CASE Credit Union Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance Bryanna Benoit (left), and Heritage Family Federal Credit Union Senior Vice President of Finance Christine Messer.

How to be an effective finance leader

The path toward leadership and guiding a successful team.

May 4, 2022

A task-based career in finance centers around data and numbers. But how can finance leaders make the transition to become successful leaders?

“A lot of us accounting folks aren’t necessarily the most outgoing in the room,” says Christine Messer, senior vice president of finance at $672 million asset Heritage Family Federal Credit Union in Rutland, Vt. “You can’t lead people if you’re quiet—they don’t know where you’re going. You’ve got to be able to communicate that to them effectively.”

Upon taking a leadership role, Messer set out to learn about her team, which represented four generations. To get them working toward the same goals, she focused on personal development, including how effective communication revolves around meshing intention with impact.

Bryanna Benoit, chief financial officer (CFO) and vice president of finance at $381 million asset CASE Credit Union in Lansing, Mich., took the same developmental approach. When she started taking on leadership responsibilities, she placed herself in uncomfortable settings and conversations to enhance her skills, including communication abilities.

“That’s a key to professional growth. Push your limits to where you feel a little uncomfortable,” agrees David D’Annunzio, chief financial and strategic officer at $6.1 billion asset Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C.

He believes the financial field is big enough for all personality types, and that many paths lead to leadership. D’Annunzio, who worked in several industries before taking his first credit union job in South Carolina, has used resources such as the CUNA Councils Community to learn as much as he can about credit unions.

“I fell in love with the industry. The camaraderie, the networking opportunities, everything about it really attracted me,” he says. “I wish I would have found the credit union industry a little earlier in my career, but I’m here now and have no plans of leaving.”

It’s also important to develop a deep bench of potential leaders. D’Annunzio suggests developing a succession plan and finding candidates who are passionate, active learners.

Benoit adds that CFOs must be willing to bring new perspectives to the table.

Benoit, D’Annunzio, and Messer addressed a CUNA Councils virtual roundtable, “Being an Effective Finance Leader.”