James Schenck

PODCAST: CEO pilots CU to achieve its member-focused mission

Everybody brings a unique skillset to the workplace.

June 30, 2017

What do a credit union CEO and a military helicopter pilot have in common?

Both positions require a team to succeed, says James Schenck, president/CEO of $23 billion asset PenFed Credit Union in Tysons, Va.

Schenck, a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot, embraces the “team of teams” approach to leadership.

“As a helicopter pilot, I had to rely on the crew chief to prepare the helicopter for flight, the engineers who designed and built the helicopter, the petroleum specialist to provide refueling en route to a mission—there are so many parts,” he says. “I was just one part of a much larger organization. But it takes all components, working together simultaneously, to accomplish a successful mission.”

Running a credit union is no different, he says. Every credit union needs marketing, financial, technology, and other expertise to succeed.

“Everybody brings a unique skillset,” Schenck says. “My job as CEO is to attract, hire, retain, and inspire the best and brightest, and reward their individual skills—but also train them as part of a team where they not only bring a high performance ego, they bring a high team ego to accomplish the mission to help others do better financially.”

The readers of Credit Union Magazine named Schenck the 2017 Credit Union Hero of the Year in an online vote. The award, sponsored by CSCU, recognizes those who serve as examples for the entire movement through their service, advocacy, and commitment to credit union ideals.

In this episode of the CUNA News Podcast, Schenck discusses what this award means to him, his approach to leadership, and the importance of giving back to the community.

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