The son of the late Helen Guilford, former CEO of Xerox Federal Credit Union, his summer and college jobs were working with his mom. Then three weeks after graduating from the University of Redlands with a degree in finance, he found himself managing a small credit union himself at a local children's hospital.
There he computerized the paper-based bookkeeping system, the first of a long line of innovations that have made Guilford, senior vice president of information technology at $3.7 billion Wescom Credit Union, one of the most respected leaders in the credit union industry He's also one of the finalists for the 2007 Information Technology Executive of the Year Award from Credit Union Times.
In his 10 years at Wescom, Guilford has led a number of technology initiatives, including a conversion to a Symitar core processing system that was then parlayed into the creation of the Wescom Resources Group, a tech CUSO that now serves more than 100 other credit unions.
"Rob's combination of technical knowledge, innovative thinking, business acumen and credit union philosophy make him a highly effective chief technologist," says his boss, Wescom CEO Darren Williams.
Guilford also is past chairman of the CUNA Technology Council and a sought-after speaker whose accomplishments have grown with his responsibilities during his 30 years in the credit union industry.
After leaving the hospital CU, he served as a branch manager at Hughes Aircraft Employees (now Kinecta) Federal Credit Union then spent three years as CEO of the University of Southern California's credit union, where he expanded the offerings from just shares and loans to share drafts and IRAs "and a lot of new programs," he says. "I also got to work with a board of directors again, which also can be very interesting."
Guilford then returned to Hughes Aircraft Employees FCU and served as chief financial officer and senior vice president of information systems before leaving after 10 years to become senior vice president of IS at Orange County Teachers FCU. He then joined Wescom in 1997.
Guilford, a married father of two sons and a daughter, has been involved with every major wave of technology change for credit unions, including remote disk array storage, integrated third-party brokerage and credit card programs, smart cards, home banking, bill pay and real-time fraud detection and other security advances.
He and his staff also have supported Wescom's rapid expansion, including new branches and a merger, and the opening last year of its new 5,500-square-foot network operations center in Anaheim, Calif.
Sharing Wescom's expertise through WRG has been a particular pleasure for Guilford. "I've been behind the counter at a very small credit union. I know how technology can help credit unions of all sizes," he says.
WRG has been the vehicle for that sharing and "Rob has been the largest contributor to its success," says Williams, the Wescom CEO.
"A major factor that influenced Alliant to select Wescom Resources Group for online banking, bill payment and ATM applications was knowing that present and future applications were being guided by his progressive leadership," says Rudy Pereira, senior vice president of operations and technology at $4.5 billion Alliant Credit Union in Chicago.
"Rob is in my opinion the most innovative IT leader in our industry," Pereira says. Guilford says, "I enjoy technology and software and innovations, and I also particularly enjoy working with the Internet and other delivery channels to see what we can bring to the member, because that's where my focus has always been, beginning from the days I worked with my mom."
He also says that bottom line, what matters most about technology is the same for credit unions regardless of size. "The biggest challenge is growing the organization at the right pace and bringing in technology that can keep up without being overwhelming," he adds.
"Don't roll out technology for technology's sake, but be willing to invest. Come to understand that balance and move it forward effectively," he says. "Then you won't waste money on technology, but will spend it in appropriate and well-used ways." --firstname.lastname@example.org