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Nader Q&A

CEO Council proves collaboration works

Nader Moghaddam reflects on his time with the professional group.

March 8, 2019

Four years ago, the CUNA CEO Council was merely an idea. Today, the only professional society run by credit union CEOs for credit union CEOs has nearly 600 members.

Nader Moghaddam, president/CEO of $1.4 billion asset Financial Partners Credit Union in Downey, Calif., and a member of the CUNA CEO Council Executive Committee, shares some highlights from his time with the group.

Credit Union Magazine: What stands out from your time with the CUNA CEO Council?

Moghaddam: It’s been a fantastic journey. Watching the seed of a worthy idea planted, take strong root, and grow has been a gratifying growth experience on so many levels.

The greatest highlights revolve around the connections made with the CEO co-dreamers, CUNA partners, and supporters who came together as a team to make it all possible. I’m blessed to learn so much from people I respect and to forge deep bonds I never imagined possible.

Why is there a need for a CEO Council?

A: CEOs need a safe environment to discuss strategic and, at times, sensitive issues. As we move up the ladder, by its very nature the job gets lonelier, limiting the number of people we can discuss our challenges with or who will give us unbiased feedback. While there are many CEO groups at the state and local levels that may provide opportunities for CEO interactions, previously no national organization provided an exclusive CEO forum.

The CEO Council provides a space where CEOs can talk about issues that are more intimate and challenges they may not be comfortable discussing with close neighbors but can freely discuss with a colleague across the country so to speak.

The CEO Council also brings together a wide array of credit unions of different asset sizes, markets, and business models for sharing and exchange.

What insights have you gained during your time with the CEO Council?

A: Collaboration really works. There are many big dreams, but without taking the first step that is all it is—a dream. Acting on the plan, taking the first step, listening without prejudgment, adopting sensible ideas, and celebrating small wins can have an infectious snowball effect.

Most credit unions have a desire to collaborate but struggle to identify the right opportunities and collaboration partners. The CUNA Council structure brings leaders together to talk about common issues which will, in the long run, result in more opportunities to collaborate.

What are some of the top challenges facing today’s CEOs?

A: The No. 1 challenge is being able to recruit, inspire, engage, challenge, and motivate a more complex employee base. We now have four generations working in our credit unions. Just as employees are getting younger, boards are getting younger and more professional, and want to be more dynamically involved in strategy.

CEOs must proactively engage smarter and diversified employees and volunteers at a higher strategic level in a more complex, member-centric world. Leading and orchestrating future growth of our organizations in this environment will be exciting to watch.

What’s next for the CEO Council?

A: We’ll continue working the plan and provide the forum for exchange through the Council Community, online roundtables and webinars, and in-person roundtables at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, America’s Credit Union Conference, and our annual CEO Council Conference later this year.

We will continue to publish relevant white papers that can be accessed through the CEO Council portal and along the way collect feedback from CEOs about the topics they are curious about. The beauty of the CEO Council is that the members set the agenda and provide the resources at the same time.

What advice would you offer the next generation of CEOs?

A: Master connection, communication, and the art of collaboration. Credit union leaders must connect people, ideas, and business partners to build a collaborative network both within and outside of their organizations.

Cultivate the ability to communicate effectively at all levels and through all methods and mediums in order to inspire, engage, challenge and motivate your employees, volunteers, business partners, and members. The next generation must constantly recruit employees, members and influencers to keep their organization relevant and thriving.

Remain laser-focused on the vision but be extremely agile in refining strategy and tactics. Study trends in consumer expectations and relevant technology as these will continue to change at a rapid pace.  Be nimble enough to pivot quickly in response to changing market conditions, new technology platforms, and consumer demands.

Most important, be curious enough to step outside of the industry bubble to find great ideas and solutions.

Anything else?

A: Every generation of leaders has faced challenges they thought were unique to them: the cost and speed of technology, regulatory burdens, the economy, increased competition and most recently the rise of fintech, and so on.

However, credit unions have always dealt with the challenges they faced at the time and came through stronger. The challenges facing the current generation of leaders are solvable too, but they require imagination, collaboration, and flexibility. None of us is big enough to go it alone, but together we are a force to be reckoned with.