How To Recruit The Next Generation Of Credit Union Leaders

Young employees making their mark on their organizations talk about how they started their credit union careers and ponder how the industry can attract up-and-coming leaders.

 
 

This summer, CreditUnions.com published a four-part series asking established industry professionals for their thoughts on how credit unions can attract up-and-coming leaders to their workforces.

Now, it’s time to hear from these emerging leaders themselves. CreditUnions.com tapped HR departments across the United States looking for budding talent making a mark on their organizations.

When we found them, we posed these five questions:

  • How did you begin your credit union career? Did you know what one was before you started?
  • What do you do at the credit union?
  • What are your career plans?
  • What development opportunities exist at your credit union? Have you been able to participate in them?
  • How can credit unions recruit budding leaders?

Read what they have to say.

Related Resource: More leaders offer advice on how to recruit enthusiastic employees to fill tomorrow’s leadership roles. Read more in "A Credit Union Career Isn’t For Me. Change My Mind. (Part 1)", “A Credit Union Career Isn’t For Me. Change My Mind. (Part 2)”, “A Credit Union Career Isn’t For Me. Change My Mind. (Part 3)”, and “A Credit Union Career Isn’t For Me. Change My Mind. (Part 4)”.

Neal Weber, Vice President of Finance, Blue Federal Credit Union ($1.3B, Cheyenne, WY)

Neal Weber did not know much about credit unions when he graduated from college. Although he was a finance major, his studies provided only a few pages of information about the cooperative banking movement. Today, Neal is vice president of finance at Blue Federal Credit Union, and he has big plans for his continued career at Blue. For credit unions that want to attract leaders like him, Weber says culture is key.

How did you begin your credit union career? Did you know what one was before you started?

Neal Weber, Vice President of Finance, Blue FCU

Neal Weber: I was fortunate to start my credit union career immediately following college. Although my hometown of 3,500 people did not have a single credit union, I majored in finance and minored in banking and financial services in college. Because of this, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in banking at a broad level but had only limited understanding of credit unions and how they differed from banks. Of all the classes I took on finance and banking, the full volume of my studies on credit unions was relegated to a couple of pages in a single textbook.

An acquaintance was a member of Blue Federal Credit Union — then called Warren Federal — and this individual strongly recommended the organization. I learned of an opening for a financial analyst position, which was exactly the type of starting role I was looking for. I was initially hesitant, but applying for it was one of the best decisions I have made.

What do you do at the credit union?

Neal Weber

Blue FCU
VP of Finance, 2016-present
Director of Business Intelligence, 2016-2016

Warren FCU
Finance Manager, 2015-2016
Financial Analyst, 2012-2015

AristaTek
Marketing Assistant, 2011-2012

NW: I am currently serving as vice president of finance for Blue Federal Credit Union. My areas of responsibility include accounting, finance, payroll, and business intelligence. I enjoy serving on the asset-liability committee (ALCO) that sets interest rates, fees, and product details. I’m also heavily involved in financial forecasting and planning and in the continued development of a data-driven culture and strategy at the organization.

What are your career plans?

NW: With my background in finance, I hope to one day have the opportunity to step deeper into strategic management as chief financial officer. Much further down the road, I believe I could make a strong CEO with a foundational understanding of financial management combined with a deep and sincere passion for helping members succeed in their financial lives. I firmly believe in everything Blue represents to its members and communities and hope to one day retire with the organization.

Related Resource: Doug Fecher, CEO of Wright-Patt Credit Union, talks about strategies to entice up-and-coming leaders in "How To Stand Out In A Field Of Potential Employers."

What development opportunities exist at your credit union? Have you been able to participate in them?

NW: Blue offers excellent development opportunities with a renewed focus on building its internal talent in recent years. Over the past eight years, I have had the opportunity to “Crash” CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, build relationships with peers at Western CUNA Management School, and pursue my Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential. Blue has encouraged me to pursue these opportunities and supported my pursuit at each step in the process.

I have also participated in internal leadership training classes as well as mentorship programs that allow leaders — regardless of who they report to in the organizational hierarchy — to share knowledge. I believe having a relationship with a mentor is an especially effective development tool for young leaders.

How can credit unions recruit budding leaders?

NW: It all starts with culture. The culture within the credit union movement is exceptional and remains its strongest selling point. Younger generations are increasingly asserting their preference for organizations that align with their values over those that simply offer the highest paycheck. Credit unions are uniquely positioned to appeal to these types of leaders.

The credit union philosophy of people helping people stands out against a backdrop of organizations with very different beliefs. Faith in the national banks is reaching all-time lows, and many other companies are struggling to balance profit maximization with other stakeholder interests. Credit unions can attract those who are disgusted with unethical behavior at other organizations.

Challenges do remain, however, with the single largest being widespread misunderstanding of what the credit union movement represents. I’ve heard some who believe credit unions are staffed exclusively with volunteers; others believe credit unions are reserved for a certain segment of the population. All these misconceptions hinder the movement’s ability to recruit top talent.

Working directly with universities and colleges to create internship and management training programs could be a key component in overcoming these challenges. Like myself at the time, I’m sure many college graduates today have little understanding of what sets credit unions apart. These programs could not only overcome this knowledge discrepancy but also introduce the credit union culture that I believe is critical to attracting talent.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

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