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HELENA, Mont. – Herbert Walberg didn’t plan on working in the credit union industry, but he wound up spending almost 30 years of his professional career in service to Montana credit unions. He also didn’t expect to be involved in any professional credit union activities on a national level, but he’s served in various capacities for CUNA, the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL), and CUNA Mutual Group. Now, after more than a quarter of a century of service to credit unions, Walberg has done something he planned to do. Walberg, who served as the president and CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network since 1973, retired May 1. “I’ve had a wonderful run,” he said. “Now it’s time for me to step aside and let someone else sit in the president’s chair.” For the time being, that person is Robert Pyfer, network executive vice president. He will act as interim president and CEO for the Montana Credit Union Network until a permanent president is named. A native of Duluth, Minn., Walberg and his family have called Montana their home since 1973. But it was while he was working at a rural electric co-op in Minnesota that Walberg cut his teeth on credit unions. By his own admission, Walberg says, “I got into credit unions by accident, and I stayed by choice.” As he explains it, Walberg’s boss at the time was serving on the supervisory committee of Two Harbors Community Credit Union. When he resigned from the committee he recommended Walberg to the vacancy because of his numbers skills. Three years later, a board member passed away and Walberg found himself appointed to Two Harbor’s Board. That was in 1964. Walberg’s involvement with CUs at the time was on a voluntary basis, but it showed him how important volunteers can be to the success of credit unions. It’s one of the reasons why Walberg even today is a staunch supporter of volunteerism. From 1970 to 1973, Walberg was a representative for the Minnesota Credit Union League and worked alongside Richard Ensweiler, who was then the managing director of the Minnesota League of Credit Unions and is now the president/CEO of the Texas Credit Union League. In February 1973 the position of president/CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network opened up. Walberg, who always found Montana “an intriguing state,” applied for the job, and the rest is history. He and his family have lived in the Treasure State ever since, and Walberg says he has no plans to move elsewhere. Working with credit unions on the local and national level for nearly 30 years has given Walberg the opportunity to learn some things about himself and witness the evolution of the credit union industry. Foremost, Walberg says he’s learned how much he cares about people. “The credit unions of Montana became a part of my family. I rejoiced with them in their highs, and agonized with them in their lows. We have been a family,” he says. One of the “downs” of his tenure at MCUN has been to witness the number of credit unions shrinking to almost half of what they were when he arrived in Montana – 138 credit unions down to 76 (only five of the credit unions in the state do not belong to the MCUN.) About 80% of the credit unions in the state are federal charters. Walberg attributes the decline on the merger mania of the 1980s and the vast amount of rules and regulations and laws that hover over credit unions. Still, while the number of credit unions has dropped nearly 50% in the past three decades, the number of credit union members in Montana has increased from 86,000 in 1973, to 335,000 members now. In addition, while the Montana CUs in the beginning of 1973 had only $65 million assets, their combined assets now are $1.6 billion. They range in size from Whitefish CU with about $312 million in assets, to Mission Arts Employees FCU located on an Indian reservation in southeast Montana. It has $219,000 in assets. Walberg takes a lot of good memories with him as he leaves the Montana Credit Union Network and the world of credit unions-he said he’s not interested in serving on any credit union or league board, nor in doing any credit union or league consulting. He remembers, for example, meeting in Vancouver, B.C. in the mid 1970s with some members of the International Association of Managing Directors (IAMD), which was the precursor to the Association of Credit Union League Executives (ACULE). They put together the framework of what was to become the corporate credit union system. He also recalls the national pilot program in 1975 for share draft checking. Montana Central CU was one of five pilot credit unions in the U.S. and the first Central CU to offer the remote withdrawal program of shares to its membership. Reflecting on how he plans to spend the time ahead of him, Walberg prefers to reflect on the legacy he hopes he left with Montana credit unions. “I always encouraged our staff to focus on everything they did, to have a purpose and to make sure it was done with excellence. I always stressed integrity. If you don’t have integrity nothing else matters. If you have integrity, nothing else matters,” he says. -

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