Rising star: Know your ‘why’
OUCU Financial’s Brittni Downs never stops learning.
Brittni Downs received the 2022 Rising Star Award from the CUNA Finance Council. After starting in OUCU Financial’s internship program, Downs has risen to manager of accounting at the $463 million asset credit union in Athens, Ohio.
Downs, a founding member of the Ohio Credit Union League’s GRID (Grow, Retain, Inspire, and Develop) program and a member of the CUNA Finance Council’s Member Resource Committee, recently spoke with CUNA News about her career, keys to professional success, advice for young finance professionals, and what she enjoys doing in her free time.
CUNA News: Tell me about your role and how you came to OUCU Financial.
Brittni Downs: I originally came to OUCU as a college intern in 2009 with a credit union service organization doing taxes. I graduated from Ohio University and worked at another credit union as their accountant and then controller. That was a smaller credit union, and I was looking for opportunities to grow.
At that time, OUCU was looking for their manager of accounting and facilities, and I was excited for the possibility. Not long after being there, the role changed a bit and the facilities part was moved to another area.
In my current role, I am responsible for a lot of the reports or data for reports, such as board reports, data to our asset/liability management company for asset/liability committee (ALCO) reports, and budget analysis and input.
Q: What are some keys to success in your role?
A: Keys to my success are my desire to learn and my organizational skills. I recently did a strength-finder assessment at the Ohio Credit Union League’s Invest48, and it was no surprise that “learner” was one of mine.
My desire to learn keeps me open to change, which allows me to continue to step up my skills. And my ability to stay organized makes it possible for me to get everything done at my job, as well as ensure my accounting is as accurate as possible.
Q: Why did the CUNA Finance Council name you the 2022 Rising Star?
A: I think the Finance Council named me Rising Star because I drank the credit union Kool-Aid and I have goals to eventually become a chief financial officer (CFO) or CEO one day. Those goals and love for the credit union come across in the interactions I have with people.
As a part of that, I am involved in the CUNA Finance Council Member Resource Committee, where I have co-hosted virtual chats and have been on conference panels. I also am one of the founding members of Ohio’s young professionals program, GRID, where our goal is to keep young professionals in the credit union industry.
I am so thankful for those who nominated me for this award. I am extra thankful for my boss who has pushed me to better myself since he showed up at OUCU and has shared so much knowledge with me.
I am lastly thankful for my partner for supporting me as I push myself and try and achieve my goals.
Q: What career advice would you offer other finance professionals?
A: Never stop learning. The most useful question I have asked in my career is “why?”
Even early on, when I was handed something to do, I wanted to understand why I was doing it. I knew how to complete the task without the why, but understanding the why allowed me to do it better.
In some cases, understanding the why changed what we were doing completely. Another question I ask is why we are doing it a certain way. If the reason we are doing a process is because we’ve always done it that way, it’s a process that needs to be reviewed.
And those whys don’t just have to be accounting and finance related. In my prior role, I worked with other departments and asked why about their processes because then I could see how it tied back to accounting.
Q: What excites you most about your work at OUCU?
A: There are two sides to what I love at OUCU. First is my role as the manager of accounting. Being able to work closely with our CFO is a constant learning experience for me. I am a learner, and being able to continue to grow and apply my knowledge gets me up in the morning.
The second piece is the “people helping people” philosophy that comes from working at a credit union. I am originally from Southeast Ohio, a county where OUCU recently expanded its field of membership, and we do everything we can to do what is best for the member and our community.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I spend a lot of time with my partner, Jason, and my two bonus kids. When we aren’t going to soccer or piano practices, we love to travel.
Recently we went to Gatlinburg, Tenn., and we’re looking forward to our summer trip to Disney and Universal.
I studied abroad in London during college and look forward to getting back there again. When we aren’t traveling, we enjoy playing board games with friends and doing day trips around Ohio.
I also love photography. I am an amateur but working on getting better.