SANTA ANA, Calif. -- When Orange County's Credit Union CEO Judy McCartney was first hired on as a vice president in 1982, the $863 million credit union had only $67 million in assets.
McCartney, who retires next month, has lead OCCU through two core system conversions, a handful of mergers and a list of major product, service, strategy and policy launches that is so long, it requires six pages.
The industry icon said the strategy that had the greatest impact on her legacy 13-fold growth occurred early in her chief executive appointment.
"Early on in the 1980s, our field of membership was solely Orange County employees, and at a planning conference we asked ourselves 'what would happen if the county had some issue, because all the credit union's eggs were in the county's basket?'" she said.
She recalled how, right around the time an Ed Callahan-led NCUA began to allow multiple employee groups, OCCU converted to a federal charter and began adding SEGs. Little did the planning team know that 10 years later, the county would be bankrupt, and the credit union's new SEGs would carry them through the crisis.
McCartney has made a career of adopting new industry strategies to OCCU's advantage, accumulating a list of milestones that read like the industry's
She has also served on several industry boards and committees, including extensive work on CUES' Professional Development committee, and was named chairman of the California Credit Union League in 1996.
McCartney has also been a vocal advocate for the credit union movement, from her work on Capitol Hill supporting HR 1151 to efforts in Southern California.
"While working with CUES to develop educational programs, I was asked to help edit a textbook on personal finance at Golden West College here in Orange County, and everywhere in that book, they had the word bank as a generic term for financial institutions," McCartney said. "They didn't think it mattered, because to them, 'bank' was just a generic term."
McCartney said to this day, the curriculum still uses the term "financial
"It's not the kind of thing you go around telling people you did, but it really makes a difference in the perception of public," she said.
The mentor said she's confident young credit union leaders will continue to carry the movement torch long after she and current leaders have retired, but added it won't be easy.
"In the foreseeable future, it's all going to be about spreads and the bottom line, but they're as passionate about it as we are, and I truly believe that we've got some great people," she said.
During her long career in credit unions, McCartney said she occasionally questioned if the credit union philosophy had any relevance in the day's financial services environment, but has always been provided with a cause to re-ignite her passion.
"Like recently, the revelation that payday lenders incent their employees to roll over loans," she said. "Somebody needs to have the consumer's best interests at heart and that's us, credit unions. If we're not doing the job, then shame on us."
It's hard to imagine that McCartney, a veritable industry Energizer Bunny, would walk away from credit unions and never look back.
And yet, she says she will, because she's found a more meaningful project to devote herself to: the health of her four-month-old grandson, Jacob.
Little Jacob was born with heart abnormalities, but thankfully, prenatal doctors saw the problem before he was even born. The newborn infant had open-heart surgery only four days after his birth. He requires additional surgeries, including one next month, so grandma will
relocate to the Portland area to provide loving support to Jacob and his family.
"You hear everybody say this, and you truly can't appreciate it until you have your own, but with grandkids, you better understand the effect you can have on someone's life, especially someone you love and care about," she said.
McCartney will divide her time between Portland and her home in Sedona, Ariz., where she plans to be active in the new age mecca's art and theatre community. The experienced world traveler will also attempt to reach her goal of visiting 100 foreign countries.