New board voices
‘We’ve made a shift to be sure everyone is included.’
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The “new generation board member” is about much more than age and demographics, according to panelists who addressed credit union board succession during CUNA Mutual Group’s Discovery2022 virtual conference.
“There’s change and innovation all round us,” says Susan Mitchell, CEO at Mitchell Stankovic & Associates. “We have a responsibility to consider where our boards fit within that change. We hear the term DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and we try to put that into categories, but ultimately it’s about diversity of thought and representation.”
Mitchell notes that credit unions’ membership composition is evolving to reflect shifts in the industry as well as cultural changes.
“Field of memberships are changing,” she says. “How many credit unions reflect their original field of membership? Boards must reflect that shift, but it’s hard work and it has to be process oriented.”
Michael Maxwell says SCE Federal Credit Union in Irwindale, Calif., accounts for that shift in its board process.
“We’ve made a shift to be sure everyone is included,” says Maxwell, board chair at the $936 million asset credit union. “We work hard all the time to review the makeup of our membership to be sure all those different voices are represented on our board. It takes time and effort.”
Stacey Walker, a board member at $204 million asset XCEL Credit Union in Bloomfield, N.J., shared her story as an example of how a “new voice” can add value to a board.
In the mid-2000s, Walker was a new attorney looking for volunteer opportunities on a nonprofit board. She had also completed nonprofit board training program through the United Way of New York City.
As luck would have it, XCEL Credit Union, where Walker was a member, was also looking to add value with new voices on its board. Walker volunteered, and she has turned the opportunity into a rewarding volunteer career.
“I cherished our onboarding process,” Walker says. “I was made to feel welcome, and I’m always looking to enhance that same process for our new board members.”
As Mitchell says, board recruiting must be process oriented. It also requires ongoing dialogue between the board and members, says Margo Byrne, board vice chair at $1.2 billion asset Ventura (Calif.) County Credit Union.
“You need to have important and hard conversations,” says Byrne. “And you can’t just cast a quick hook; it has to be a net.”