Diana Dykstra On Leadership

The president of the California and Nevada Credit Union League shares what drew her to the credit union movement and why she thinks more collaboration is a must-have for the future.

Long before Diana Dykstra became president of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues or served as CEO for SF Fire Credit Union, she was an active community leader with a natural curiosity and desire to help others. As a teenager, Dykstra started a summer youth employment program and sat on the boards of the local YWCA, United Way, and Red Cross.

Diana Dykstra, President, California and Nevada Credit Union League

Here, she shares how she was drawn to the credit union movement’s people helping people philosophy, what she’s most proud of accomplishing, and why she thinks more collaboration among credit unions is a must for the future.

On joining the movement

I remember seeing an ad for a job at The Golden 1 Credit Union after my daughter was born in 1982. I’d been working for Bank of America, but it consolidated jobs while I was on maternity leave and I wasn’t interested in the position that was offered to me. I didn’t know what The Golden 1 was back then, but I knew it had a branch a half-mile away and it was stealing my bank customers! I applied and got a job as a part-time loan clerk. ContentMiddleAd

I’ve been part of the credit union industry ever since serving as senior vice president at The Golden 1; becoming president/CEO of Coasthills Federal Credit Union and then SF Fire Credit Union; and now as the president of the California and Nevada Credit Union League.

What I realized about myself when I started working at The Golden 1 is that I’ve always been engaged in and passionate about the community. The idea of people helping people has always been my mission I just didn’t know credit unions existed when I was younger. If I hadn’t found the credit union movement, I’m not sure where I’d be, but I’m certain it would be somewhere in the eco-system of helping people.

On leadership styles and inspiration

I am curious by nature, and that curiosity drives this insane desire to challenge the status quo and push for new ways to solve problems.

As a leader, I want curious people solving problems and moving the world forward. People who don’t like change, don’t like working for me.

I believe great leaders help people find their own way. I don’t expect everyone to be just like me, but I do expect them to find their talent and use it in the best way possible.

If you look back at our history it becomes very clear: When we collaborate, you can’t beat us.

Diana Dykstra, President, California and Nevada Credit Union League

In terms of inspiration, I try to seek out things that aren’t in the credit union space. I read a ton of material that has nothing to do with credit unions but everything to do with people and the challenges they face in their lives. I use that as my inspiration. It drives me to ask how our industry can have a positive impact or solve those challenges.

All credit unions have the same principles and development issues, but the magnitude of those issues can be significantly different. Our mission as cooperatives is to change people’s lives whether that means helping them get a job, buy a home, or otherwise advance their lives.

In January, I had the opportunity to travel to Africa and meet 50 credit union professionals from around the continent. It was a humbling, eye-opening experience. The credit union leaders I met with made me realize how deeply the challenges of poverty and income inequality are affecting people around the world and how much our own population of members might be dealing with similar issues that we don’t see firsthand.

On greatest accomplishments

I’ve had so many lucky things happen to me, but the biggest impact I’ve had on the credit union movement is definitely the creation of what is now Credit Union Direct Lending.

In aggregate, the credit unions using that origination platform are the No. 1 auto lender in the United States today. When my team at The Golden 1 developed the program in 1992, we were just trying to solve a problem. At the end of the day, it revolutionized how credit unions make loans to members.

Although that might be my biggest accomplishment, one of the things I’m most proud of personally is serving as an instructor at Western CUNA Management School. I’ve been an instructor since 1997. I went through as a student in 1990, and it really changed my life. It gave me confidence in what I know and can do myself, and it has been awesome to mentor, teach, and encourage all of the students who have come through the school. Watching them become CEOs and do crazy important things in the industry has been a whole new kind of reward.

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On what the industry needs more of

I would like to see more collaboration. We were great collaborators for a long, long time. Then, we started to view one another as competitors.

This is unfortunate, especially since even our largest credit union in the system is small compared to the big banks. The industry as a whole has only 8% market share, and our $1.4 trillion in combined assets is dwarfed by Chase’s $2.5 trillion.

Through collaboration we can thrive, but we still have people who are reluctant to collaborate.

When you look at everything coming at us as an industry fintech, big data, etc. we’re not going to survive it alone. Credit unions won’t be able to compete with their own small, one-off solutions.

If you look back at our history, it becomes very clear: When we collaborate, you can’t beat us. Shared ATM networks, shared branching, and Credit Union Direct Lending are a few examples. We just need to figure out how to get that magic back and open up new avenues for the entire industry through major collaborations.

Collectively, you can’t stop us.

August 13, 2018

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