CUNA Finance Council turns 25
Founding members share their thoughts on how the industry has evolved.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the CUNA Finance Council (formerly the CFO Council).
Following, some founding members of the council discuss their roles 25 years ago and what has changed in the industry and among finance leaders over the past two-and-a-half decades.
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CEO, A+ Federal Credit Union, Austin, Texas
Twenty-five years ago I was chief financial officer (CFO) at Baton Rouge (La.) Federal Credit Union. I was looking for a place where I could collaborate with others.
The camaraderie and collaboration are the best parts of the council. It’s also a development tool when you’re trying to figure out the next step. What are the critical skills? How can you do better in your current role or get promoted? A big part of what we were trying to do was to have an impact on our industry.
Communication issues can be a derailer for finance leaders. If someone is focused solely on the numbers and can’t communicate to the executive committee, it won’t work. We need to have healthy conversations to make sure we’re doing the right things for our credit unions.
President/CEO, SECU, Raleigh, N.C.
The CFO Council was an introduction to many good folks. It was an opportunity to meet a lot of folks and be able to call people to ask, “this happened to us, what would you do?”
The credit union movement is evolving at an exponential pace. We’re trying to keep up with changes in technology and services competitors provide. The products we offer haven’t changed radically over the last 25 years, but the competition has.
Another issue is that the industry has been shrinking for 40 years. The big guys keep getting bigger and the small guys are dealing with regulations and compliance. A big issue is, how do we remain relevant?
My advice to new finance professionals: Take advantage of every opportunity to learn about leadership, management, and so on. I started as a loan officer 40 years ago, then became a branch manager before getting into accounting. There was no grand design to build a career. Just prepare and put yourself in the position to go to the next step if that’s what you want to do.
Executive vice president/CFO, Member One Federal Credit Union, Roanoke, Va.
I began my career at Member One Federal Credit Union in 1990 (then N&W Employees Federal Credit Union) as the accounting manager of the $55 million credit union. A few years later, I received information regarding membership in a new organization known as the CUNA CFO Council. As an aspiring CFO, I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to become involved with a national organization of credit union financial practitioners.
My professional development trajectory has progressed alongside the credit union’s growth curve. Today, I am the executive vice president and CFO at Member One Federal Credit Union, which has more than $1 billion in assets.
Twenty-nine years ago, my role was much more “in the weeds” with a limited staff in the accounting department that required me to become involved in many of the day-to-day tasks. We also lacked the resources of other professional areas of responsibility such as human resources, training, etc.
So, as a department manager I was responsible for all of these areas within the accounting department. As the credit union grew, my role in the organization evolved. As we have employed other professionals and created new departments from internal audit to human resources and training, I have been able to re-focus on more strategic goals, such as investment management, budget development, asset/liability management, and strategic planning.
One of the major challenges for credit union finance leaders today is remaining relevant. As a financial industry, our market size pales in comparison to the mega-banks. Given the progressive focus on technology as a delivery channel for financial products and services, it will become increasingly difficult for credit unions to maintain the requisite investment in resources necessary to remain a viable force in the financial services arena.
Executive vice president/CFO, TruMark Financial Credit Union, Fort Washington, Pa.
When the council formed in 1994, I was the CFO of our credit union. In fact, when the first conference was held in August 1994 in San Francisco, I was one of two or three CFOs from a credit union on the East Coast as the council at that time was predominantly California-based credit union CFOs.
The role of the finance professional has changed significantly over the years. It has evolved from a position with an emphasis on the financial aspects of the credit union to one that incorporates leadership, strategic planning, merger and acquisition expertise, board engagement and interaction, and a generally broader knowledge discipline.
The biggest challenge for today’s finance leaders is achieving innovation in the financial service industry and understanding the nuances in integrating a digital platform with more traditional delivery systems.
My advice for new finance professionals? Read a lot about developments in the financial institution industry, especially the credit union industry, and pay close attention to stakeholder comments in surveys.
Strategic consultant and facilitator/owner, Red Ribbon Consulting
When the council formed in 1994, I was an auditor for a CPA firm specializing in financial institutions and nonprofits. I became a CFO at a credit union in 1996 and was there for 17 years. During that time, I spent eight years on the council’s Executive Committee.
My interests and skills shifted over time, leading to a career change in 2013 as a strategic consultant with c. myers, a company dedicated to helping credit unions understand their risks to profitability while exploring alternative courses of action. I loved working with boards and management teams across the country to link strategy with their asset/liability management.
A year ago, family circumstances led to another shift, bringing me closer to home with my work. As CEO/founder of Red Ribbon Consulting, I use my financial knowledge and strategic mindset to inspire nonprofit boards and management, particularly executive-level women, to set big, realistic goals to which they are held accountable.
Finance professionals are now relied upon as strategists. Since 2008, CEOs, boards, and other executives lean more heavily on the CFO, who in turn leans more heavily on other finance professionals. Not only do financial professionals provide and interpret meaningful data for making more informed decisions about risks to profitability, they also must invest in the growth and development of those around them to address the continued increase in intense decision-making.