Lindsey Walker’s role in furthering Hispanic outreach earns her the title of 2020 CUES Emerging Leader.
Lindsey Walker, CCM, executive assistant with $364 million Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, was exactly the type of future credit union leader for whom the CUES Emerge program was developed. Never one to pass up an opportunity to learn, Walker applied and was accepted into the 2020 CUES Emerge cohort, where she found great value in the program’s unique combination of online education, peer collaboration and a competition phase that culminated in an online pitch show on Sept. 16. As one of five Finalists, Walker presented a business case detailing her credit union’s Hispanic outreach program, and on the strength of that presentation, she earned the title of 2020 CUES® Emerging Leader.
“Being named the CUES Emerging Leader was a huge honor,” says Walker, a CUES member. “It’s like a badge that demonstrates the crucible of personal development that all new leaders have to go through as they begin their journey. It goes far beyond titles, degrees, certificates and accolades. It’s seeing an opportunity to lend a hand, to learn and to grow on behalf of a mission that’s bigger than oneself.”
CUES and CUES Premier Supplier member Currency launched CUES Emerge in 2020 to build on the legacy of the Next Top Credit Union Executive competition, continuing CUES’ commitment to educating and developing future leaders.
“I can’t say enough good things about the program,” Walker says. “I truly believe that all of us who participated walked away as better leaders.”
Expanding Her Role
In her three years at Tampa Bay FCU, Walker has expanded the role of executive assistant into something beyond what the title might suggest. “I’ve been given the opportunity to lead several special projects,” she reports. “If there’s anything out of the norm that needs to be done, I’m kind of like the Swiss Army knife.”
Walker is grateful that CUES member Richard Grammatica, CCE, Tampa Bay FCU’s president/CEO, selected her to lead the organization’s Hispanic outreach initiative, which was designed to reduce linguistic barriers and support the region’s growing Hispanic population.
“In the Tampa Bay area alone, there’s been a 200% increase in Hispanic migration from Spanish-speaking countries over the last two decades,” Walker says. “When I arrived at Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, Rick shared with me his desire to expand the program, so I quickly began researching ways we could help the Hispanic community.”
One of Walker’s first steps was to go through a process to obtain a designation for Tampa FCU called Juntos Avanzamos—“Together, We Advance.” The designation identifies credit unions that have committed to serving and empowering Hispanic communities. Tampa Bay FCU has demonstrated this commitment in a number of ways, including employing a frontline staff that is 74% bilingual, strategically locating most of its five physical branches in predominantly Hispanic areas and offering Spanish-language financial literacy classes.
To overcome a lack of funding for some aspects of the program, Walker took the proactive step of becoming a certified grant writer to pursue grant opportunities for underserved communities through the National Credit Union Administration. “We were able to get $56,000 in grant funding, which allowed us to move the project forward and produce membership applications, loan documents, marketing collateral and a version of our website—all translated into Spanish,” Walker says.
Tampa Bay FCU has a membership of nearly 33,000. Of that membership, 8,700—26%—are Hispanic. By providing Spanish-language materials, the CU anticipates growing its Hispanic membership by 1% annually over the next five years and deploying $6.4 million in loans during that same time period.
“The feedback we received from our Hispanic membership has been overwhelmingly positive,” Walker reports. “Previously, members were bringing a family member or friend into a branch to translate important financial documents. Now they can read them on their own.”
Grammatica applauds Walker’s leadership, tenacity and focus in helping Tampa FCU obtain the grant funding. “Lindsey immersed herself in the project and led a cross-functional team of her peers,” he says. “Our successful program is a direct result of Lindsey’s dedication, determination and leadership.”
Leap of Faith
A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Walker has always had a strong interest in education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and an MBA from Southern Wesleyan University. She also obtained her Project Management Professional certification and, in conjunction with the CUES Emerge Program, the Certified Credit Union Manager designation.
Throughout her college years, Walker worked full-time in various corporate jobs, most notably in the HR department of a major retailer. In 2014, she took what she describes as a “leap of faith” by leaving Charleston to take a job as senior executive administrator for $1.4 billion Florida Credit Union in Gainesville.
“To say that the organization has had a major impact on my life—both professionally and personally—is an understatement,” Walker reports. “I was surrounded by well-educated individuals who held themselves to a very high standard and exuded excellence.”
Walker is particularly grateful for the support of her then-boss, CEO and CUES member Mark Starr, CCE, who became a mentor to her. “Mark complimented my technical skills and offered encouraging words about my potential, which greatly inspired me,” she says.
Walker stayed at Florida CU for over three years, taking on increasingly important roles for major project initiatives. “I had every intention of staying there longer, but life had other plans,” Walker reports. “I met my husband (Nolan), who is also in the credit union industry, and we moved to Tampa together to further his career and to join our lives together as husband and wife.”
At Tampa Bay FCU, Walker found another encouraging mentor in Grammatica. “I’ve been so fortunate that Rick has supported my quest to learn and do more,” Walker says. “I’m thankful to have a boss who appreciates and allows me to develop my skills.”
With Grammatica’s blessing, Walker applied for the inaugural CUES Emerge program. “When Lindsey approached me about participating in the CUES Emerge program, I wasn’t surprised,” says Grammatica. “Lindsey is passionate about learning and leadership self-development, and the CUES Emerge program aligns perfectly with her ambition to develop into a credit union industry leader.”
At 35, Walker has yet to zero in on a definitive career path and is keeping her future prospects wide open. As the winner of the CUES Emerge competition, she’ll have many opportunities to continue her professional development. Her prizes include an educational package from CUES along with an all-expenses-paid trip to CEO/Executive Team Network™, scheduled for May 16-18 in Austin, Texas. Walker also received a career coaching package from CUES Supplier member Envision Excellence.
“I’m a scholar at heart, so I’m excited about this educational package,” Walker says. “I think it will have a lasting impact on my career and will help me bridge the gap from good to great.” cues icon
Based in Missouri, Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to Credit Union Management magazine.