Edwin Williams says credit unions must maintain their cooperative spirit if they are to continue to thrive.

Stronger together

Retiring Discovery Federal Credit Union CEO lauds the power of cooperation.

August 9, 2022

Edwin Williams will retire as president/CEO at Discovery Federal Credit Union, Wyomissing, Pa., by year’s end.

Williams began his tenure at Discovery Federal, then known as Reading Works Federal Credit Union, in 1997. 

At that time, the credit union had $46 million in assets and 4,500 members. Today, it has more than $180 million in assets and nearly 9,000 members.

In 2020, Williams received the distinguished William W. Pratt Professional of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award by the CrossState Credit Union Association.

He shares his thoughts on leadership and the future of the credit union movement.

Credit Union Magazine: How has the movement changed since you started your career and how is it the same?

Edwin Williams: I don’t think the underlying fundamentals of the movement have changed. However, the outside pressures on the movement have become greater, causing a shift in the focus of the movement. 

Regulatory, legislative, and technology changes have pressured the movement to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. But, as it should always be, the movement still focuses on our member/owners in adapting to these changes. It is and always should be about the member/owner.

At the same time, the aforementioned changes have caused a rift in that cooperative spirit. I have seen, in a small way, less cooperation among credit unions [due to] the everyday pressures to comply with the various local, state, and federal issues. 

We must remember we are all stronger when we are together and cooperating.

Q: How will you stay involved with credit unions and Discovery Federal in retirement?

A: At the current time, I don’t have solid plans to remain involved with Discovery Federal. I don’t feel it would be fair to the next CEO to have the former CEO on the board, so that is completely off the table. 

I may check into opportunities at the local and state level to continue to push the credit union story to those who are unfamiliar with credit unions.

Q: What advice do you have for future credit union leaders?

A: A very good friend of mine, Jim McCormack, who just passed this year, would always remind anyone that we are not an industry but a movement. Merriam-Webster defines an industry as “a distinct group of productive or profit-making enterprises,” whereas a movement is defined as “a series of organized activities working toward an objective;  also an organized effort to promote or attain an end.” 

We need to remind future leaders that we are not in this for profit, but to better our member-owners’ lives. 

My other advice to future leaders is to learn from the past. Learn the history of the credit union movement and note the sacrifices our founders made to establish this movement that we love so much.