Many runners sign up for a race to motivate themselves to train harder. Musicians, too, reach their pinnacle when they perform for an audience. And perhaps credit union leaders give their latest project a special push when they are called on to present it to others.
I’m thinking about this because I had the pleasure of hearing Jimese Harkley give her 2015 CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec final presentation last month. Harkley is philanthropy and community relations manager for $1.3 billion America’s First Federal Credit Union, Birmingham, Ala. At 35, she has led the CU to build a remarkable and successful strategy for its charitable donations.
“I’m probably a hindrance to my CEO because I see the social side of this,” Harkley said lightheartedly during her talk atCEO/Executive Team Network. “Oh, it’s so fun. We should do this and this and this. But I had to stop and think, and this contest is what made me do that: ‘What’s the business case for why you have to have a strong strategy for your philanthropy?’”
In her time on stage, Harkley acknowledged that November is a time of budgeting for many credit unions and recognized that many executives would be thinking about things like “not enough non-interest income” and “another EMV conversion” and “whether to budget that technology purchase.” She explained that her CU’s strong philanthropy strategy fits in with budget thinking because it engages employees and members to raise the money that’s given away—and then structures giving in a way that benefits both the CU and its community.
Like Harkley’s, the initiatives and projects of all five CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalists were very impressive, significant and impactful. It’s clear the executives who lead these young contestants know that if you want to attract, develop and retain talent, you need to provide significant responsibility and relevant experiences to develop their skills and expertise.
The experience of participating in the CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec contest has also helped emerging credit union leaders progress in their careers, making it a wonderful fit with CUES’ mission. Many who have taken part have moved on to roles with more responsibility in the CU movement—and almost 85 percent of them have stayed within the industry.
Last year’s winner summed up the impact of his experience like this: “Being named the winner has given me a huge boost, both personally and professionally,” said Alex Castley, talent acquisition and development manager at $1.3 billion Integris Credit Union, Prince George, British Columbia. “It validated the work we are doing at my credit union, and gave a shot of confidence to all of us.”
Each year the challenge gets better. There are more nominations, more participation in the voting, and better and better projects and presentations. All the facets of the effort show that giving young leaders responsibility and the experiences in sharing what they know helps push them to top performance—and that the future of credit unions is bright.
President/CEO of CUES