Continuing education reinforces experience

HawaiiUSA FCU board member Harlan Kimura reflects on tackling the challenges of an ever-changing industry.

January 15, 2019

As vice chair of the board of directors at HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union, Harlan Kimura brings plenty of experience and savvy to his role. With 23 years of credit union experience under his belt, Kimura has seen HawaiiUSA grow to include 126,000 members, 14 branches and 1.7 billion in assets.

Of course, growth in the credit union industry means being ready to evolve along with trends and best practices. So while experience is always a valuable asset, Kimura places an even greater emphasis on continued education.

Joining a community of leaders

As he puts it, “It takes about six months to a year before best practices come to Hawaii, because it starts from the east coast.” Educational programs like CUNA schools and conferences are more than just a means for Kimura to sharpen his skills. “We all have ideas we shared during the networking opportunities, and I find out whether we’re on track or we need to look at other things.”

One of the most valuable of these learning opportunities has come from Kimura earning his Certified Credit Union Board Member (CCUB) designation.

“I was very interested in [the CCUB] designation because it offered a comprehensive approach to the tools and education needed for a high-performing director,” he explains. “And I wanted to attend this program to make sure that our credit union was looking at best practices across the country that we could bring back.”

After earning his CCUB in the designation’s early days, Kimura has spent nearly ten years regularly recertifying and keeping both himself and HawaiiUSA up-to-date with leading industry best practices.

Peer input drives results

“A year or two ago there was a big thing about Blockchain. I wanted to see what other credit unions were doing, if they were participating and whether or not they were investing in some sort of distributive technology,” says Kimura. “I had the chance to talk to some chairpersons of other credit unions and get their view. We decided to invest in it. We knew there was potential there, and it was important that we participate in it.”

Stepping up cybersecurity isn’t the only field where HawaiiUSA has helped drive industry innovation. Digital mediums have proven to be a valuable tool in the industry-wide fight to connect with and retain younger members.

“With the membership becoming older and more savers than borrowers, we’re trying to utilize social media more than traditional communication venues to garner more participation by our members and get more members in,” says Kimura. “Some of the other credit unions seem to advertise on television quite a bit. We used to do that, but now we focus more on social media, as well as getting into the community and telling our story on a grassroots level by getting involved with community projects.”

From security to outreach and everything in-between, Kimura remains committed to getting the most out of his CCUB designation and education as a board member.

“If I can pick at least one thing to bring back to our credit union, it’s well worth it,” he says.

The Certified Credit Union Board Member (CCUB) designation is CUNA’s premier designation recognizing confident, strategic board members. To learn more about this designation and how to earn yours, visit