As the first chairperson of the African-American Credit Union Coalition who isn’t one of the founders of the 14-year-old group, Lynette Smith said she feels a bit of heat.
“The pressure is on,” she said. “The chairpersons, the leaders, they’ve mentored me, so I’m very honored. I have big shoes to fill.”
Smith, who is president/CEO of the $89 million Washington Gas Light Federal Credit Union in Springfield, Va., was recently elected to the post. She succeeds Sheilah Montgomery, president/CEO of the $80 million Credit Union of Atlanta, who will continue to serve on the AACUC’s board for a three-year term.
Founded in 1999, the AACUC was formed to increase the number of black professionals in the credit union industry through its internship and mentorship programs, among other efforts. Today, the coalition has more than 200 members and has placed more than 300 students in internships.
Involved with the organization for seven years, Smith said she has seen firsthand the strides the coalition has made from her stints as vice chairperson and overseeing the nomination committee. The AACUC’s founders have been mentors and instrumental in helping her to develop the skills needed to take the helm, she noted. Now, she said it’s time to build even higher on the coalition’s successes.
“We have so many good things that we’ve done, but we can do more,” Smith said. “I don’t mind telling you that we’re an under $400,000 organization. An organization of our size has funding restrictions.”
To that end, one of Smith’s goals for the AACUC’s funding development committee is to increase funding by partnering with other entities both in and outside the credit union industry. While Smith did not want to provide names just yet, she said the coalition is planning to meet with several groups in September.
Mark Brantley, AACUC vice chairperson who also oversees the advocacy committee, said there may be other ways to gain more leverage.
“The board should have an oversight role in terms of funding,” said Brantley, who is also chairman of the $1.9 billion Municipal Credit Union in New York. With a full staff, board members could move into an oversight role, he said, as opposed to an operational role.
The AACUC is hoping to also grow its membership. In 2012, it met its goal of doubling the number of state leagues joining the group. Smith said it has become second nature for her to ask everyone she comes into contact with if they’re a member of the organization.
Smith said she also wants to see a strong push to court younger members and said she hopes social media will be the way to go.
Timothy Anderson, president/CEO of the $36 million Government Printing Office Federal Credit Union in Washington and the AACUC’s new treasurer, is also the chairperson of the social media and marketing committee. He said a recent chat with his 28-year old son reiterated just how critical is to court teens and young adults.
“He said, ‘Dad, I’ll come to the credit union when you get mobile banking,’” recalled Anderson, a 30-year financial industry veteran. “His generation is all about technology and social media. They are going to be the borrowers of the future. That’s the audience we’re trying to reach.”
The AACUC has built a reputation for reaching out to the unbanked and low- to moderate-income communities, Anderson said. He would like to see some of the larger credit unions do more.
“Being a part of some the larger credit unions in the past, we don’t do this as well as we should,” he said.
The coalition recently took what some might consider a bold step. Ed Presnell, vice president of administrative services at the $669 million SRP Federal Credit Union in North Augusta, S.C., was elected to serve for a three-year term. He is the first Caucasian to serve on the AACUC’s board.
“I felt embraced from the very first meeting I walked into,” said Presnell, who joined the AACUC around 2006 and has served on the group’s internship and conference committees. He is now the chairperson of the membership committee.
Presnell said several of his board members are members of the AACUC and they encouraged him to attend one of the coalition’s conferences. He said he was especially impressed with the internship program.
“I’m a very strong proponent of opportunity and diversity in business and in general, helping to develop people,” said Presnell, who served as host at the AACUC’s 2012 annual conference in South Carolina. “I have enjoyed every waking minute with the AACUC.”
Smith said Presnell is the perfect candidate to serve on the board given his involvement.
“As I’ve told people, diversity works both ways,” she said.
In the spring, the coalition released six recommendations for the NCUA to consider for its Office of Minority and Women and Inclusion, which was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. Among them was a suggestion to breakdown analysis of minority and women-owned business contractors and suppliers by separating minority-owned from women-owned.
Brantley said the AACUC is hoping that the group and other stakeholders will meet with the NCUA to share their perspectives. Despite requests to do so, he said the NCUA has not set a date.