Raksha Shirali On Leadership

The vice president of human resources at USAlliance Federal Credit Union talks career paths, talent identification, and management philosophy. Notable quote: “Reach for the moon; if you slip and fall, you find yourself among stars.”

Raksha Shirali is the vice president of human resources at USAlliance Federal Credit Union.

Raksha Shirali came to the United States almost 30 years ago. Her first foray into the financial sector was as a branch administrator for MetLife Financial Services. She then transitioned into the banking arena as a branch manager first with CitiBank then HSBC.

Within 18 months at HSBC, Shirali was handpicked to jump from a small branch with slightly less than $50 million in assets to HSBC’s third-largest location in New York City. When she became vice president at this branch she supervised a staff of nearly 30 people. Shirali vividly recalls being downtown during the events of 9-11.

In 2007, Shirali leapt into the credit union industry, where she is now the vice president of human resources with USAlliance Federal Credit Union ($939.2M, Rye, NY).

On her leadership style

What I bring to the organization is my personality. I am self-motivated and driven. I tell how I feel and am straightforward. I recognize and value what each employee brings to the organization. Their needs come before mine, and I believe in getting feedback from my staff. How can I improve as a manager? How can I give employees my unconditional support?

Giving employees an opportunity to develop their careers is important.

What gives me the most satisfaction is motivating employees and helping them move up in their careers. I’m always looking for talent in our employees, working with each of them to identify their positives and training them to overcome areas needing improvement.

On talent management

I believe in giving employees the opportunity to advance in their careers. What I look for is their ambition to succeed. We offer training to develop their skills. Several of our employees have excelled in their careers at USAlliance, diversifying their experience levels.

I hired a teller five years ago when I was managing branches. He had no prior banking background, but he had the right skill set, ambition, and drive to succeed. Each year due to his outstanding performance, he was promoted to a higher position. When I moved to human resources, a position opened in risk assessment and compliance, and he was a perfect candidate. I had the confidence in his abilities and knew he would succeed in this newly created position. He has now been in the department for 18 months and has recently been promoted to a BSA compliance and project manager.

On making a new hire

What I’m looking for is someone who is hungry to learn, hungry to grow within our organization, and always striving to show us what they are capable of. I look to see how motivated the candidate is and whether he or she would be a good fit within our culture.


USAlliance Credit Union
data as of 12.31.14

  • HQ: Rye, NY
  • ASSETS: $939.2M
  • MEMBERS: 74,904
  • BRANCHES: 20
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.81%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 17.36%
  • ROA: 1.07

On advice for new hires

Always smile, be visible, self-confident, be curious, feel free to ask questions. Stay motivated, do not get complacent. We teach our employees never to be fearful of making mistakes, as long as they learn from them.

On weaknesses

We all have weaknesses, but we learn from situations and use that to improve ourselves. The one thing I always tell my new hires is, Reach for the moon. If you slip and fall, you find yourself among stars.

On professional accomplishments

Giving employees an opportunity to develop their careers is important at USAlliance. My personal career track is a perfect example. I had been on the retail side, managing branches for five years when our president and CEO, Kris Van Beek, recognized my capabilities and gave me the opportunity to head the human resources department. I am pleased to say I have been in my current position for more than two years now.

On the benefits of working at a credit union

Everything you do makes a difference it is noticed and recognized.

On the importance of sharing ideas

At USAlliance, we believe in brainstorming ideas, exchanging thoughts, and coming up with new strategies. Under the leadership of our president and CEO, we have grown from $750 million in assets to almost $1 billion. He is constantly challenging us to think out of the box and empowering us to excel. It was on his recommendation that I attended the Callahan Roundtable. I came away with new contacts and energy from the ideas other credit unions shared.

As told to Rebecca Wessler.

April 1, 2015

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