NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In one way, Betty Hobbs can relate to the late, legendary crooner Frank Sinatra.
The president/CEO of $220 million The Tennessee Credit Union retired on Dec. 26, 2006 after 40 years at the helm. As she mulled over whether the timing was right to leave what she considers her second home, Hobbs recalled seeing Sinatra, one of her favorite singers, on the 1994 Grammy Awards as he received a lifetime achievement award. Producers of the show were soundly criticized for not allowing Sinatra to finish his intermittent acceptance speech because he was supposedly cutting into expensive advertising space.
"He lingered so long on stage and was so melancholy," Hobbs remembered. "The band struck up a big tune to get him off the stage. I thought I never want to have that kind of exit. I feel it's time to go when you're at the top of your game."
Indeed, under Hobbs' tenure, the credit union grew from $1.8 million to more than $220 million in assets, 28,000 members and 13 branches. Originally chartered in 1950 to serve teachers, TTCU has since expanded to the field of education in the entire state, two counties and multiple select employee groups. A successor has not yet been named to replace Hobbs.
In 1967, Hobbs became what was then Nashville Teachers Credit Union's first full-time employee--its CEO. The credit union's humble beginnings started in the desk drawer belonging to a math teacher who oversaw the credit union's treasury. Hobbs said when laws changed that prohibited a credit union from being on school property, it secured a nearby small office off site. The math teacher/treasurer was not able to conduct business until after school dismissed. Hobbs, who was working at the former Hoover Motor Express Credit Union, but was on maternity leave, was asked if she would be interested in working part time at the teachers' credit union. Hobbs took the position and has never looked back. "I'm good with numbers and even better at public relations," Hobbs said. "I began to realize that serving people in education and with my analytical background, there were opportunities to merge with small credit unions." Not too long after her arrival, the credit union merged with a smaller one in Knoxville and later opened a branch there. Over the years, 11 more mergers would take place and the Nashville Teachers CU became The Tennessee Teachers Credit Union and subsequently, morphed into its current moniker. The mergers would help TTCU have a larger presence throughout middle and Eastern Tennessee.
Hobbs also was instrumental in establishing relationships with more than 500 select employee groups. In the early years of her career, she said credit union membership was so defined so there were no threats to other credit unions' fields of memberships. Although the credit union has grown to serve other groups, Hobbs gives high praise and still remains fiercely loyal to teachers and others in the education field because they helped TTCU's growth early on.
"Most credit unions were run by volunteers. They were looking for better ways to serve their members," Hobbs said. "I felt we could adopt more markets and establish services for them."
One of Hobbs' long-time employees, Sandy Simmons, recently put together five scrapbooks of memories spanning four decades. Thumbing through them, Hobbs came across a December 1966 financial statement that showed TTCU's assets at $1.8 million. Pictures of the credit union's first facility built in 1974 had a porch with entry doors on either side. Hobbs recalled TTCU rented out the left side to another credit union. She chuckled at the $22,850 in assets when TTCU was founded in 1950.
"When I agreed to serve, I realized that even with the limited resources, I had a lot of exposure and training and a wonderful experience in all phases of the credit union movement," Hobbs said.
The industry veteran has certainly had a voice on both the state and national levels. At one point, the governor of Tennessee appointed Hobbs to a state banking board. In 1983, the mayor of Nashville tapped her to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta's financial committee. Later in her career, Hobbs served on boards at the Filene Research Institute, Tennessee Credit Union League, Federal Reserve Bank, CUES and CUNA. She has also been involved with Callahan & Associates' mutual fund entity Trust for Credit Unions since its launch in 1987. TTCU employees, members and board members honored Hobbs with an appreciation extravaganza on Jan. 26. Hobbs said she is looking forward to traveling more with her husband Doug. Her four children and ten grandchildren live in the Nashville area so more visits are in store.
As for her legacy, Hobbs holds steadfast to why credit unions were founded in the first place.
"I consider myself a passionate ambassador of credit unions as the preferred way to serve people of average means," she said. "I think a lot of the underserved people--the programs and counseling we offered had afforded them a way to achieve a better life financially." --firstname.lastname@example.org