Leadership Is an Inside Job 

Jean Hopstetter of Member One FCU
Contributing Writer

7 minutes

Jean Hopstetter, CSE, CCD, CCE, senior executive vice president at Member One FCU, knows leadership requires a commitment to personal development and taking risks. 

She didn’t exactly end up in the family business, but for CUES member Jean Hopstetter, CSE, CCD, CCE, senior executive vice president of Member One Federal Credit Union, you could say working in the credit union industry was definitely a family affair. 

“My father served on the loan committee of a military credit union when I was younger,” she recalls. “When I became old enough to establish my own accounts, my parents introduced me to MacDill Federal Credit Union, now Grow Financial, in Tampa, Florida. It was there that I opened my first saving and checking accounts and my first car loan.” 

Later on, heeding her mother’s advice, Hopstetter applied for a teller position at MacDill. That was over 30 years ago; she’s stuck around credit unions ever since. 

“My parents get credit for introducing me to the industry,” she says. “However, the privilege to help make members’ lives and communities a little better, all while working alongside the world’s best co-workers, and surrounding myself with supportive and talented leadership teams, are the reasons I am still here. The credit union value of ‘people helping people’ perfectly aligns with my personal values. The opportunity to help others is what lights my brain on fire.” 

Headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia, and with $1.6 billion in assets, Member One FCU has 15 branches located across the Roanoke Valley. The organization’s 326 full-time and nine part-time employees serve 149,000 members. Hopstetter joined the credit union in 2008 as executive vice president, having left Grow Financial as SVP/consumer lending and branch operations. She was promoted to her current position in 2019.  

Jean Hopstetter
Jean Hopstetter, CSE, CCD, CCE 
Senior Executive Vice President
Member One Federal Credit Union 
The opportunity to help others is what lights my brain on fire. 

During her career, Hopstetter has amassed some solid educational credentials. A short list includes earning a B.A. of Business Administration, Management Specialization in 2006 from Saint Leo University in St. Leo, Florida, and a Master of Business Administration in 2009 from that same university. She has attended multiple education and training programs such as the Chief Human Resources Officer Program held at the Wharton School Aresty Institute of Executive Education, University of Pennsylvania (2023); CUES Governance Leadership Institute™ I at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto (2022); Leading and Building a Culture of Innovation, Harvard Business School (2021); CUES Strategic Growth Institute, Chicago Booth Executive Education (2019); CUES CEO Institute (2015) and multiple others.  

Inspired by her accomplishments, Advancing Women connected with Hopstetter to ask her to share some insights on how women can keep their career trajectories moving full steam ahead. 

As you mentioned, you’ve been working in this industry for quite a while now. Is there any particular career accomplishment that stands out for you? 

“When I joined Member One, we had approximately $360 million in assets, serving 52,000 members, and 166 employees. Today, we have $1.6 billion in assets, serve 149,000 members and employ 335 of the brightest and best employees in the Roanoke Valley. Our exponential growth means we can help exponentially more people. We help people get back and forth to work, and we put roofs over their heads. We help send kids to college and enable families to save for once-in-a-lifetime vacations. Knowing we have the right products for them that make their lives better, and that I played a small part in that, is the greatest feeling.” 

What has been your biggest leadership challenge to date? How did you handle it?  

“Experience is what you get when you do not get what you want. 2020 proved to be one of the most challenging years for leaders, me included. Having never led through a global pandemic, my decision-making skills were tested, and, in every situation, someone could argue that the decisions I made were wrong. I had to lean in and do more listening than talking, embrace the situation and allow myself to be vulnerable, express empathy and, while it was challenging at times, maintain a positive attitude. Pandemic or not, my team needs me, and it was/is my job to encourage and motivate them to do their absolute best. I hope that is what I accomplished.” 

What are some of the things you like best about the work you’re currently doing? 

“I have the good fortune of being able to work very closely with our CEO and board of directors, helping to guide organizational strategy. I also have the privilege and responsibility of providing oversight and direction to exceptionally talented C-Suite executives who carry out this strategy. I love helping these leaders do their absolute best, hoping that at the end of the day, they realize the value they bring to our organization. I was once told, ‘When you take the elevator of success to the top, make sure you send it back down.’”   

Clearly you value education. What have been some of the other career development steps you’ve taken that led you to your current position?  

“I certainly did not arrive in my current position fully equipped to be the best leader. Leadership is an inside job, and it requires a commitment to oneself of ongoing learning, personal development and taking risks. Throughout my career, I sought out opportunities to work in a variety of roles, learning as much as I could about credit union operations. I chose my mentors wisely, making sure to surround myself with people who were open and honest, who motivated and encouraged me, supported me and challenged me to think differently when appropriate.  

“I also asked the credit union to invest in my personal development and was given the opportunity to attend numerous conferences, schools and executive education courses that have provided me with essential tools that enable me to be a stronger leader. And when given the opportunity, without hesitation and with the encouragement and support of my family, we packed up and moved, leaving sunny Florida for the Virginia mountains to pursue an exciting new career opportunity with Member One.” 

What has been the best career advice you’ve received? And since missteps are going to happen, any advice about recovering when things go sideways? 

“Early in my career, as I was beginning to take on more leadership responsibilities, a mentor once told me, ‘It’s lonely at the top.’ At the time, I was not sure I really understood what he meant, but over the years, I have learned that leadership can sometimes feel lonely. The number of people you can confide in to help you through challenging times when you feel unsure of yourself and want to be vulnerable is drastically reduced. It can sometimes feel like everyone around you expects you to know all the answers and depends on your decision-making, which can sometimes challenge your ethics and values.  

“Many years later, at the suggestion of my CEO, I had the opportunity to attend Harvard University’s Executive Education Program, ‘Authentic Leadership Development.’ It was there that I learned about the value of building a personal support team. When you are most in need of finding direction, a dedicated support team that enables you to be vulnerable, can be invaluable. When you need course-correcting, having a team of supporters who understand you can help provide the encouragement you need and set you in the right direction. When you make a mistake, self-reflect and learn from the experience. Also, be selective. I was once told: ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’”   

How can credit unions best support women in their efforts to succeed in this industry?  

“It starts at the top. The actions of boards of directors and top leaders [must] demonstrate their understanding and appreciation that both men and women (gender diversity) bring valuable perspectives to organizations. Providing opportunities and programs to bolster and celebrate women in organizations is not only attractive to top talent but a great retention mechanism.  

“In my organization, something I am immensely proud of, is the creation of the ‘WOMO’—the Women of Member One. I recognized an opportunity to bring women together to provide support, career advice, mentorship, networking and fellowship for the women who work at my organization. We encourage, speak up for, and support one another to ensure our voices and perspectives are heard.” cues icon

Pamela Mills-Senn is a writer based in Long Beach, California. 

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