<p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Saying his career was not as long or as significant as many notable CU industry retirees, Vince Toolen was humble about his achievements. But looking back on his career reveals someone who was a part of many firsts in the industry, and someone who could be counted on to lead in tough times. Toolen, 65, will retire from Corporate Network eCom, the e-com subsidiary of U.S. Central, on June 28. It marks the end of a 17-year credit union career where along the way he served in top spots at NCUA, U.S. Central, and natural person credit unions. His credit union career began at NCUA as president of the Central Liquidity Facility (CLF), an arm of NCUA that isn't truly understood by the masses. But as Toolen explained, the CLF's primary goal is relatively simple, as a liquidity provider to credit unions that find themselves in dire financial straits. The CLF's funds are cheap and guaranteed, making them gold for troubled CUs. Toolen was in charge of the CLF from 1985 to 1987 during which S&L's were still bowing out left and right. "That's when S&L's on almost a monthly basis were going under. It started a crisis in the region, and anyone else, including a credit union, that was perceived as slightly weak, the panic rumors started," said Toolen. So even though CUs weren't in the mortgage lending bind S&L's were, some were feeling the pressures of a distrusting public. "We would have some credit unions that were in tight liquidity crisis. We hustled to get the money to keep them afloat," he said. From NCUA Toolen moved on to U.S. Central CU (1987-1991) as Vice President of Operations/Comptroller. At this time the "corporates' corporate" was still very much finding itself, said Toolen. "It was a much smaller organization than it is today, both in assets and number of staff. But we weren't doing as many things as they're doing today. One of the big things we got into when I came there was to develop programs explaining what a corporate can do for credit unions," said Toolen. Toolen said U.S. Central referred to it as marketing, but it really was educating, letting credit unions know what corporates could do to make their operations run smoother. Some would argue that today's corporates are still trying to get the word out about all that they do. It's here where Toolen started to develop a true love of marketing. Toolen's tenure at U.S. Central also came when Corporate Network Brokerage Services, a credit union owned-broker/dealer, was formed. "Back then credit unions were investing a lot of money in S&L's and jumbo CD's. They were the only true investment alternatives. No one held a brokerage type license. We thought we ought to have a brokerage operation the credit unions can use to look at other investment alternatives," said Toolen. So the wheels were set in motion to form a CU-owned broker/dealer. U.S. Central took the lead. "We had to raise money. We needed $250 million to start CNBS," said Toolen. He said WesCorp CEO Dick Johnson; John Gallagher, former CEO of Missouri Corporate; and John Arnold, former CEO of Southwest Corporate, were instrumental in getting support from the corporate network. CNBS was formed, and although U.S. Central eventually sold its interest, it remains a true credit union success story as one of the largest broker/dealers and advisory services in the industry. Toolen's career again switched gears, this time over to the natural-person CU side. He took over the top spot at Missouri State Employees Credit Union in Jefferson. Toolen was on a mission in this his first CEO job. He assumed a one-year contract with the primary goal of getting federal insurance for the credit union. "They were privately insured. The Missouri legislature said they had to have federal insurance by the end of the year or merge with someone who did or they would be liquidated," said Toolen. It wasn't like getting auto or homeowner's insurance. Toolen had to show NCUA the credit union had the policies, products, and operational procedures in place to operate as a safe and sound credit union. He helped reduce the CU's operating costs by 10% for a $50,000 savings during that year (a big deal for a $25 million CU), and increased loans by 50%. Insurance was signed, sealed and delivered by the end of Toolen's stint there. Toolen must have liked the tough situation at Missouri State Employees CU, because after his year was up he immersed himself into an even more difficult situation. In 1993 he became president/CEO of Credit Union 1, Rantoul, Illinois. "That's where the board, chairman and president basically absconded with $2 million. The state came in and removed them. They had a $9 million loss in investments," said Toolen. The CEO and chairman were convicted of fraud, and Toolen came in to get the CU back on its feet. "We struggled there for awhile. The credit union had not functioned like a true credit union. It was really operated like a real estate investment house. We owned lots and lots of property. We were paying some of the highest dividend rates and not making very many loans," said Toolen. "We got all those numbers turned around. Then we went and did a merger. At that time we were about a $135 million credit union. We merged with a $80 million credit union and we were the survivor," said Toolen. But Toolen, as part of the merger, agreed to step down. "I wanted to get back in the marketing side. You can't have two CEOs," he said. In 2000 Toolen's career meandered back to U.S. Central as vice president of sales for Corporate Network eCom, which is in the very competitive bill pay/Net banking space. It's a difficult business, said Toolen. "It requires a lot of aggregation in order to be financially sound. It takes a lot of marketing capability in terms of what I call one-on-one relationship management. That's the only way to really build up that kind of business. If you're ever going to get home banking and bill pay to all credit unions, you have to have someone aggregating all those transactions in order to take the few pennies associated with it, and turn a profit," he said. Toolen said Corporate Network eCom has pulled back on the home banking side, but has steady business on the bill pay side. "The last time I looked we were dealing with over 20 individual credit unions and posting 100,000 transactions a day," he said. Toolen is not sure where he goes from here, but plans on enjoying himself and his hobbies. "I like to do a lot of woodworking. I'm going to look around the house and see what projects I can do. I also love to ski," he said. He wanted to give kudos to his mentor, WesCorp President/CEO Dick Johnson who is retiring next month. "He was always somewhat my idol, my mentor. He and I have spent a lot of time in the trenches together." Another soon to be retiree, Ed Callahan, currently president/CEO of Patelco CU, and who was chairman at NCUA during Toolen's tenure there, is someone else Toolen will never forget. "He always had so many ideas. He couldn't run fast enough to keep up with them," he said. The late Dick Ayers, one of the early CEO's of U.S. Central, is another leader Toolen said he would be remiss not to mention. "There are so many others. I'm humbled by all the great people I've worked with." [email protected]</p>

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