Leading Through the Storm

CUES managing editor and publisher Theresa Witham
Theresa Witham Photo
Managing Editor/Publisher

2 minutes

From the editor

When Sterling Nielsen started as CEO of Mountain America Credit Union on Nov. 1, 2008, the credit union—like the economy—was in trouble. Not only did Nielsen help the CU power through some difficult years, but he set a bold plan to grow to $10 billion from $2.8 billion by 2022. With $9.1 billion in assets as of September, the CU could actually meet its goal in 2020, two years early.

Read the credit union’s success story—and learn why Nielsen was named the 2019 CUES Outstanding Chief Executive—on p. 10.

Nielson credits his team for the CU’s success and embracing the challenge he put forth. One testament to his leadership is that he kept employees’ needs in mind during the recession. “A lot of companies were hitting their employees pretty hard by suspending raises and 401(k) contributions. My thought was that such actions would erode the confidence of our employees and create fear, so what we chose to do instead was ask management to take a pay cut. Our focus then, as it is today, is to treat staff fairly.” 

Considering that financial stress is a big problem for many employees, Mountain America CU was wise to focus on the well-being of its staff. Our article, “Employees Seek Financial Fitness,” discusses the retirement distress experienced by many staff members. How can your credit union help its team with this? Turn to p. 18 for retirement and financial literacy best practices.

Did your credit union cut marketing spending during the Great Recession? If so, you weren’t alone. But as economists talk of another recession on the horizon, you may want to take a different path this time. 

“One of the lessons is, in a recession—as hard as it is—you need to think long term and not short,” notes Mark Arnold, president of On the Mark Strategies, Carrollton, Texas. Cutting marketing spending “will help you achieve your short-term goals … but the long-term implications are quite negative.” 

Read “Weathering an Economic Storm” for ideas on what your credit union should be accomplishing now in order to successfully ride out a downturn later.

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