A commercial success
Business lender Gretchen Hudacek embraces Royal Credit Union’s member-centric model.
As vice president business loan officer at Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire, Wis., Gretchen Hudacek spends her workdays developing business relationships and delivering financial expertise to business members at the $4 billion asset credit union.
The longtime commercial banker recently talked with Credit Union Magazine about her transition to credit unions, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, diversity, and her interests outside of work.
Credit Union Magazine: What was your path to the credit union industry?
Gretchen Hudacek: I have been in commercial banking for the past 32 years, 24 of which were spent in Eau Claire. I worked for three large, national banks before coming to Royal Credit Union one year ago. I had long admired Royal for being such a strong community partner, and was absolutely thrilled when I finally achieved my goal of working for this organization.
Q: What have you enjoyed about your transition to credit unions?
A: The focus of my work is completely different. When I was in the banking industry the goal was always to make a profit for our shareholders. At the credit union, we’re very member centric. Our focus is always doing what is best for our members.
When I made my transition to Royal, I was amazed at the great rates we offer and the limited number of fees. I love that the businesses I work with don’t have to worry about these extra expenses and can use these savings to improve their businesses and the services they provide to the community.
Q: What are your goals in this position?
A: Royal’s core purpose is to make a positive impact in the lives we touch, and I am honored to do this every day and help members tell their stories. We are willing to work with our members to make things easy and show them that getting approved for a loan doesn’t have to be so difficult.
The fun part of the journey is financing business transactions that help members realize their dreams.
Another important goal I have is to be a respected community leader. I currently serve as vice president of the board of directors for the Regional Business Fund and am on the advisory board of the Western Dairy Land Women’s Business Center, the grants committee of the Eau Claire Community Foundation, and membership committee of the Women’s Giving Circle.
I am also involved with Eau Claire United Soccer, Chippewa Valley Nordic, and the Banff Film Festival.
Q: What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?
A: It’s a great way to recognize this group and the many contributions they have made to American culture. I look forward to shining a light locally on how Asian American and Pacific Islanders have made a positive impact right here in the Chippewa Valley and ways we can support their cultures, businesses, and families.
Q: Why is it important to recognize different groups?
A: Recognizing accomplishments and sharing success stories empowers others to see what is possible and helps pave the path for them in the future.
Royal strives to continuously cultivate an inclusive environment where all team members feel valued and supported, and our differences are appreciated. This includes acknowledging and respecting the many different celebrations, events, heritages, holidays, and causes that are important to each of us.
Q: How have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts changed since your career started?
A: When I started my career, commercial banking was a very male-dominated field. I didn’t let that stop me and am very proud that I achieved my dreams of working in this industry.
Over the years, I have seen more women enter the commercial banking field, and we have seen improvements in providing better gender equity pay. But there is still more work to do.
I have seen an increase in awareness of DEI and more intentional conversations and trainings on the topic. Cultural awareness is so important in creating a positive work environment where everyone is given the space and time to speak up and have their voices heard.
One of my passions is mentoring other business professionals.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I enjoy being active and spending time outdoors. Every year I participate in the Kortelopet, a 29-kilometer cross-country ski race held in Hayward. I have been an active member of Moms on the Run for more than 10 years and enjoy participating in the marathon relay.
This summer, a group of friends and I are participating in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). This will be a 462-mile bike journey with 12,945 feet of climb.
I also love spending time with my family. I have three adult children who have all chosen to live in the mountains versus the Midwest. My husband has been a teacher in the Eau Claire School District for the past 30 years.