Editor's Column: Women Executives Key to the Success in Succession Planning
Every year new executives coming in and “more mature” ones retiring and it seemed like 2011 had more than its share. The turnover has plusses and minuses. Of course some credit unions could use the fresh blood while others are losing solid leaders but have a strong, fresh crop coming in behind them.
The boomer generation, begat by soldiers returning home from World War II and their partners, was the largest in its time. Now those folks are beginning to hit the retirement age and all businesses must be prepared for the so-called brain drain with bright, well-trained new leaders ready to take their place. Succession planning will be more important than ever. Seemingly more often than in the past, these rising stars are women.
While no one should achieve their professional status solely based on gender, it was encouraging to see that a number of the incoming CEOs among credit unions and their vendors last year were women. For example, Karen Harbin, former executive vice president, succeeds CEO Gary Wallace, who retired Dec. 31 after 35 years of service, at $909 million Commonwealth Credit Union in Frankfurt, Ky.
The credit union community is also losing Harriet May, longtime CEO of $1.8 billion GECU in a couple of short months. Crystal Long will be the new president/CEO of the El Paso, Texas-based credit union.
The $730 million CFCU Community Credit Union in New York, named Lisa Whitaker, CEO at $208 million COMSTAR FCU, as its new president/CEO effective Feb. 7. She replaces succeeds Robert Witty, veteran head of CFCU, who retired at yearend.
Carla Altepeter, longtime CitizensFirst Credit Union president/CEO, succeeded Dennis Cutter as president/CEO of $1.1 billion Numerica Credit Union. North Island Credit Union Chief Operating Officer Geri LaChance has been tapped as the president/CEO of SESLOC Federal Credit Union of the San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Sheilah Montgomery became the CEO of the $71 million Credit Union of Atlanta last year. Additionally, The Members Group named Shazia Manus its new president/CEO, replacing Tom Kuehl.
Historically, credit unions have been better than other businesses at promoting female executives. More than half of CEOs at credit unions, 55%, are women while a paltry 2.5% of CEOs in the American finance and insurance industries are women.
But when you look a little farther behind that credit union figure from CUNA’s 2009 Staff Salary Survey, only 24% of CEOs of billion-dollar credit unions are women and just 12% of credit union CEOs at credit unions between $500 million and $1 billion are women. Conversely, more than half of the CEOs at credit unions under $50 million in assets, which CUNA measured at various sub-categories, were women.
There is more we can do to promote well-qualified women into positions of leadership. It’s good business financially as well as philosophically. Employing a wider variety of people–people who represent facets of your membership–bring different perspectives and ideas to the business that can be beneficial.
Acknowledging this and the trend of retiring executives, Credit Union Times founded Women to Watch. We want to shine a spotlight on exceptional female executives in the credit union industry. Vice President of Member Loyalty at Del Norte Credit Union Denise Wymore was the latest honoree named by Credit Union Times, and we’ve recognized 10 others in various positions at credit unions. It’s a program we’re particularly proud of and plan to expand so your ideas and feedback are welcomed and encouraged as we continue highlighting the industry’s sharpest female minds. Be sure to nominate someone today at CUTimes.com/W2W.
But as I’m writing about female executives, there was one in particular who disappointed me recently. Suze Orman, the personal finance guru who was hired by the NCUA–which spent more than $1 million on the campaign–as a national spokesperson to assure consumers of the soundness of credit unions, announced last week the launch of The Approved Card. This card not only is a negative for credit unions but it’s also a negative for consumers.
The Approved Card is a decoupled debit card, which relies on ACH transactions to take funds from the card holder’s deposit accounts with credit unions and other financial institutions. Consumers do also have the option to prepay for the card by making deposits.
As Approved Card holders’ swipe the card, credit unions could be shorted of potential interchange and other income. At the same time, the card’s fees, while clearly disclosed, are complex and high, particularly relative to credit union cards. On top of that, it’s issued by Bancorp Bank. Unapproved.