In an unforeseen management shift, Benson Porter, president/CEO of the $5 billion First Tech Federal Credit Union of Palo Alto, Calif., will be taking over the $9.7 billion BECU of Tukwila, Wash., next April, succeeding retiring CEO Gary Oakland.
Porter, who was selected for the job after a nearly yearlong search for Oakland’s successor, is widely known as the 2010 architect of the nation’s largest CU mega-merger of Addison Avenue FCU and First Tech of Beaverton, Ore.
The First Tech CEO, who served five years as head of Addison Avenue, told Credit Union Times that while his tenure at the California CU has been a terrific experience, he could not pass up the chance to return to his native Seattle.
Particularly, that is the case, he said, since he could take on an “once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead a larger, vibrant organization with the quality, culture and community impact” of BECU.
Porter, a lawyer and former executive of Washington Mutual Savings Bank, which has since merged into Chase Bank, expressed regret at leaving First Tech but said he felt comfortable moving on considering the First Tech-Addison Avenue merger integration was substantially complete.
At BECU, Oakland, the former chairman of the Northwest Credit Union Association, will end a storied career spanning 25 years as head of the nation’s fourth largest CU. He joined BECU, formerly Boeing Employees CU in 1980 and become its CEO in 1986, building it to its present size.
Oakland also drew tributes last week from peers and trade groups, including NASCUS, which cited his stalwart support over the years for state charters.
In a statement, NASCUS noted that “as one of the founders and chairman of the NASCUS Credit Union Advisory Council, Gary was a strong believer in the benefits of a forum where state credit unions and state regulators could work together toward the shared interests of the state credit union system.”
Porter said an orderly management transition is already underway at First Tech, which also retains major operations in metro Portland
Porter said 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.
In leaving First Tech, Porter said a desire to come home to Seattle, a place where he grew up, was paramount. He said the First Tech board expressed disappointment at his decision but had been supportive.
The merger of Addison Avenue and First Tech has long been seen as a milestone in CU consolidation and for a time the combination of the two giant California and Oregon CUs appeared fraught with uncertainty 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.”