CU QUICK FACTS
CommunityAmerica Credit Union
HQ: Lenexa, KS
Data as of 03.31.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.2%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 11.6%
The notion of people helping people is one that appeals to Lisa Ginter, who joined CommunityAmerica Credit Union ($2.9B, Lenexa, KS) in 1995 and became its CEO in 2015. Before she became a leader in the movement, Ginter cut her teeth in credit union land working with a CPA firm that specialized in audits. That’s where she learned about the cooperative difference and the importance of credit unions in America’s financial services landscape.
Here, the people-driven leader talks about making an impact in her community, bringing a new vision to life with her team, and why everything starts and ends with the members.
On early career experiences …
Lisa Ginter, CEO, CommunityAmerica Credit Union
I graduated with an accounting degree and started at a CPA firm that worked with credit unions. I was intrigued by the cooperative business model. Despite differences in asset size or membership, the notion of people helping people was at the heart of every one of these multi-faceted institutions. I love helping people, so it spoke to my heart.
After landing at a credit union in Kansas City, I found myself acting as a credit union doctor. As a former auditor and a credit union CFO, I was able to help several institutions get back on sound footing. When CommunityAmerica started its internal audit department in 1995, the NCUA mentioned my name. Within six months of joining the credit union, I was named to the executive team.
On leadership styles …
My leadership style is based on trust and collaboration. I care about people, and I lead with my heart. I think of my team as an extension of my family. Being a team and accomplishing our goals together is what really matters — it’s not about me, it’s about them.
What separates a good leader from a great one is the ability to inspire others. A great leader can help people see a common vision and bring it to life.
On finding inspiration …
It’s important to have someone who can help you vet ideas. I have an executive coach, and I’m on several boards and spend time with organizations that are doing very progressive things.
In 2010, I was inducted into the Kansas City Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” group. I didn’t realize the magnitude of what that meant at the time and have found a lot of inspiration as I’ve tapped into a network that is completely outside of the financial services space. The group is composed of high-level, entrepreneurial business owners that contribute to our community and support other women. It’s been great to see how they are thinking big and defining transformation within their own industries. I try to bring that back and relate it to CommunityAmerica.
Being a team and accomplishing our goals together is what really matters — it’s not about me, it’s about them.
On big accomplishments …
I’m proud of many things we’ve done at CommunityAmerica, but my proudest accomplishment is building a relationship with my board that has allowed me to be bold and take risks. We inked a deal to be the official banking partner of the Kansas City Chiefs and asked the team to bring its commercial business to the credit union even though we didn’t have a commercial platform at the time and had to build those capabilities.
Nobody had heard of Patrick Mahomes when the Chiefs signed him. We had a multi-year deal with him to be the credit union’s spokesperson when he became the NFL’s most valuable player in 2018. I look for partners that align with the values of CommunityAmerica, and this humble, big-hearted quarterback fit our cooperative spirit.
Timing is everything, but it’s the relationship and trust I have with my board that allows the credit union to take advantage of these opportunities. The relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs — and everything we do as an organization — is to the benefit of our members. The NFL relationship has translated into more accounts and deeper relationships for the credit union. Last year alone, it helped us to pay out $8.4 million to our members.
On what the industry needs more, or less, of …
I’d like to see more collaboration at the industry level. We’ve got to figure out how to join forces to do bigger things. The non-traditional players, not one another, are the competition, and credit unions are still the best alternative for consumers.
I’d like to see less legislation that inhibits our growth as cooperatives. It’s important we have a voice at the table, which is why I sit on the boards for both the state and national trade associations. I don’t want to see credit unions always on the defensive or compromising because of our member-owned structure. That difference makes us unique and should allow us to serve our communities.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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