Paying bills rolling in after the holidays became easier for Goldenwest Credit Union members when they received a 4.35% bonus at the end of December, returning $760,000 to members.
It's the 10th straight year the credit union, based in South Ogden, Utah, has paid a dividend, bringing the total to $5.875 million. The dividend applies to primary shares, secondary shares, Christmas Club accounts and IRAs, and is based on average balance during 2013.
“Our capital strength allows us to do that,” Goldenwest President/CEO Kerry Wahlen said. “Our net capital is running near 12.4%.”
President/CEO Kerry Wahlen speaks with a member during the credit union's annual meeting.
Goldenwest also saw assets climb to $1 billion. A merger with $140 million USU Credit Union at Utah State University in Logan helped, but Goldenwest President/CEO Kerry Wahlen said the credit union would have joined the Billionaires Club in a year or two in any case.
“It was a healthy merger,” Wahlen said. “But they recognized there was a certain level of skill and services they’re now able to provide by using Goldenwest's products and services. We have not been overly aggressive in mergers. We’ve tried to mainly grow organically. This merger just presented such a unique opportunity. Their current president, David Butterfield, is a very astute businessman and realized they wouldn’t achieve the goals and growth they wanted without additional services in mortgage lending and commercial lending and technology areas.”
Butterfield has been named regional president for USUCU, which will retain its name as a division of Goldenwest. That means members will see the familiar brand. One issue USUCU has faced is retaining student members who graduate (Wahlen himself is an alum) and move to jobs in other areas of Utah or the United States. USUCU will now be able to offer 26 branches as well as access through a shared branching network.
Wahlen believes growth will be significant in Cache Valley, the home of USU, as alumni and others want to be associated with the university credit union. The merger is eased by the fact both credit unions are on the same computer system.
Goldenwest's success doesn’t mean there isn’t competition.
“There's competition from all financial institutions,” Wahlen said. “Utah has become very, very competitive. We become a better credit union because we compete. We have the second largest population of credit union members in the United States. We, of course, work together with all of our fellow credit unions.”
Read more: Making employees a priority ...
Wahlen at a ribbon cutting ceremony in Bountiful, Utah.
Employees also evidently have a reason to be happy with Goldenwest. Last summer the credit union received the 2013 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility. Wahlen noted that during the so-called Great Recession the credit union didn’t lose any employees and continued to pay annual raises.
When the Sloan award was announced, Wahlen commented, “We subscribe to the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people’ with our employees as well as our members. We believe when we take great strides in caring for our employees, they will go the extra mile to take care of our members and organization.”
He describes his management style as a participative leadership approach and said he believes in delegating responsibilities to upper management and then getting out of the way.
The credit union reached out to business members last year with a Health Care Reform Seminar to help owners and managers prepare for the Affordable Care Act. The seminar was a partnership with Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Utah, where Wahlen serves on the BC/BS community board. More than 200 businesses attended.
Wahlen said the session was aimed at helping employers understand the pitfalls and benefits of the ACA, which he described as a moving target that has been changing even during the current rollout. He said Goldenwest will continue to partner with insurance companies to provide information to the credit union's SEGs.
Looking ahead, Wahlen said the credit union expects to see more growth and has strategic planning underway to make certain the credit union is prepared for that expansion. Goldenwest just purchased a 26,000-square-foot abandoned supermarket that will provide corporate offices and house many operational functions, allowing the credit union to keep corporate offices in the South Ogden – Washington Terrace area.
The facility in Washington Terrace will house as many as 175 employees in such support services as accounting, information technology and a call center. When renovations are completed Goldenwest will occupy a campus with two buildings. Since moving headquarters from downtown Ogden in 2000, the credit union has tripled in asset size and membership.
If you are thinking of trying to lure Wahlen away from Goldenwest, good luck. He has been there 28 years, his entire career, and considers it a perfect job. Wahlen joined the credit union after graduating from Weber State University in Ogden and also has an MBA from Utah State University. He became president/CEO two years ago.
“I would say I have my dream job,” he declared. “I love where we live – it's a beautiful place. I love the community and the residents of Utah. I probably have one of the best jobs you could have in the United States.”
He considers the late Shelly Clark, former Goldenwest president, a mentor. Like Wahlen, Clark had deep roots at Goldenwest where she spent 37 years, 11 as president/CEO.
Married for 35 years, Wahlen has six children and enjoys being with them and his six grandchildren. He's also a sports enthusiast who pursues golf, basketball and pretty much anything sports related.