Orange County's Credit Union Creates Chief Political Officer Position to Help Defend CUs
SANTA ANA, Calif. - With banker attacks against credit unions showing no signs of let-up any time soon, Orange County's Credit Union here has created the position of chief political officer and appointed Adam Denbo, former AVP of technology, to the spot. The chief political officer position was established in July 2004 by CEO Judy McCartney to meet a need that she had anticipated several years earlier, according to Denbo. "Judy is a former chairperson of the CCUL, and she always thought that there would be a time when the position would become necessary," he said. In his new position, Denbo is responsible for advocating the benefits of credit unions and educating state and federal legislators on the importance of CUs. He also coordinates the credit union's activities in support of CUNA and the CCUL political action programs, oversees all Internet and Intranet strategies and communication, and assists all departments and divisions with process improvement initiatives. The thrust of the position, however, is to politically support the credit union industry. "Recent attacks by the banking industry have spurred a need to actively participate in the defending of the credit union difference," Denbo said. "Now more than ever, banks have banded together and we need to respond." Denbo, who was the 2003 recipient of the credit union's Chairman's Recognition Award, has more than eight years of experience in technology and process improvement, as well as four years in political leadership with the California Credit Union League (CCUL). Considering his background in information technology and the fact that he's been with the $775 million CU for only four years, Denbo's landing of the chief political officer position is quite a feat. Or maybe not: In 2000, he was named one of "Tomorrow's Stars", which is an award recognizing credit union leaders under the age of 30. While working as a process improvement analyst at Wescom Credit Union, Denbo held the president and vice president positions on the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the CCUL Board of Governors. "I have a lot of experience with CCUL at the chapter level, and I have done lots of advocating and educating in those positions," he said. Denbo is currently political action committee chairman of the Orange County Chapter Board of Governors, and he was recently elected as the alternate delegate to the Assembly of Delegates for Group D for the CCUL. (Group D represents top 50 credit unions in California in terms of asset size.) "I've been active in league events, such as auctions and fundraisers, and attended multiple conferences." The networking and social skills that he obtained while working in the technology field have helped Denbo in his new role. "My networking abilities have ensured lasting relationships with other credit union legislators," he noted. The ability to speak descriptively and intelligently about the credit union difference is also a key factor, Denbo says. "I have a pretty broad understating of how CUs work, and that's a huge benefit. It's a must when talking with legislators. People skills are also a must; legislators like to talk with people who are easy to talk to." Orange County CU's naming of the chief political officer spot may be unique, but the Southern California credit union certainly isn't unique in creating an official staff position expressly for the purpose of state and federal legislative advocacy. Some CUs, such as Wescom CU, use titles such as vice president of legislative affairs. Orange County Teachers FCU, for example, has a chief political officer/president of development spot. Patelco CU refers to the person who fills their similar position as government affairs director, and The Golden 1 CU has their community relations officer. Regardless of the title, the job responsibilities are similar in scope, reflecting the heightened legislative awareness among all CUs. The Golden 1 President/CEO Teresa Halleck sees this only further intensifying. "I think you will see more awareness of the need to be political involved by credit unions nationally, and I think it's a good thing," she said. "Credit unions need to be more aware of political circumstances, and the bankers attacks have brought that to the surface."