VICTORIA, Texas – In this oil-rich town 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, it seems fitting that Jim Williams presides over a credit union with the word `crossroads’ in its name. The former CUNA president and chairman and one of the founders of Southwest Corporate Federal Credit Union, Williams’s career which spans more than 30 years has launched from almost every cross point within the industry. There’s probably not a faction within the movement that Williams hasn’t left his footprint on. “I’ve met a number of people throughout my career that have, in some way, bind the different paths I’ve taken,” Williams said. Today, he is president/CEO of Texas Crossroads Federal Credit Union, which serves 7,500 members and has $58 million in assets. Chartered in 1954 as Carbide Seadrift Federal Credit Union, in 2000, it converted to a community charter adopting the new name to reflect its reach into seven counties. His path ultimately ended where it began – in his home state. Williams’ professional career started after graduating from what was then West Texas State University in 1959 with Bachelor and Master’s degrees and serving in the Army for two years. He was offered a teaching position at the University of Texas with intentions to also pursue a doctorate degree. Instead, Williams was hired to work with the U.S. Small Business Administration and soon “got very bored with the job” and left. His credit union career commenced soon after the SBA job stint when he became the CEO/manager of Amarillo Air Force Base Credit Union. After three years at the helm here, Williams presided over what was then San Antonio Government Employees Credit Union in 1963. Under his tutelage, the credit union grew from $2.3 million in assets to $300 million and 108,000 members. In 1972, Williams became the chairman of the Texas Credit Union League at a time when the automated teller machine card and share draft businesses were in their green stages. Nearly 30 years ago, Texas had more than 1,400 credit unions. Today, the state’s numbers have dwindled to less than 700, Williams said. While at the league, Williams also got the governor’s approval to organize a share insurance company under a credit union charter and thus, the Texas Share Guaranty Credit Union was born. Still guiding Texas’s credit unions, Williams and a handful of colleagues began discussions on “having a credit union to serve credit unions.” At the time, there were roughly five state-chartered corporates, he recalled, but nothing on a larger, federal scale. After meeting with a NCUA official, who endorsed the idea, Williams and associates met with NCUA’s executive director on a Saturday to outline a plan for the new corporate. NCUA’s board approved the business plan, a federal-charter application was filed and the rest is history. Still, not everyone welcomed Southwest Corporate to the industry fray. “We were sued by Texas Central Credit Union but the suit was eventually thrown out,” he said. “We caught a lot of heat from the state corporates because we wanted to cross state lines.” Switching gears, Williams was appointed CUNA’s chairman in 1976 and admits he “had no desire” to become the association’s president simply because he was “happy where (he) was.” Refusing the offer at first, Williams ultimately became CUNA’s president in 1979. Financially, the industry group needed revamping and streamlining to run efficiently. In addition, the International Credit Union Services (ICU) division had a “negative bottom line” and the education department was running a $250,000 deficit each year. Williams got rid of ICU, consolidated planning and business affairs and revived CUNA’s education department that by the time he left, the division had an annual budget of $1 million. “We never lost a dime financially,” Williams said. “We had to totally change CUNA’s focus because before I came, the emphasis was on output. There wasn’t anyone internally to run CUNA’s business affairs.” Years before it actually happened, Williams had proposed merging all of CUNA’s business affairs under the CUNA Mutual umbrella but the recommendation would come later “in a different way” through different authors. After serving at CUNA for seven years, Williams left in 1986, he admits partly because the travel kept him on the road more than 150 days out of the year. “Honestly, it’s a job a person should have for three or four years and then get the heck out,” he said. “I traveled hard, I spent an enormous amount of time on the road and with kids, it was a difficult time.” One would think that nearly 15 years in the movement including almost a decade at CUNA would equate to retirement and more time on the golf game. Williams did neither, staying in Madison to work with the National Cooperative Bank looking for savings and loans to “clean up.” His path back to Texas involved a few crisscrosses between that state and its northern neighbor Oklahoma, work with the Federal Home Loan Bank, meetings with former colleagues and a conservator position that rubbed a few Texans the wrong way. On a visit to Texas to search for banks, Williams found one in financial disarray in Harlingen and then another in Oklahoma. He then ran into a former credit union colleague who was now president of a “troubled” savings and loan here. The bank president was previously president of a corporate while Williams headed CUNA. Together, they both worked with EDS to design a super data process system, Williams said. Still making jaunts to Texas, Williams was appointed to create a committee to help Texas with its failing banks while working to repair a struggling credit union. He was contacted by the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank with the offer to become the deputy executive director of the FHL Insurance Co. “I said no and flew back home,” Williams said. “But I got to thinking about the job and eventually took it.” Williams said his new role was probably his most ambitious and called for “finding troubled savings and loans (banks), cleaning them and selling them on the marketplace.” A typical day started at 3:30 in the morning to commute to his office in Washington: “I had an excellent parking space but it was difficult to travel that distance.” Along the way, he still ran into a number of credit union colleagues including a former NCUA peer who was running S&Ls in Dallas and Houston of which Williams came in to clean up. After Pres. George Bush, Sr. made several changes at regulatory agencies including at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Williams had to pick the largest S&Ls to close down in concordance with the new administration’s requests without much of a window of time to complete the task. Yet, over a 36-hour period, Williams picked two banks in Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Florida – a feat that normally takes up to three weeks – signed the documents that would transfer them over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., resigned shortly after and headed back to Texas looking for a new start. “Something kept drawing me back to Texas,” Williams recalled. His first job back in his home state was as a financial analyst for Ferguson & Co. and later worked for the firm’s credit union department in a role similar to his stint at the FHLB. By far, his toughest conservator assignment occurred at Texas Guaranty in what Williams calls a “highly political” environment that unfortunately resulted in the “loss of a lot of friends” along the way. “No one likes the conservator, it’s a tough position to be in,” Williams explained. Ready for a less tense position, Williams responded to an ad from Carbide Seadrift Federal Credit Union for the president/CEO position. With $27 million in assets, he unabashedly “thought it would be an easy job.” Yet Williams came in during the aftermath of employer sponsor mergers that negatively impacted the credit union’s operations. Before Union Carbide announced Dow Chemical was buying it in 1999, the credit union had seen more than 16% growth. A month after the sponsor’s announcement, “assets went negative” and for the rest of the year the credit union eked by with .89% growth, Williams said. The board approved the decision to convert to a community charter in 2000 serving a potential 190,000-member base in seven counties. With a new moniker, Texas Crossroads Federal Credit Union now serves 7,500 members and has $58 million in assets. More than 1,200 members were added last year. It’s not surprising that this husband and father considers his work his hobby and doesn’t mind working on Saturdays. He’s seen the industry from a myriad of angles including from outside its periphery but Williams said some issues are constant even after three decades and other pose new challenges. “Taxation continues to an issue but bigger than that is the growing competition between credit unions,” Williams said, adding “we (Texas Crossroads) lose loans to other credit unions. It happens and the question becomes how do credit unions remain competitive while remaining cooperative.” -

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