Ida Bowen On Leadership

What do boards want from CEOs? Ask Ida Bowen, who served on the board of Deepwater Industries Federal Credit Union before becoming its CEO.


Deepwater Industries FCU
Data as of 09.30.16

HQ: Deepwater, NJ
ASSETS: $85.9M
MEMBERS: 8,461
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -0.4%
ROA: -0.06%

The role of the board at a credit union is typically high-level in nature, with board members concerned about strategy and overall policy decisions rather than the day-to-day operations of the cooperative.

But when the chief executive role became available at Deepwater Industries Credit Union ($85.9M, Deepwater, NJ) in 2015, the board of directors turned to one of its own to apply.

Ida Bowen, who spent most of her career in the manufacturing industry at nearby Mannington Mills, had been a member of the credit union’s board for three years. It was her combination of skills which includes Six Sigma process improvement techniques, HR management, and leadership development training that made her a perfect fit for Deepwater Industries Credit Union. And for Bowen, becoming the CEO was an opportunity to put into action advice she’d been giving executives for years.

In less than two years, she has led a major renovation of the credit union’s sole branch, rolled out new policies, and launched plans to open branches in two Acme supermarkets in early 2017. Here, Bowen shares her perspectives on leading through change.

On Improving Board Support

Board members need various types of training to educate them and help them make the right decisions. Our board is on a training schedule now, just like my staff. I keep track of it and I enforce it.

Ida Bowen, CEO, Deepwater Industries FCU

I also communicate with board members before board meetings so they have time to review information before we discuss it.

On Succession Planning At Deepwater Industries Credit Union

The board was looking for someone who could set up a good succession plan and act as a mentor to some of the senior members of staff.

I am preparing our COO and CFO for my retirement. It’s important they attend board meetings and understand the role of the board and what board members expect. Whoever takes over for me needs to have that relationship with the board.

Develop A Strong Leadership Team

Callahan’s Leadership Team Development brings your credit union’s leaders together as they learn to avoid disruption, create new growth opportunities, and adopt a common language for framing problems and creating solutions.

On Performance Management

We need to measure people’s strength and abilities and determine how we mentor them and give them the training to move forward.

One way I incentivize that is with a bonus plan. In the past, everyone got the same bonus amount at the end of the year. We didn’t have a performance management program. Now, we give performance appraisals and employees know how they are performing. We have competencies for each role, and we set goals for each employee.

We renovated our entire building after 21 years, and we let employees choose their own artwork for their offices or cubicles. Employees participate with decision-making. And when we have a good month in loans, we have a pizza party for everyone not just the loan officers because we emphasize the need to cross-sell our services with all employees. Our employees are excited about the changes that have taken place.

A leader has to have the ability to find the right people to accomplish the goals of the credit union.

On Important Leadership Qualities

If you ask my staff for one word that describes me, they’d all laugh and say productive. I do what I say, and I get things done through them.

I’m the driver, and I have a plan and a vision in place. A leader has to have vision, enthusiasm and passion. A leader has to have the ability to find the right people to accomplish the goals of the credit union. It’s all about fit getting the right people in the right role in a job they enjoy.

December 1, 2016

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