Debra Vollmer On Leadership

Debra Vollmer, senior vice president at Langley Federal Credit Union, reflects on her leadership style, lessons learned during her career, and opportunities for the industry.
Debra Vollmer, senior vice president, Langley Federal Credit Union

Debra Vollmer, senior vice president at Langley Federal Credit Union, started her career in credit unions as a teller at a small institution in Newport News, VA. She left the industry after 14 years for a comptroller position at a local retail garden center. But the call of the cooperative system eventually drew her back.

Vollmer joined Langley FCU in 2003 as a branch manager and within a year assumed the role of vice president of operations, where she oversaw branches and back-office support. She became an SVP in 2012, and her scope of responsibility now includes branches and contact centers.

On Her Style Of Leadership

I have experience in every aspect of credit union operations, which helps me see the big picture. When we are planning, my mind immediately races to how we can make this process better. How can we improve? What would be a better way of doing business? I apply that thinking to all the decisions I make.


data as of 09.30.14

  • HQ: Newport News, VA
  • ASSETS: $1.9B
  • MEMBERS: 203,121
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 0.31%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 33.59%
  • ROA: 0.52%

On Her Weaknesses

I don’t have much patience; I’m working on that.

On Professional Accomplishments

When Tom [Ryan, CEO] joined Langley, he challenged us to re-engineer every process and product. I’ve implemented changes such as adding signature pads at teller lines, incorporating document management systems, and replacing a fleet of ATMs.

As a team, we opened a new signature branch in July that we designed ourselves from the ground up with a dry erase board. We have a whole storyboard around the new design. We have converted to a sales-and-service culture and are trying to create a retail experience, so we wanted to emphasize that we are here to meet financial needs and de-emphasize teller transactions. We have a lot of light and a lot of windows. The members love it, and we’re getting ready to open our third signature branch.

On Lessons Learned During Her Career’

Earlier this year we closed a small branch that didn’t serve a lot of members, but that small number of members had loud voices. We gave them about 30 days’ notice, but they wanted more so they could plan accordingly. I learned a valuable lesson: Give the members plenty of notice.

Aside from that, Tom taught me to have a strong sense of urgency in accomplishing goals and objectives. In retail management, I learned you have to invest money back into your business in order to succeed. Finally, I’ve learned to always stop and truly evaluate the next step before proceeding. Listen to the little voice that says maybe that decision is not the direction to take.

On The Cooperative Spirit

I’d like to see more cooperation and knowledge sharing throughout the industry. The Callahan roundtable has been great in that regard. Having a group of peers that share similar roles to my own has been refreshing. At the roundtable, we’re all doing the same role with small nuances in scope of work or size of credit union. You’re lucky to find even a few people if you go to a conference.


Want to learn more about Callahan Roundtables?

On Finding Inspiration

I love reading the stories our mangers submit to our intranet about how our people accomplish the Langley Experience make it easy, make a difference, and do the right thing. When I read those, I know we are going down the right track.

Outside of the financial world, my grandparents had a small grocery store in an underserved community. They had a strong commitment to service that inspired me in the beginning of my credit union career. When people had no one else to help them, my grandparents helped. And that’s what credit unions are all about.

On Her Career In Credit Unions

This is where I’m home. If I learned anything from retail, I learned I absolutely love the credit union world.

As told to Rebecca Wessler

January 20, 2015

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