First Person Success Stories

Four CEOs reflect on the winning formulas that helped them attain their goals.
Catherine Siskos

No job is more closely linked to credit union performance than that of CEO, which is why these leaders are often keenly aware of critical decisions, strategies, or philosophies that helped their institutions succeed. This week, four CEOs reflect on four separate winning formulas that enabled them to attain vastly different goals.

Consider, for example, Denver Community Credit Union, which hit on the perfect method for ensuring a smooth conversion from a federal to a state charter. When the credit union explored the possibility of switching charters, it consulted its neighbor down the street state regulators. That was a good move because by establishing a rapport with regulators from the beginning, the cooperative ensured a smooth conversion, one that took just six months and didn’t require hiring a consultant or law firm.

A three-part strategy helped Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union become the nation’s largest ethnic cooperative. Established by Polish immigrants less than 40 years ago, the credit union first courted organizations representing the Polish-Slavic community so that they became select employee groups. Then with a combination of scholarships, donations, and advertising the cooperative built a loyal following from a tradition of giving back to its community.

Sometimes, understanding what good leadership is all about is simply a matter of finding other credit union CEOs that inspire you. Henry Wirz, CEO of SAFE Credit Union, calls these leaders heroes in high places. Although Wirz believes in learning from these leaders, he is also conscious of the role that failure plays in shaping success because the best leaders learn from their mistakes, thereby ensuring they are never repeated.

Although women continue to shatter the glass ceiling, Stanford Federal Credit Union’s CEO Joan Opp is often asked to give advice to women who aspire to leadership positions. Her answer is one that applies to both genders: All leaders, she says, rise or fall on performance. Opps shares six tips that helped her forge a path to the corner office, including this maxim: Be forthcoming because CEOs can’t afford to be shy about communicating their opinions.

August 19, 2014

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