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By Rebecca Wessler
Jon Hernandez — CEO of Mattel Federal Credit Union, Calcom Federal Credit Union, and Nikkei Credit Union — began his credit union career 20 years ago as a teller at Mattel FCU. The chief executive is now responsible for guiding three independent credit unions, each with their own boards, business plans, 5300 reports, exams, audits, and membership bases.
Although the credit unions operate separately from one another, they do share resources when it is fiscally logical to do so — for example, in matters of compliance or technology, real estate loans, marketing, and, of course, executive leadership. It is a strategy that has allowed Mattel FCU($27.3M, El Segundo, CA), Calcom FCU($63.5M, Torrance, CA), and Nikkei($67.8M, Gardena, CA) to remain independent within a cooperative world. It has also allowed them to stay true to their missions and members.
Here, Hernandez discusses how a shared CEO model benefits smaller credit unions and underscores the competitive advantage of the cooperative model.
I started as a teller at Mattel and became CEO of CalCom Credit Union (then named LICOMTO Credit Union) in 1996. In 2002, I took over a small credit union, Copley, when the CEO passed away. In 2003, City of Downey Credit Union called for help as it transitioned to a new CEO. I was running its board meeting for three months when the board asked if I wanted to continue working with all three credit unions.
Yes, however there have been some changes. Copley and City of Downey have merged with CalCom. In 2004, Mattel asked me to take over as CEO, and in July 2014, I became CEO of Nikkei Credit Union.
In the Copley case, I was helping the credit union and I could do it without negatively impacting CalCom, so I did it. When it came to deciding long term, I had to go back to my team at CalCom and ask if I would have their support. Could they assist if anything came up? I had to have the same discussion with the Copley and City of Downey board of directors. We decided we would try it for a four- to six-month period to see whether it was too much to effectively manage.
All three of the boards were supportive. For the Calcom board, it was all about the deliverables. If I could meet the goals, it didn't matter how I did it.
June 29, 2015
7/28/2015 10:33 AM
Jon, I think you embody the cooperative spirit of the Credit Union movement. Keep on keeping on!
6/30/2015 12:47 PM
The fact that we try to maintain each credit union's distinct identity is important to each of these institutions. Each credit union has a unique membership that requires its own way of being served. We don't need to merge just to achieve scale instead we should find ways to achieve it by collaborating and working with other credit unions just like sharing employees and resources.
There is a cost to remain independent, but that's the cost of keeping your identity. There's savings in having shared employees. Compensation, benefits, training, and succession planning have a lot of advantages when negotiating with vendors.
As long as the credit union is operating efficiently and effectively, then it has the right to remain its own separate entity.
6/29/2015 11:51 AM
Intriguing. I enjoy the simplicity of a smaller credit union and interaction with members to make a difference in their financial well being.
6/29/2015 10:58 AM
The obvious question is why are the three credit unions still independent and not merged. The collaboration they have now is only a small taste of what the efficiencies would be if they were one credit union. The article would have been more interesting if Jon had talked about what advantages they retain as independent credit unions. There is a cost to remaining independent and members bear that cost. A credit union should be able to point out clear advantages that offset those costs. I have tried hard to find any advantage to remaining independent.
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