Calling his experience at First Technology Federal Credit Union “a terrific couple of years,” Benson Porter, the newly designated president/CEO of $9.7 billion BECU, said Tuesday the chance to return to his native Seattle and join “a vibrant organization like BECU” was a major factor in his decision to leave the $5 billion Palo Alto, Calif.-based CU, effective next April.
Porter, who served as the architect of a carefully choreographed 2010 mega merger of California’s Addison Avenue FCU, Palo Alto, Calif., and First Tech of Beaverton, Ore., told Credit Union Times the opportunity to move home represented a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead a larger organization with the quality, culture and community impact” of BECU.
BECU had started a nationwide search over a year ago when the current long-time CEO, Gary Oakland, said he would be retiring in the middle of 2012. A third-party search firm, which was not identified, had been hired to find a replacement for Oakland and unanimously selected Benson this week, said a BECU spokesman.
Oakland, a past chairman of the Northwest Credit Union Association, has headed BECU for 25 years and is credited with building it into its present size. He joined BECU, formerly Boeing Employees CU, in 1980 and became its CEO in 1986.
Porter, a former executive of Washington Mutual Savings Bank, which has since merged into Chase Bank, expressed regret at leaving First Tech but felt comfortable at moving on because the First Tech-Addison Avenue merger integration was substantially complete.
The merger, completed just a year ago, turned out to be the biggest in CU history.
Porter said the First Tech board had expressed disappointment at his decision to leave but had been supportive.
To outsiders, the combination of the two giant California and Oregon CUs at times appeared fraught with uncertainty and stress amidst fears members or regulators might reject the merger application. Since the merger, First Tech, said Porter, has experienced “strong membership and financial results with member experience scores returning to pre-merger levels.”
According to Porter, Hank Sigmon, First Tech’s chief financial officer, will become interim CEO upon his departure. In the meantime, a search to fill the permanent slot will be undertaken by O’Rourke & Associates, he said.
Porter, who said he “grew up in Washington and now really looks forward to coming home,” had previously spent years at Addison Avenue in Palo Alto prior to its merger with First Tech.