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<p>INDIANAPOLIS – It’s hard to believe, when so many credit unions have applied for community fields-of-membership or added select-employee groups by the dozens, that there are still single-sponsored CUs left. In fact, there are about 50 left in the U.S., and Gene Johnson, CEO of one of them – Eli Lilly FCU – for the last eight years and an employee of the company for nearly 37 years, has retired. But Johnson’s retirement does not mark the end of the credit union’s tradition of having an employee of the sponsor company also work as the CU’s CEO. Jeff Wadman, who joined Eli Lilly in 1989 and most recently worked as the company’s Director of Finance-Research, was named Johnson’s successor. Wadman has also been on Eli Lilly FCU’s supervisory committee. Wadman assumes his new responsibilities as Eli Lilly FCU’s new CEO on March 1. He will also remain an employee of Eli Lilly and Company. Johnson admitted Eli Lilly FCU is “somewhat of a anomaly.” Up until a few years ago, all of the $525-million CU’s employees were also employees of Eli Lilly and Company. According to the arrangement, Eli Lilly FCU compensated the company for its employees, and the CU staff earned the same benefits as all company employees. In 1994, as Eli Lilly and Company began downsizing, it also reviewed its work arrangements with the credit union. Johnson, who at the time was the CU’s chairman, said the company decided it “was in the company’s interest” to “put some distance” between itself and the credit union. When the company offered an early retirement plan to its employees, Eli Lilly FCU lost 17 members of its staff including its CEO, CFO, comptroller and top three lending officers. With 28 years of experience working at Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson was offered the president/CEO’s chair and has occupied the seat ever since. But now, says the 59-year old Johnson, it’s time to try something new and “enjoy my retirement while I’m still healthy.” Johnson recalled his years as chair of Eli Lilly FCU before he became president. The credit union was a plain vanilla CU – it only offered savings, home equity loans and auto loans – because it had no vision to be a full service financial, he said. That changed though, when Johnson assumed the president’s responsibilities. “The board said it wanted the credit union to be a full service financial,” he recalled, “and I liked the idea of growing a business, it reenergized me. From my years serving on the credit union’s board, I was familiar with the credit union industry and liked the family environment among the CU’s employees and the service orientation.” Under Johnson’s presidency, Eli Lilly FCU expanded its product offering to also include share drafts, credit and debit cards and first mortgages. The credit union also has its own wholly-owned CUSO – LCU Financial – that offers investment and insurance services. The credit union’s expanded product menu helped Eli Lilly FCU grow from having $300 million in assets to $525 million over the past eight years. It also helped the credit union to be in the position to boast it has 90% penetration of Eli Lilly and Company employees. The credit union has 30,000 members. Johnson said the credit union is cognizant of the risks involved with being a single sponsor CU, especially if something were to happen to its sponsor company, but at this time it’s still not ready to expand its field-of-membership to include non-Eli Lilly and Company employees. However it is taking baby steps. At a recent scenario planning meeting, Eli Lilly FCU staff took under “serious consideration” the possibility of allowing family members of company employees, retirees and spouses to join the credit union. For Johnson though, that will all soon be a part of his personal history. After taking a short vacation with his wife, children and grandchildren, he and his wife plan to divide their time between their “home” base in Greenwood, Ind. and their home during the winter months in Bonita Springs, Fla. on the Gulf side of the state. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

 

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