One of Arizona's most troubled credit unions, the $370 million AEA Federal of Yuma, has replaced its veteran CEO, Ken Bredemeyer, who is retiring after a 31-year career.
Named as interim CEO is Denise Sweet-McGregor, executive vice president for the past 23 years and an employee of the Arizona CU for 34 years.
The leadership change comes after year-long attempts by the CU to overcome a $25.9 million loss in 2009 and a 2.9% capital ratio as it operates in a seriously depressed part of the state marked by high unemployment and soaring delinquencies.
While paying tribute to Bredemeyer, Sweet-McGregor stressed that while the border-city CU has considered a merger, it does expect to overcome its financial challenges and has an action plan in place for recovery. So far, that has included sharply shrinking assets, closing a branch and cutting payroll by 10%.
"The economy has touched down hard on this community and so we've felt the impact," said Sweet-McGregor, who maintained that losses have been kept in check in 2010. "We lost $198,000 for the year, but I can say April is looking much better," she said.
Yuma, located near the Mexican border, has long been an agricultural center with ties to an immigrant population that over the last two years has seen unemployment rise to 25%, the highest in the state.
In a statement last week, AEA, which has 50,000 members, said its problems are "a reflection of the communities we serve" and "when our members thrive, we thrive."
But when members "struggle with job loss, wage reduction and other economic challenges, we too are affected by unprecedented loan losses in our consumer and commercial portfolios."
In stepping down, Bredemeyer closes an industry career at the CU that included service at both the state and national level. He served a term as chairman of the Arizona Credit Union League and has been a league director for 26 years.
He has also served on various league committees and on CUNA's governmental affairs and awards committees.
In 1998, he received the Very Outstanding Credit Union Person Award from the Arizona league, recognizing national and state chapter achievements.