CU QUICK FACTS
Veridian Credit Union
HQ: Waterloo, IA
Data as of 09.30.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 8.7%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.8%
When it comes to risk, there’s a lot of attention paid to compliance, security and risk, and even competition. In the past few months, COVID-19 and stock market fluctuations have put economic risk front and center in the minds of credit union leaders. But protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd bring to light another important risk: reputational risk.
As protests against racial injustice and repression continue, credit unions must consider what they are doing to fulfill their mission and help bridge the economic divide that exists in communities all over America.
In the Heartland, Veridian Credit Union ($4.3B, Waterloo, IA) has tasked its community inclusion manager with adding intentionality to philosophy to ensure the cooperative represents all walks of life as it works to boost financial wellness and inclusion across the Hawkeye State.
Angela Weekley is a veteran educator who worked at the credit union in college. When she returned in 2011, she assumed the role of community inclusion manager and today helps Veridian respond to the area’s rapidly changing demographics as well as recognize the deeper needs of underserved Iowans who’ve always been there.
She also serves as an inclusion advocate for employees, and her team — which includes Weekley and a staff of three — relies heavily on partnerships to execute their community relations, financial literacy, and inclusion strategies.
Here, Weekley provides insight on the role of community inclusion manager at Veridian Credit Union.
When and why did Veridian create the role of community inclusion manager?
Angela Weekley: The position was created in 2010 at the recommendation of what is now our Inclusion Council. Veridian has a long history of celebrating diversity and promoting inclusion. The Inclusion Council wanted to ensure our efforts are intentional and strategic, which led to the creation of my position.
Our communities are becoming more diverse — by age, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and more. When we accurately represent our communities, we create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels valued — like they belong. It also makes us more effective at serving our members. We can better anticipate their needs and are better equipped to help them overcome barriers. Recognizing the strength in diversity and inclusion is more than just good business sense, it’s the right thing to do.
What made you a great fit for this job?
AW: I worked as a member service representative at a Veridian branch in Waterloo while attending Wartburg College. When I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education, I left Veridian and worked in higher education for 12 years helping underrepresented students achieve a college education. I earned my master’s degree in education in 2010 and returned to Veridian as the manager of community inclusion in the spring of 2011.
Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
AW: I report directly to the CEO, and I lead a team of two community inclusion coordinators and one community inclusion strategist.
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How do you and your team do your jobs?
AW: My team and I work with departments across the credit union and build relationships in our communities to ensure we’re reaching the underserved and helping them create a successful financial future.
That work often takes the form of community investment, financial literacy, specialty products like individual development accounts (IDAs), and helping people obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). We also oversee products and projects related to Veridian’s certification from the U.S. Treasury as a community development financial institution.
As a result, my daily routine varies depending on the time of year. Right now, I’m working on a budget for 2020, staff reviews, updating agreements with our community partners, and reviewing year-end data for staffing and lending.
Can you provide more detail about the products and services you’ve developed around community inclusion? For example, what do you do with ITINs and IDAs?
AW: An Individual Tax Identification Number is a tax processing number issued by the IRS to account for tax returns and payments for people who aren’t eligible for a Social Security number. Veridian employees who are ITIN Acceptance Agents help our members complete the necessary IRS documents to receive their ITIN.
We also offer loan and deposit products designed to meet the needs of members with ITINs. An individual development account is a matched savings account designed to help low-income individuals make asset-building purchases , such as a home, business, or education. We have approximately 30 IDA savers every year and work with a number of local nonprofit organizations as the fiscal agent for their IDA accounts.
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Describe your relationship with community partners. Who are they, and what role do they play in your work?
AW: Our relationships are unique to each partnership. For example, one of our community inclusion coordinators keeps regular office hours at Centro Latino of Iowa. This allows her to be an accessible resource for financial literacy and more. I, meanwhile, serve on diversity councils for chambers of commerce in several communities across our field of membership and as a community impact partner and campaign co-chair for our local United Way. We also work with three organizations across our field of membership to employ local high school students as summer interns.
How do you track success in your job? What has been your most gratifying or satisfying moment so far?
AW: The success of the community inclusion department is measured by department goals and our annual strategic plan. We monitor our member, employee, and community demographics and aim to mirror the communities we serve. We look for gaps in that representation and seek opportunities to address them.
The most gratifying moment so far has been watching a single mom who works two jobs take the keys for her first home.
Is Veridian a pioneer in identifying community inclusion as an issue? How do you rate your efforts on that front in the decade you’ve been with the credit union?
AW: We don’t think of our role in terms of pioneering. We’ve been fortunate to have leadership that recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion. We’re constantly evaluating the needs of our members, the needs of our community, and what we’re doing to meet them. I’m more interested in the work there is to do than in rating our past achievements.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
AW: In diversity and inclusion work, community service is an invaluable way to be impactful and stay relevant. You’re building relationships while keeping a pulse on the needs of your community.
My team and I look for opportunities to volunteer in leadership roles where we can serve the underserved in our communities. This includes organizations focused on economic inclusion, minority advocacy, and more.
There’s also a growing schedule of conferences and other events focused on diversity and inclusion. We make those a priority — not only as a team but also as a credit union.
What advice do you have for credit unions that want to focus more on diversity and inclusion?
AW: Start by evaluating your culture. Provide your staff with education and tools to make the impact that’s needed in your community. The more of your team that’s involved in the effort, the more effective you’ll be.
Job titles say as much about the organization as they do the person. Have you seen a title you’d like to know more about? Let senior writer Marc Rapport know at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 223-3920, ext. 504. This interview has been edited and condensed.
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