Jon Hernandez On Leadership

Jon Hernandez, the CEO of three California credit unions, describes his work-life balance, the importance of collaboration, and the logic behind a screen-door leadership policy.
Rod Flowers
Jon Hernandez, CEO, Calcom Federal Credit Union, Mattel Federal Credit Union, And Nikkei Credit Union

Jon Hernandez began his career in credit unions as a 20-year-old teller at Mattel Federal Credit Union ($23.7M, El Segundo, CA), reaching the rank of operations supervisor. Six year’s later, when neighboring CalCom Federal Credit Union ($63.5M, Torrance, CA) reached out to Mattel for help in finding its next chief executive officer, Mattel’s then CEO was quick to recommend Hernandez for the role.

Today, Hernandez supervises three different credit unions. His alma-matter Mattel asked him to assume CEO responsibilities shortly after he took the helm at CalCom, and Nikkei Credit Union ($67.8M, Gardena, CA) approached him in early 2014 with the same request.

Below, Hernandez shares the policies and values that help him shoulder such a wide workload.

On his leadership style …

I’m not present all the time, so I need to inspire my employees to think for themselves and do the right thing for the organization. I provide the structure and job expectations, but it comes down to accountability. I ask them to take the initiative and take ownership.


CalCom Federal Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.15

  • ASSETS: $63.5M
  • MEMBERS: 8,117
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: -2.06%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 11.72%
  • ROA: 0.21%

I have a screen door policy. By the time someone comes to me with a problem, I want them to also provide a possible solution. More than likely, the proposed solution will be the right thing or require just a little tweak. That helps them do things that they might have doubted themselves capable of in the past.

On career guidance

We are a small outfit and our potential for growth is limited, so I encourage our best employees to go beyond that ceiling, to move on and be a CEO at their own institution. You get the most out of your team when they understand they can do more.

I like employees to be enthusiastic, hungry in a sense. You can detect someone that wants to succeed.

On sources of inspiration


Mattel Federal Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.15

  • ASSETS: $27.3M
  • MEMBERS: 2,784
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: -13.23%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 0.35%
  • ROA: 0.03%

A lot of my peers inspire me and I also have a very supportive family. My father taught me, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. He was a successful sales person who intentionally worked the first 15 days of each month and stayed home the last 15 days. It was about finding a professional and personal equilibrium. Because of that lesson, I now color code my calendar with different credit unions, committees, and family life matters to ensure there are no overlaps and a decent balance.

On his greatest accomplishments

For CalCom, it’s the growth and expansion of service offerings. CalCom was at $4 million in assets with 900 members when I took over. Today, it has over $63 million and more than 8,000 members. I don’t think we had a checking account when I started. Today we do.

For Mattel, it’s being able to serve members through the tough economic times. We went from 10% capital to 7% overnight. Despite that, we have been able to sustain and thrive.


Nikkei Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.15

  • ASSETS: $67.8M
  • MEMBERS: 6,069
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: -3.39%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 19.49%
  • ROA: -0.03%

Finally, with Nikkei, in a short amount of time we’ve increased the loan portfolio there by 20%.

On the future of small credit unions

Those that can focus on the financials and manage narrow margins will still be around long term. More revenue, fewer expenses, increasing market share: That’s the definition of growth. But you do need a survival plan. When the capital ratio drops to a certain point, one option is to seek merger partners but only if it makes sense for the membership.

As told to Rebecca Wessler

July 1, 2015

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