Exit Interview is a new series from CreditUnions.com that shares the insight and experience of credit union executives who are retiring after many years of service to the movement.
Mike Lord will mark the end of summer by retiring from State Employees’ Credit Union ($49.9B, Raleigh, NC) after more than 45 years — including the past five as its senior leader — of helping grow SECU into what is now the nation’s second-largest credit union, and the largest with a state charter.
The Back Story
When did you join the credit union movement?
Mike Lord: I joined the movement by getting a job as a loan officer trainee in 1975 right out of college after graduating from NC State University. SECU is the only employer I’ve known in my career. (It’s a great place full of wonderful people helping other wonderful people!).
Mike Lord, President and CEO, State Employees’ Credit Union
What was your career path to president/CEO?
ML: I was a loan officer in Raleigh and then Fayetteville for a total of four years and then vice president and branch manager in Elizabeth City for more than two years. That it was back to Raleigh where I was CFO for 30 years and then CEO for the past five. And yes, I’m as amazed as everyone else that I could hold a job that long!
When is your retirement effective? Who is succeeding you?
ML: My retirement is effective on Aug. 31. My successor has not yet been named. Our board of directors hired an international search firm (Russell Reynolds Associates). The board has been in the succession planning mode for the past 18 months and will likely name a successor soon.
How much has SECU grown since you took the helm?
ML: We had 2.1 million members, $33.9 billion in assets, and 257 branches when I assumed the CEO role. Today we have 2.5 million members (approximately one out of every four North Carolinians), $50 billion in assets, and 273 branches.
CU QUICK FACTS
STATE EMPLOYEES’ CREDIT UNION
HQ: Raleigh, NC
Data as of 06.30.21
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 10.91%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -1.64%
Learnings And Legacy
How has the credit union industry changed during your career?
ML: Everything has changed! All we do is change. All every industry does is change. That’s what makes it exciting and terrifying at the same time. Over my 46-year career the list of what we’ve introduced includes ATMs, money market accounts, IRAs, contact centers, tax preparation services, voice response, a mobile app, an interactive website, and bill pay.
We also created SECU Life insurance Company, SECU*RE Property Management Company, Credit Union Investment Services (our registered representative holding company), SECU Brokerage Services (our broker/dealer subsidiary), and, of course, the SECU Foundation.
“There are many wonderful folks in the industry (like the employees of SECU) who want to “Do the Right Thing” and make a positive difference in the lives of others. At the end of the day that’s the best legacy we can all strive for.”
What is your best piece of advice to someone assuming the CEO role at a credit union today?
ML: Listen. Serve. Empathize. Foster a member-focused culture. Think before you speak. Communicate clearly and honestly. Be candid about challenges. Be compassionate. Support. Mentor. Be humble. Develop — yourself and your staff. Embrace change. Lead. Represent credit union values. Adapt. Inform. Encourage. Look over the horizon. Prepare. Be positive and constructive. Be curious. Maintain a sense of humor and wonder.
What would you most like to be remembered for as CEO at SECU?
ML: That I helped sustain the SECU focus on serving members and our employees and improving their lives.
Our First Exit Interview
Just retired, Jenny Lorenz looks back on 35 years of change and a legacy of leadership at Linn Area Credit Union in Cedar Rapids, IA. Check it out here.
What are your plans now? How will you start your retirement?
ML: After COVID restrictions lessen do some international travel with my wife, Jo. Plan to take a week at the beach to decompress and watch the waves come and go!
What’s left on your bucket list?
ML: A lot. Many places to see, people and cultures to get to know, books to read, hobbies to start, friends and family to share with.
Do you have any final words for the credit union industry?
ML: There are many wonderful folks in the industry (like the employees of SECU) who want to “Do the Right Thing” and make a positive difference in the lives of others. At the end of the day that’s the best legacy we can all strive for.
This interview has been edited and condensed.