Credit Union Presidents Share Career Insight
Submitted to OnFocus – This May, Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union (MMCCU) welcomed VP of Finance & Risk David Murphy into his new role as President. Murphy takes the lead position at a relatively young 35 years-old, but he won’t be the first young professional to assume the lead role.
Retiring President Carol Adler began in her role as President when she was just 28 years-old. Adler and Murphy’s career paths are a good reminder to young professionals interested in leadership roles within credit unions that achieving their goals is possible.
Their message to young future leaders is to work hard, take advantage of any educational opportunities, embrace different experiences, and learn from mistakes.
When Adler became President at MMCCU, she brought with her 9.5 years of experience at a different credit union that had been growing and innovating.
“The experience included learning lending, office operations, and teller duties,” she said. “Eventually I became operations manager. During my time there, the CU went from manual entry accounting to data processing systems. That was quite an evolution. Also, deregulation of financial services industry created many more opportunities and options for credit unions.”
In her early days as CEO, Adler faced leftover challenges with asset/liability management issues. As a result, the credit union was losing money.
“This was during the time of crazy high interest rates – we are talking double digits. Additionally, the State of Wisconsin mandated all credit unions needed to obtain federal deposit insurance – a very complicated process,” she said. “We needed to address the profitability first and we did.”
Adler’s approach to these challenges was to first address pricing on deposits and loans, scrutinize expenses, work on collecting past due loans, and explore ways to generate revenue.
“By end of 1986 we had a positive bottom line and trends were good. We were approved for federal deposit insurance in early 1987 – well in advance of the legislative deadline,” she said. “The year I started, 1985, was the only year we posted an operating loss in my tenure at the credit union. It was a small loss – just over $7,000.00. We also moved from our space inside the hospital to our own facility which increased our operating costs. The offsite facility was a catalyst for growth as we were more accessible and had drive-up services.”
Throughout Adler’s tenure, the CU has witnessed extraordinary growth.
“My advice to other young professionals is be ready to put in long hours as needed – sometimes the work week is much longer than 40 hours but the time spent should be worth it down the road,” she said. “Take advantage of educational and networking opportunities – be a lifetime learner. Be happy in your career – if you are not happy, my advice would be to change jobs.”
After 36 years as President, Adler is handing the reins to Murphy in May 2021. At age 35, Murphy is also one of the youngest CEO’s in Wisconsin credit union history.
Murphy not only brings 19 years of CU experience to his role, but a passion for learning and networking that he encourages all young professionals to embrace.
“Learning as much as I could about the operations of the credit union, networking with other executives and credit union minds who knew way more than I did, and taking initiative in taking on new tasks and projects helped propel me up the organization chart towards the top,” he said.
To his fellow young professionals seeking career advancement, Murphy encourages a willingness to learn.
“Age is just a number. The experience you accumulate along the way has more value than simply looking the number you list as your age,” he said. “I have been blessed to have more experiences within the credit union industry at age 35 than some do when they retire. There will be times when inexperience will lead to unwanted outcomes or poor decisions, but through these challenges does one learn and grow as a human being and as a professional.”
Though being a leader can be a daunting task, Murphy encourages seeking leadership positions whenever they are presented, even if they aren’t associated with a specific job.
“For example, take the lead on a new project or take the initiative to rework an existing procedure. Serve as a director to the numerous organizations within the community. You want to show you have the competency and the aspiration to lead an organization or a department into the future,” he explained.
From managing interpersonal relationships among employees to developing strategies to grow the organization to being held accountable for team performance, being a leader can be a daunting task. Murphy’s approach has been to embrace the challenges rather than shy away from them or use them as excuses.
“Life is full of roadblocks and reasons not to succeed, both personally and professionally. Those who persevere despite the challenges grow to become competent members of society and strong leaders for their departments or organizations,” he said. “Keep your eye open for opportunities, no matter how small. Showcase your current skills and work to develop/improve areas of deficiency. Do not yet age being one of those roadblocks. Let your experiences drive your journey towards the top.”
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