Kennedy Goes Cross-Country for Shot to Lead, Takes Over Reins at University of Kentucky FCU where Potential is Everything
LEXINGTON, Ken. -- David Kennedy was selected by the board of directors at the University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union here to be its new CEO.
Kennedy's first CEO position comes after a 17-year career in credit unions, most recently as senior executive of business development for SELCO Community Credit Union and president/COO of SELCO Group, Inc., SELCO's CUSO in Eugene, Oregon. While there he served on the Credit Union Association of Oregon's Advocacy Committee and was a longstanding director of NACUSO.
He holds a bachelors degree from California Baptist University and an MBA in finance from California State University, San Bernardino.
"I love a university environment," Kennedy told Credit Union Times. "I've lived and worked in a college town my entire life. It's exciting, engaging, intellectually stimulating and a great place to raise kids." Kennedy's wife Pam and two children, aged 8 and 10 will join him at the end of the school year, he said.
"I am thrilled with the organization's commitment to member service and financial education," he said of UKFCU. "When you combine that with the growth that's happening in Lexington right now, the potential is amazing." The CU has assets of $227 million and has 114 employees to serve 40,000 members throughout a five-branch service area including one on campus in Lexington and one on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University.
Going cross-country from the Pacific Northwest to Horse country might seem to make for a culture shock of sorts, but Kennedy said "I love it here and the countryside is beautiful, the people are open and friendly and I'm ready for the challenge of making this already great credit union grow in ways that complement the surrounding area." That area includes major employers in health care and education and a new Toyota plant in Georgetown, only 20-miles away. "Everyone knows about the nearby horse farms and the Kentucky Derby, of course, and there are some very underserved areas too, like the coal mining areas, but there is a lot more to this state than that," said Kennedy.
Lisa Hamm from HRX, the Florida CU League's recruitment arm, recommended Kennedy. He'd been looking around for just the right job and when this opportunity came up. He looked into it because it reminded him of a CU where he got his start. That was Riverside CU, which then had $50 million in assets and was growing fast. Kennedy said its assets were about $230 million when it later merged with another CU. "I think we're on a similar pace here and most of it will come from our core groups, which are schools and faculty because we not a community charter. It's about the penetration of the market through business development and marketing to our SEGs to increase our wallet share. It was that opportunity that drew me here for an interview and it all just clicked after that."
Kennedy said that a good rapport with the board was essential to a new CEO about to embark on growing the CU by ramping up ecommerce and making inroads to Gen X and Gen Y members and playing a bigger role in the community. "We already have a bit of an advantage because the average age of our members is less than most CUs, at 47. And we're well placed because we already have the infrastructure in place, so I'll be concentrating on new products and delivery."
Top 20 Research University Drive
In 1997, the state of Kentucky mandated higher education reforms and as a part of that, the University determined to become a Top 20 public research university. In April, the UK Board of Trustees approved a major package of new benefits that include construction of two on-campus child-care centers, increased professional development and career training for employees and expansion of an employee's tuition benefit to offer a tuition discount to a spouse, a partner, a child or dependent. It also included domestic partner benefits for unmarried couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex. The UK board's human resources committee approved the benefits package 4-0. The benefits go into effect on July 1.
The move was not without opposition from Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), who is seeking re-election. He may include a proposed ban on domestic partner benefits in a special session of the General Assembly. But Wally Skiba, the UKFCU's chairmam, who headed UK's human resources department for many years noted, "Any business has to do what it must to be competitive. I see it as just keeping up with progress. It's about evolving."
The credit union will simply follow the lead of the university in determining what benefits package is offered, he said. Skiba was similarly matter-of-fact about Kennedy being the right person to lead the CU to what he called "the next level. We started in 1984 with about $6 million and now we're at $237. I think Dave's diverse experience will help us meet our full potential. We have a statewide influence because our FOM includes all community colleges and technical schools, so there is ample room to grow." The UKFCU's new building won a state design award, he said proudly. "Inside, its like a sports arena."
Paying it Forward
Kennedy gave ample credit for his readiness to lead a CU to his good friend and mentor Ava Milosevich, who recently retired from SELCO CU. "I credit her with my being here now. I learned so much from her and I hope to bring the culture she set up at SELCO here because from my perspective, she had the best blend of know how to drive growth and get financial results while allowing people to develop. We had that conversation some two years ago, when she told me, 'I know I'm going to lose you one day, and when you're ready, you'll be a great leader.' It's a unique skill, mentoring someone, and I'm blessed to have had Ava. I hope someone will feel that way about me someday. From my perspective, Ava's a treasure to the CU world."
Milosevich demurred about being a treasure, but said, "David is a good guy and has lots of potential for greatness. He's a solid CU professional and he understands the value proposition that CUSOs bring to the whole of the CU business. He's all about possibilities and creating for the future. It was great working with David at SELCO."