HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. - Bob Walls may be the new kid on the block at the New Jersey Credit Union League, but the former president/CEO of the Delaware Credit Union League is wasting no time setting his priorities and getting to work on them. At press time, the 57-year old Walls had occupied the corner office at the New Jersey League for a little more than a week - he took over the reins of leadership July 25 from League VP Mary Lee Kleinkauf who served as interim president/CEO since October 2004 following the League's unanimous decision to terminate then president/CEO Thomas Shaughnessy. A native of Delaware who has lived in the state most of his life, Walls was still in the process of finding a place to live in New Jersey. For now he spends the weekdays in New Jersey and is staying in a motel near the League offices. On the weekends he makes the two-hour drive back to his home just outside Dover, Del. Walls considers his acceptance of the position at the New Jersey Credit Union League part of his professional journey. "Anytime opportunities open up, we consider our options and have to ask ourselves do we really want to make the move." This is actually Walls' second "big" career move. Before working at the Delaware League, he was a Delaware state trooper for 21 and a half years. But Walls was well acquainted with credit unions since his father helped start Delaware State Police FCU in 1960. Walls spent almost 20 years as a volunteer for the CU including serving 13 years on the board, the last five of which he was chairman. "So I bring something unique to this position (at the New Jersey Credit Union League), both credit union and trade association experience," Walls says. Although the New Jersey League has more than seven times the number of affiliated credit unions than the Delaware League - 245 versus 35, respectively - Walls doesn't consider that a problem. "A league is a league. I'm fortunate I have more resources and staff here to deal with the many issues credit unions are faced with such as the banker attacks and CURIA," he says. He also doesn't consider it a problem that he's the third president NJCUL has had in three years - before appointing Shaughnessy to the position in 2003, the League Board decided not to renew the contract for its then-president Russell Clarke. "I'm my own person and I bring a certain skill set to the job, a sense of purpose," Walls says confidently. "I've worked with credit union trade associations for 13 years, and I enjoy working with credit unions. I want to prove to all credit unions the value proposition of belonging to the League," he adds. The New Jersey League has a 75% affiliation rate of credit unions in the state. Walls wants to see that number go up, and he's confident that "as a group we can address the affiliation issue. Any time you have an organization that's dependent on membership, you want to make sure you meet the needs of all the members. Credit unions of different asset size need to belong to the League for different reasons, but the message we deliver to all credit unions has to be the same. Everyone needs to be on the same page. If three out of four credit unions in New Jersey are members of the League, we have to find out from the other group what it is they'd like to see us do for them. They have so much to offer." Walls stresses that he's not aware of any small versus large credit union issues in New Jersey, and says a credit union's decision whether to belong to the League is more of a business question than a size one. "It's difficult to be all things to all people, it's impossible to make everyone 100% happy. As a trade association there are some things we just can't do," he says. But Walls prefers to focus on what the League can do. One of those things is establishing a process so the League can better understand the needs of credit unions in the state. One method he has in mind to use is to have the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) do an analysis of the League to determine the areas it does well in, as well as those it needs to do more work in. Walls also wants NJCUL to establish a strong governmental presence both locally in Trenton, as well as in Washington, D.C., and get credit unions and members involved in the passage of credit union legislation such as CURIA. Walls says credit unions and members "need to get behind that bill and get New Jersey members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors." Walls also wants the New Jersey League to increase its involvement with strategic planning, education and training, and branching networks. He's a staunch defender in the importance of credit union leagues in the schematic of the credit union industry. "They're where the rubber meets the road. H.R. 1151 wouldn't have happened if the leagues weren't involved in the process. If that ever happens again, credit unions will need the backing of the leagues," he says. With shoring up communication with credit unions one of his priorities, Walls says he particularly wants to establish a dialogue with the different credit union asset groups in the state. His first opportunity to do that will be by attending chapter meetings. "I need to talk with credit unions and get a feel for how they'd like to see us meet their needs. Information is what I need. We'll have to develop different methods for communicating with credit unions in New Jersey, including getting information from them and back to them." In addition to attending chapter meetings, Walls also plans to meet with credit unions in the various districts as well as asset size groups. His first chapter meeting is scheduled for January, and he's looking forward to attending a New Jersey Credit Union League Foundation golf outing in September where he'll have the chance to talk with credit union leaders as well as play a few rounds of golf. "There are over 200 credit unions in New Jersey. I'd be on the road every day if I tried to meet with all of them personally. My plan is to use the effective chapter system and meet with credit unions that way," says Walls. He adds that, "I plan to be as mobile as I can, but I also have obligations here. It's difficult to manage a shop this size from the front seat of a car. I intend to prioritize the best I can and realize that priorities will change." Even so, Walls says he wants to talk face to face with as many credit union people throughout New Jersey as he can "and reassure them the League is moving forward. At the first League board meeting I attended, which coincided with my start date July 25, I made the commitment we'd do the best we can to transform the New Jersey Credit Union League into the premier league in the country." -email@example.com
Walls Settling into New Jersey League President's Office, Sets Priorities for Himself, League
Want the latest credit union news?
Sign up for our free newsletter today! All the breaking credit union news and information you need to make the right decision for your credit union delivered to your inbox. For free!
Thanks for subscribing, you will start receiving the Daily News Alert tomorrow!