Wayne Hood On Leadership

Wayne Hood, senior vice president and chief legal officer at ORNL Federal Credit Union, reflects on his leadership style, sources of inspiration, and the potential for some mutually beneficial alliances with banks.

Wayne Hood, senior vice president and chief legal officer at ORNL Federal Credit Union ($1.6B, Oak Ridge, TN), started a career in credit unions after carving out a financial services compliance niche at a Nashville law firm. The Mississippi native is ORNL’s first general counsel, a position that became necessary after the 68-year-old cooperative converted to a community charter in 2002 and posted phenomenal growth in the decade following.

Hood has been with ORNL for slightly more than two years, and several areas including compliance, the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), vendor management, insurance, collections, and risk management now report to him under the legal umbrella. He also oversees a paralegal and a law clerk. Hood and his team are part of ORNL’s ongoing effort to build the structure necessary for a billion-dollar institution.

Wayne Hood, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, ORNL Federal Credit Union

We’re growing into our shoes, he explains.

On Finding A Home In Financial Services

In college, I intended to become a college history professor, but when I found out how much they make, I decided to go to law school. I clerked with a financial services firm and now, almost 30 years later, my whole career has been in financial services. More of that was spent with banks my experience with credit unions has only occurred in the past 10 years but I am an absolute proponent of the movement. I jokingly say I have drunk the Kool-Aid.

On Accomplishments At ORNL

We’ve made excellent progress improving internal controls. We have a stronger vendor management system and an improved process for reviewing legal documents. We’re also developing a rigorous ERM program. These are not flashy, sexy things, but they’re giving the staff concrete guidance. That’s where my team can add to member service.

On Why He likes Being An In-house Counsel

In private practice, you represent a lot of clients and don’t always get to see the ultimate impact of your work. When you are in-house, you have the luxury of focusing on one client and seeing how you benefit its business plan.

On his style of leadership

I would describe myself as a coach. I do play an important role in strategy and logistics, but it’s more about leading the team and finding who is best suited to do the job.


ORNL Federal Credit Union
data as of 12.31.14

  • HQ: Oak Ridge, TN
  • ASSETS: $1.6B
  • MEMBERS: 167,665
  • BRANCHES: 32
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.74%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 8.64%
  • ROA: 0.67%

On What He Looks For In Leaders And Employees

You can teach and learn technical skills, but someone either has integrity or they don’t. If people can’t trust you to do the right thing for the right reason, then you’re never going to be truly successful however talented you are.

On who inspires him

My first boss, Skip Neale, was the general counsel at National Bank of Commerce. He made sure the appropriate people got credit for success, but he took responsibility when things didn’t go right. Also, Steve Eisenberg, the general counsel at Pentagon Federal Credit Union, has been a real mentor for me in learning how to be effective in this role.

On Teaching Moments

When I was moving up in my career, I got into the habit of working every Saturday. One day, my youngest daughter asked me, Daddy, are we ever going to have fun on a Saturday again? That was probably one of the most significant moments of my life. The importance of balance is a lesson I continuously relearn.

On Handing Difficult Situations

It is never easy to be involved in the employee exit process regardless of the circumstances and if I’m involved, it’s usually because it’s a difficult situation. I have to get myself in the frame of mind that this is my professional responsibility, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for the results. When someone leaves, there is a real human impact.

On The B Word

I would like to see less antagonism toward banks. We’ve gotten to this point where someone has to win and someone has to lose. It would be a positive step to find some common ground such as the goal to reduce shared regulatory burdens.

As told to Rebecca Wessler

April 25, 2015

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