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<p>VIENNA, Va.-After serving in active duty in the Navy from 1966 to 1970, Brian McDonnell was looking for a job while serving in the Naval reserves. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. McDonnell was offered two positions at Navy Federal Credit Union: the head of general accounting and management engineer. He chose the latter, noting that he is “not fond of accounting,” and was charged with analyzing work flow and work management. He then rose to assistant director of the administrative division. His next position was as special assistant to the president, which, in 1974, put him in charge of purchasing the land where the Navy Federal headquarters now stands. McDonnell then became executive vice president of operations, in charge of credit card operations and lending. Former Navy Federal CEO Admiral Joe Schoggen wanted to cross-train McDonnell, and so he served as executive vice president of mortgage lending for nine years. Under Former Navy Federal CEO Admiral Tom Hughes, McDonnell became “the number two guy,” senior executive vice president, for two-and-a-half years. Finally, McDonnell became CEO, running on nearly six years now. The 58-year old retired from the Naval reserves a captain and is one of a very few to run Navy Federal who is not an admiral. But rank is not keeping McDonnell from growing the largest, natural person credit union in the United States at an enormous rate. Navy’s assets reached $15.1 billion at year-end 2001, growing $2.5 billion in the second half of the year. Navy also has 2.2 million members. McDonnell said the credit union has been the largest for at least the last 25 years. Increasing his own personal wealth is not something that McDonnell is overly concerned about. He said he realizes he could make a lot more money if he moved over to the banking industry, but that he has a different motivation. “I love credit unions. I believe very strongly in the purpose of credit unions and the underlying thing we do from a social standpoint,” he said. The CEO added, “Money is not something I’m motivated by.” Because Navy Federal is the largest credit union according to assets, it is sometimes “looked at as not being a credit union.” McDonnell, instead, prefers to refer to Navy Federal as the “largest small credit union.” He pointed out that of the approximately 1.4 million households the credit union serves, about 400,000-nearly one third-fall below the median income level. McDonnell added that Navy Federal has allowed a great deal of latitude on late payments and not imposing late charges. Also, Navy Federal keeps many of its overseas branches open on the weekends. He said that losses from the members taking advantage of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) stemming from the September 11 attacks have been insignificant, emphasizing that some members have been covered by SSCRA since the Gulf War. However, Navy Federal was not left unscathed by the 9-11 attacks. McDonnell said that they lost between 70 and 80 members in the attacks, one employee lost an 11-year old son, and another employee lost a mother. He said, “The biggest thing we had to deal with was from our own workforce.” Choosing his words carefully, McDonnell pointed out that 70% of Navy Federal’s employees are female and more prone to be more emotional, which he added was good. He stressed that the most important thing was to “make sure they recognize we’re there for them.” Navy Federal donated a total of $550,000 toward relief efforts; $330,000 went straight to survivors of the plane that flew into the Pentagon while the remainder was donated to the Red Cross. Times like these are also good to have family around, which McDonnell does. He and his wife of 35 years live in Virginia and are in close proximity to their three grown sons. He also became a grandfather to his second grandson in January. McDonnell recently took his sons and their wives on a weeklong cruise of the Caribbean. Though he typically works 60 hours a week, McDonnell said he is not a `workaholic’ and knows when to take a break. On his most recent vacation, he took a biking trip on Prince Edward Island. He said that he likes to know what is going on around the credit union and the credit union community, but is getting better at delegating. Some matters are best addressed directly, though. While Navy Federal is a member of both CUNA and NAFCU and McDonnell is on the boards of NAFCU, the Consumer Federation of America, CUNA Mutual, and Filene Research Institute, as well as being a member of CUNA’s Partnership Committee, Navy has decided to hire its own lobbyist on a consulting basis. McDonnell said that Navy Federal appreciates CUNA’s nationwide, grassroots abilities, NAFCU’s federal perspective, and the choice of two lobby groups, but some opinions are best expressed directly by the credit union. The CEO also does some of his own lobbying, noting that he met last month with several members of the House Financial Services Committee. Bankruptcy reform was a big issue that McDonnell chose to speak out in favor of last congressional session. Additionally, within the credit union community, McDonnell raised several issues of concern for Navy Federal regarding CUNA’s Renaissance Commission. Even though all the issues he expressed concerns about were eventually removed from the final product approved by CUNA’s board, McDonnell said, “I am not going to say I’m pleased with it. It was a painful process.” He also reminded the credit union community, “We have to remember our uniqueness and distinctiveness.” McDonnell commented that he does not worry too much about what the bankers say about credit unions because they always have and always will. Instead, he says, “I’m worried about some of the motivation I see within the credit union industry these days.” He added that he “may be old fashioned” but he is more concerned about internal fissures in the movement. He concluded that he is a “firm believer in credit unions” and will work to keep the movement together. [email protected]</p>

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