On his first day on the job as the new president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, Paul Stull had little time for workplace introductions and other customary pleasantries.
He traveled to the state capital of Santa Fe, met all day with legislators and the attorney general's staff to lobby for a new bill to strengthen data breach notification laws and, finally at 8 p.m., he spoke before a House Judiciary Committee asking members to approve the proposed legislation that's been gaining more attention because of the recent Target breach fiasco.
“It used to be that the most dangerous thing you could do walking into a merchant's store was to buy a defective product,” reflected Stull in an exclusive interview with Credit Union Times. “Today, the most dangerous thing you could do when you walk into a merchant's store is that your personal and banking information could be stolen.”
But Stull knows things are not the way they used to be and that today's challenging business environment of constant change is the new normal.
“Doing business as usual is not the answer today,” said Stull. “You need fresh perspectives to meet the challenges in the financial industry that is changing and will continue to change.”
Stull is replacing Sylvia Lyon, CUANM's president/CEO for nearly 20 years, who is officially retiring March 7.
As its new league leader, Stull is preparing CUANM to embrace changes that are expected to bring more growth opportunities for the state's 49 credit unions. More than 710,000 of the state's 2 million residents are credit union members.
About 30 of New Mexico's cooperatives, however, are under $50 million in assets. The state's small credit unions, like many across the U.S., are struggling to compete and dealing with razor thin margins, costly regulations and expensive technology offerings consumers have come to expect from their financial institutions.
“We need to be able to drive value to our members. The best way to do that is to deliver business to their door. I think we have to look very closely at being able to do a better job at leveraging the cooperative business model,” Stull said. “In my view, that is a subject that we have only scratched the surface on in our industry. A lot of times, the cooperative model is certainly celebrated, but how often is it actually put into practical use to create value for credit unions and their members?”
His goal is to change that cooperative model from mere celebration to full implementation.
He sees opportunities for credit unions to work together to improve operational efficiencies and allow cooperatives to provide new services they would not be able to deliver on their own to keep and attract members.
“There is some of that going on, but I think there is a lot more value that can be mined out of the cooperative spirit,” he said. “That is something I am going to work very hard to improve.”
Stull said he has been mulling several possibilities about how to make these cooperative model changes through CUANM, but he's not ready to show his hand yet without first consulting with his board of directors.
Harold Dixon, the board's vice chair and president/CEO of the $363 million State Employees Credit Union in Santa Fe, has been impressed with Stull's focus on the need for CUANM's to deliver value to cooperatives.
“That's one of the things he said during his job interview with the board – that the CEO's job is to bring business to credit unions and that the CUANM takes down the roadblocks to make that happen,” said Dixon. “He has done a lot of different things throughout his career and brings more talent to the table. He seems to be very well connected in the credit union world and the business world. I think that can only add to his position here that will help us move forward.”
Stull's personal mantra of embracing change has served him well throughout his professional career.
After college, he worked in the media industry for about seven years in the news and public affairs arena working as an editor, news director and manager for radio stations and newspapers in the New York market. From there he jumped to health care marketing for a major hospital.
From health care marketing, Stull landed his first job in financial services as a senior vice president for Elmira Savings Bank in upstate New York. After 16 years working there, he decided it was time for another change and became a senior vice president for the $3.8 billion Hudson Valley Credit Union in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
In 2006, Stull then headed west taking a job as senior vice president of strategy and brand at the $1.6 billion Arizona State Credit Union in Phoenix.
His current new position is yet another pretty big change for Stull because he has never been a president/CEO. But he is nonetheless confident in his diverse experience, skills and talents to lead CUANM.
“Working for large credit unions senior staff members – while not CEOs – do manage a portfolio of business that is many times larger than average credit unions,” said Stull, who boasts management specializations in corporate strategy, research, product management, customer experience, marketing, branding and planning.
Another change Stull wants to bring to CUANM is to achieve 100% membership. Currently, 46 out of 49 credit unions are association members.
“If I am doing my doing my job I need to be driving value to make it attractive for all of New Mexico's credit unions to participate in the association,” Stull said. “I believe the more participation we have the stronger we are and the better we can deliver to our credit unions and their members.”