation Program. Members want this information shared with them, and when that occurs, they have greater engagement with their credit union and legislators. When trying to influence public policy, there’s nothing more important than personal contact from constituents.
CU Mag: Why is serving the Hispanic population an important initiative for the league?
Jury: We recognized that in Iowa and across the U.S., the Hispanic community is large, fast-growing, young, and financially underserved. Much of Iowa’s population growth was and continues to come from the Hispanic community.
At one time, we didn’t believe we were effectively supporting our member credit unions in serving an emerging market that they may not have entirely understood. It's a market we didn’t entirely understand ourselves.
In 2007, we collaborated with two principals of a company who were philosophically aligned with credit unions and interested in growing Hispanic membership. While Iowa may not be considered a state with a significant Hispanic population, our residents were financially underserved.
Therefore, we became committed to helping credit unions not only in Iowa, but across the country, significantly grow and serve Hispanic membership.
We have collaborated with CUNA, credit union leagues, credit union foundations, and other credit union serving organizations, as well as individual credit unions in the spirit of reaching and serving an important community and segment of U.S. residents.
CU Mag: What were your impressions of the international CU development you participated in when you served on the WOCCU board of directors?
Jury: The World Council of Credit Unions does amazing work. While there are distinct differences in credit unions across the world, we also share many similarities.
Regardless of where I visited, one constant I found was the cultural foundation of credit unions. The cooperative nature of financial inclusivity and commitment to improving the lives of individuals, families, and communities was visible everywhere.
There are also universal challenges, including regulatory frameworks, limited awareness, aged memberships, and the need to grow capital.
Credit unions across the world provide dignity and financial self-sufficiency to consumers whose needs remain unmet by for-profit financial institutions.
CU Mag: How has the CU movement changed since you joined it in 1989?
Jury: Much has stayed the same. Credit unions remain not-for-profit, cooperatively owned, and democratically controlled organizations.
Through this cooperative experience, consumers not only use the organization’s services, but they also own and govern the organization. We continue to have passionate staff and board members committed to the future of their organizations.
At the same time, there have been many changes. The external environment pressuring credit unions seems to be more challenging and complex than it once was.
I think it’s more difficult to run a credit union today, regardless of asset size. The spectrum of requirements placed on credit unions—including consumer expectations, competition, technology, data security, and regulatory requirements—has intensified over time.
The smallest credit unions often have other challenges specific to them, and yet we are seeing great examples of success in this market.
Looking ahead, I believe credit unions have great opportunities and will continue to resonate with consumers. We continue growing members and assets, while frustrating competitors with our strong satisfaction ratings.
Yet we have work to do to enhance our relevancy with consumers. CUNA’s Creating Awareness Committee is doing tremendous work to identify a sustainable brand platform.
For almost 30 years, I have been told that the tax status of credit unions will change, that we have an aging model that won’t satisfy the needs of consumers over time, and that regulations create an unsustainable future.
Despite what I’ve been told, credit unions are resilient and growing.
CU Mag: What skill or trait has been most valuable to you during your career?
Jury: I have been fortunate to hire and fill our organization with the best and brightest entrepreneurs who have a solid mission-based foundation.
Professionally, our organization and I have benefited greatly from their good work and I believe our members are pleased with the results.
CU Mag: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Jury: With respect to problem solving, the greatest advice I’ve been given is that through open and shared dialogue you can solve any challenge presented to you.
CU Mag: What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about Iowa?
Jury: While Iowa is most well-known for its agriculture and farming—ranking first in hogs, eggs, corn, ethanol, and soybeans—there is a history and spirit of innovation and equality that may surprise some.
Iowa is home to the first computer, the first public school to admit men and women on an equal basis, and one of the first states to legalize gender equality.