Tony Budet

Look outward to improve advocacy

'Strong delegation model' can boost the CEO’s involvement in advocacy.

August 14, 2019

At a time when competitive and regulatory pressures are at an all-time high, Tony Budet, president/CEO of $2.5 billion asset University Federal Credit Union in Austin, Texas, thinks we should reinvent the role of the credit union CEO.

Although boards typically drive CEOs’ performance expectations, he believes advocacy should play a bigger role in their duties.

“We can’t outsource advocacy to CUNA and the leagues,” he says. “Writing that dues check represents only the first step in what is a very collaborative process.”

Budet is a prime example of the type of advocate CUNA Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan espouses: someone who makes advocacy a “lifestyle.”

Budet says credit unions and their boards should embrace CUNA and the leagues as true partners in advocacy.

‘I was amazed how our market visibility and brand strength grew as a result of our external focus.’
Tony Budet

“I discovered this years ago when I put in place a strong delegation model that elevated performance of my executives, positioning them to essentially run the cooperative and freeing me to focus considerable time externally,” he says.

Budet estimates that in recent years he has allocated as much as two-thirds of his time to community and credit union movement initiatives.

Lately, he’s shifted some of that emphasis back internally to address critical succession matters as he and several other key executives will retire in the near future.

“I was amazed how our cooperative’s market visibility and brand strength grew as a result of our external focus,” Budet says. “Internally, everything operated smoothly and my colleagues grew as executive leaders in every sense of those words.”

But the key to making it all work is board support.

“The board has to clearly understand the value in doing this and support the CEO 100%,” he says.

Budet says advocacy is essentially about relationships. “Relationships serve as the foundation for both business and advocacy. Those who have the strongest relationships tend to win in the end.

“If we as a movement are insular and internally absorbed, we won’t have relationships critical to securing the outcomes we seek.”

Just as importantly, relationships with legislators and others make the CEO’s job more critical and meaningful, Budet says.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to impact the quality of life of those around us—our colleagues, our members, and the broader communities in which we live, work, and play.”