2008 IT Trailblazer Continues Forging Leadership Path
From bits and bytes to bongs and bitcoin, what a long, strange trip it's been for Jim Morrell.
Now president/CEO of the $148 million Peninsula Community Credit Union in Shelton, Wash., Morrell was leading iQ Credit Union in Vancouver, Wash., through its leading-edge adoption of online banking, bill pay and automated account opening and lending solutions when he was named Trailblazer IT Executive of the Year in 2008.
After 14 years there, where he rose to SVP of support services, Morrell got the top job at Peninsula Community, and now finds himself dealing with such edgy issues as virtual currencies and the legalization of marijuana in his state.
While Morrell's long tenure at iqCU was marked by aggressive adoption of new technologies, here he's taking more a wait-and-see attitude.
“Last week we denied opening accounts for a bitcoin business here in our area because we think it falls under the definition of a money serving business according to FFIEC guidance,” he said.
And while some credit unions in the Evergreen State have agreed to handle the accounts of legal marijuana dispensaries, Morrell is not ready to go there yet.
“The interesting thing to me is that the guidance we received for bitcoins reads very similarly to the guidance we received about banking marijuana dollars a few years ago: You can do it and you won't be liable but you need to evaluate the risk,” he said.
One vendor has asked Peninsula Community to handle its account, Morrell said, but it was outside his five-county field of membership.
“So that one I was able to have a clear answer for,” he said.
Although Morrell won't be taking the lead there, he continues to make leadership his hallmark. Morrell now chairs the Washington Governmental Affairs Committee for the Northwest Credit Union Association and works with the CUNA Young Professionals Committee.
And while his trip was his own, Morrell – who began his career in finance before moving to IT – said others can do the same.
“I do think moving from CIO to CEO is a viable path. Technology strategists have to have a holistic view. They can't just plug in new things without a real understanding of why they’re doing it,” he said.