Jeff Russell, longtime card executive and innovator with TMG Financial Services, is leaving the card business to take a position as CEO of a dental insurance firm.
Russell is one of the credit union executives recognized by Credit Union Times as a Trailblazer 40 Below in 2011.
TMG Financial Services is the card portfolio purchasing and issuing side of The Members Group, a payments CUSO affiliated with the Iowa Credit Union League.
TMG FS allows participating credit unions to invest in its card portfolio purchasing and issuing business.
Patrick Jury, chairman of the boards of both the Iowa Credit Union League and TMG FS, said Russell’s last day would be April 26 and that he would assume the position of interim CEO until a search process for a permanent replacement is completed.
Russell had worked with TMG in a variety of capacities since originally beginning as an intern. Russell will become the CEO of Delta Dental of Iowa.
Russell was the first CEO the firm had after the Members Group founded it in 2007, and under his leadership the firm grew from being a startup and issuing few if any cards to having an overall card portfolio worth $135 million in assets and roughly 67,000 card members representing over 60 credit unions.
As CEO of Delta Dental, Russell said he will lead a slightly smaller staff of a firm headquartered in Iowa. Delta Dental has about 800,000 subscribers and roughly 300 participating companies. The new job might also have less travel attached to it, but Russell laughed when asked about that. “My wife always chuckles when I say a new position has less travel,” Russell said. “Because they never do.”
Russell said that even though he is leaving an active role in the credit union industry, he is maintaining his membership in a credit union and remains a strong advocate of credit unions.
“Credit unions have been a valuable resource for American consumers for many years, and I believe they will continue in that role,” he said. He also said credit cards remain one of the ways credit unions can have the most impact on their members financial lives and a good value for credit unions, though he said he worried about how many credit unions might have fixed interest rate card programs that could be at risk if interest rates begin to climb quickly. Under current law, a credit card issuer cannot change the interest rate on existing balances and can only change rates on future balances with a 45 day notice. The NCUA said it does not keep data on how many credit unions have fixed-rate versus adjustable-rate credit card programs.