What Can Credit Unions Learn From Regulators? (Part 2)

Former examiners who now serve in the credit union C-suite talk about why they switched careers and what they have to offer the cooperative movement.

 
 

The credit union regulatory environment is intended to provide safety and soundness to a movement that has nearly $2 trillion in assets and more than 125 million member-owners. For credit union leaders, compliance is a fact of life. So, too, is working with the regulators and examiners responsible for ensuring said compliance.

With good reason many former examiners now work as senior credit union executives, bringing with them connections, inside knowledge, and an understanding of what the regulator is trying to achieve. These leaders appreciate the movement’s ability to make a difference in the lives of members within its regulatory boundaries, and they have a lot to say about their experience on both sides of the table.

Read: What Can Credit Unions Learn From Regulators? (Part 1)

Dennis Bauer, CFO, Ideal Credit Union

Dennis Bauer, CFO, Ideal Credit Union

Dennis Bauer worked for the NCUA from 1986 to 1992. His last position there was as a problem case officer. He has been the chief financial officer at Ideal Credit Union ($895.5M, Woodbury, MN) for 29 years.

What made you decide to work for a credit union rather than stay in a regulatory role?

Dennis Bauer: I left the NCUA in August of 1992 mainly because of the frequent travel and the impact on family life. I was recently married, and we just had our first child.

Also, as a problem case officer, I was constantly dealing with negative and stressful situations. I decided at that time to apply for management positions within the agency or at a credit union. I chose the credit union route because I wanted to focus on a single credit union specializing in finance/risk management and operations.

As a former regulator, what value do you bring to your credit union?

DB: As an examiner, I was exposed to different ways of doing business and developed significant knowledge of the regulatory environment and risk management, particularly in risk management related to credit, liquidity, and interest rate risk.

What advice do you have for bringing someone from the regulatory side into a credit union shop?

DB: Ensure the individual has good interpersonal skills and the ability to generate consensus and relationships within the credit union. Also, ensure the individual understands the entire business of the credit union — an examiner can be somewhat myopic and not always see the bigger picture. Finally, ensure the individual has the ability to act on advice and recommendations. Examiners can easily make recommendations, but knowing how to implement them takes some time to learn.

Nick Meyer, CEO, Minnesota Valley Credit Union

Nick Meyer, CEO, Minnesota Valley Credit Union

Nick Meyer spent nine years as an NCUA examiner with the agency’s Minneapolis group. He has been CEO of Minnesota Valley Federal Credit Union ($241.8M, Mankato, MN) since February 2000.

What made you decide to work for a credit union rather than stay in a regulatory role?

Nick Meyer: I grew up on a farm near Mankato and finished my MBA in Mankato. The farm has been in the family since 1899, and cooperatives are a big part of farming. I always wondered if I could help build a credit union after visiting so many as an NCUA examiner. Plus, we had three younger kids and the travel was getting rough.

A fellow examiner told me the CEO of a $20 million federal credit union was retiring and moving to Arizona, so the credit union was interviewing candidates. Today we’re $250 million in assets and having fun while growing, thinking, competing and, at our best, delivering real, consistent value to the community and membership.

As a former regulator, what value do you bring to your credit union?

NM: Some knowledge of rules, regulations, safety, and soundness, and experience around what works and what doesn’t. Plus, understanding the need for fun when it’s possible. NCUA examiners visit a credit union for a week or two, and no matter how gentle you try to be, you’re still an outsider trying to find weaknesses, point them out, and command they be fixed. When there’s strength, you lightly praise and move on.

What advice do you have for bringing someone from the regulatory side into a credit union shop?

NM: Running a credit union day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year, is very different from examining it for a week or two. What’s important for a successful credit union is not the same as what the NCUA might think. Certainly, there is some real overlap, and what the NCUA brings to the table is vital, too, just in a different way.

In searching for a regulator who would also make a good credit union leader, find those who have common sense and some formal education, can get along with others and take a team approach, and have a competitive spirit, a desire to find solutions, and a true fondness of people.

Rose Bartolomucci, President/CEO, Towpath Credit Union

Rose Bartolomucci, President/CEO, Towpath Credit Union

Rose Bartolomucci has been involved in the credit union movement since 1978. From 2006 to 2009, she served as deputy superintendent of credit unions for the Division of Financial Institutions at the Ohio Department of Commerce, where she helped oversee 220 state-chartered credit unions and American Share Insurance, the member-owned, private share insurer.

Bartolomucci has been president and CEO of Towpath Credit Union ($173.2M, Fairlawn, OH) and its pre-merger predecessor, TeleCommunity Credit Union, since 2009.

What made you decide to work for a credit union rather than stay in a regulatory role?

Rose Bartolomucci: I had been a credit union CEO for 22 years before becoming a state regulator. In Ohio, the regulator position is a four-year post appointed by the governor. After nearly three years, it appeared there would be a change in administration leadership and I began to explore my options of returning to a credit union back home after three years of commuting between Akron and Columbus. I decided to place my name in the TeleCommunity CEO search, of which I was successful.

I regulated credit unions from 2007 to 2009, the toughest of times of the financial economic downturn in our country. We worked together, regulator and credit unions, to develop open communications and set up monitoring systems. Our division helped credit unions redefine their strategic priorities, plan, retool budgets, and educate executives and boards about changes needed to come out of the crisis whole.

As a former regulator, what value do you bring to your credit union?

RB: The ability to troubleshoot and see clearly how to resolve issues quickly and with open lines of communication with all involved, including a strong working relationship with our regulator and insurer. There’s value in the partnership mentality and having the knowledge to discuss with our regulator, ahead of a scheduled exam, the current and future direction of our credit union.

What advice do you have for bringing someone from the regulatory side into a credit union shop?

RB: Look for a person who has a passion for helping people. Someone who has the skill set to understand the movement as a whole and who has a working knowledge of compliance and regulations. Someone who understands there could be exceptions to processes and willing to agree to disagree for the good of the credit union and member.

Coming from a government position to the private sector can be a bit of an adjustment. However, with a great credit union culture, they will be an asset to your cooperative. Credit unions are a great career choice — I’ve done this for 43 years.

Don’t stop here. Read: What Can Credit Unions Learn From Regulators? (Part 1)

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

Want more credit union strategies? Sign up for the CreditUnions.com free newsletter.