news.cuna.org/articles/116496-creative-thinking-at-the-top
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Creative thinking at the top

Linda White leads innovative thinking at Upward Credit Union.

August 21, 2019

Linda White was a cashier at a San Francisco parking garage when the CEO of a small credit union across the street offered her a job as a teller in 1978.

Today, White is making corporate change as CEO of Upward Credit Union in Burlingame, Calif.

When she took over as CEO at what was then United Health Credit Union in 1998, the credit union had $18 million in assets. Today, the credit union has $79 million in assets and 4,700 members.

“We really understand our members,” says White. “We were always headquartered in a hospital until 2001, and we have a saying that goes, ‘As health care providers change lives physically, we want to change lives financially.’” 

White helped lead a merger with Sequoia Hospital Employees Credit Union in 2014. The combined operation was renamed Upward Credit Union in 2017.

Others credit White for her energy and creative thinking.

“When I speak with directors at other credit unions, they often are amazed that as a relatively small credit union, Upward is doing innovative things that even billion-dollar credit unions aren’t doing,” says Annie Miller, board chair.

A nonprofit group that guarantees auto loans for low-income individuals recently approached Upward. 

“We fund and service those loans for them, and we give back a portion of the interest to the nonprofit,” White says. “It’s the right thing to do. We would love to serve more people who aren’t A-credit members. Here’s a way to help those people.”

White also led the renovation of the credit union’s headquarters, which required resourceful thinking because of the cost of building in the Silicon Valley area.

“For us to ever consider buying a building is impossible,” White says. “We needed to create an environment where we can bring in members, offer workshops in-house, and make it much more welcoming.”

Upward leased more space in its current location and extensively remodeled its offices. White downsized her own office for a larger conference room.

White became a Credit Union Development Educator in 2019. She believes in a strong sense of community and reinforces that vision on a daily basis. 

“We’re changing lives,” she says. “That could be through a car loan, clearing somebody’s check, or protecting elderly members from thieves. That’s what gives me the satisfaction.”

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