RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. – How does a nice guy from a small city in southeastern Minnesota with a population of approximately 60,000, wind up living in Southern California and working as president/CEO of the largest credit union indirect lending company in the U.S.? Tony Boutelle candidly admits he asks himself that question occasionally. “This isn’t what I envisioned myself doing,” he says. When the Rochester, Minn.-native moved to Denver, Colo. in 1984 with a degree in urban land economics in hand from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, he had his sights set on working in real estate. But the commercial vacancy rate in the state was very high at the time, Boutelle recalled, so instead he went to work at the Colorado Credit Union System. Boutelle, now 42, has spent the last 19 years – his entire career – working in the credit union industry in various start-up and entrepreneurial capacities. That probably wouldn’t surprise his college buddies. After all, we’re talking about a man who paid his way through college by starting up his own carpet cleaning business. He ran the business successfully out of his apartment in Madison and even had several employees working for him. When Boutelle packed up his bags for Colorado, he sold the business to a friend of his. Boutelle actually has CUNA State Government Affairs Director Colleen Kelly to thank for helping him cut his teeth on credit unions. Kelly, also a Rochester, Minn. native went to high school with Boutelle, and she was working in research and information at the Colorado League when Boutelle moved out to Denver. At the time, the League was starting a financial planning program for credit unions, and Kelly recommended Boutelle for an interview with then-League President/CEO Carroll Beach and Susan Brayman, now-retired executive vp of the Colorado Credit Union System. She is now a consultant for CCUS. Boutelle was offered the job, earned his Series 7 securities license and certified financial planning designation, and continued to work at CCUS until 1987 when he was hired away by the California Credit Union League to head up their financial planning program. For the next three years, the guy from Minnesota lived the Southern California lifestyle. “It’s a little overwhelming at first, but it grows on you. Once you’re here, it isn’t hard to adapt,” Boutelle quips, but he gave that up in 1991 and moved back to colder climates in Madison, Wis. to work for the CUNA Service Group (CSG) as its regional vice president of the Western region for individual line products. In 1994, CSG was reorganized. Boutelle once again put his snow shoes in the closet and moved back to Southern California when CCUL President/CEO David Chatfield offered him the position of senior VP of the league’s service corporation. Boutelle’s chief responsibility was finding ways to help credit unions in the state make auto loans. At the time, the Golden 1 CU in Sacramento, Calif. had developed technology that allowed members to be approved for loans at dealers’ sites. Boutelle approached then-Golden 1 President/CEO Stan Hollen to discuss the possibility of the league partnering with the CU to offer the Golden 1′s auto loan technology to credit unions throughout the state. The result of that endeavor was Credit Union Direct Lending. But the company didn’t start out in the form most credit unions are familiar with now. Originally owned 50/50 by the California League and the Golden 1 CU, CUDL had a license from the Golden 1 to use their technology, but CUDL’s data center was still housed at the Golden 1. Starting in 1999, CCUL and the Golden 1 began selling off their shares in CUDL, and at the present time Boutelle says they each own about 10% of the company. The majority of CUDL is now owned by 30 credit union entities including West coast credit unions, about four leagues, WesCorp and CUNA Mutual. Boutelle says CUDL is planning another private sale “in the coming months.” CUDL’s maturation as a standalone company also took a giant step in 2001 when the company formed its own board of directors, got its own employees on its payroll, and moved its data center from the Golden 1 to the company’s headquarters in Rancho Cucamonga. CUDL currently has 100 employees. “I wake up every day with a sense of urgency,” he says. “I like to get into new things and build them. I had hoped when I graduated from college that I’d work in real estate, but the timing wasn’t right. Still things have a way of working themselves out,” he says, accepting the direction his career has taken. Boutelle’s leadership role at CUDL has given him a bird’s eye view of the evolution of indirect auto lending among credit unions. “Indirect lending is an act supported by the science of technology,” he says. “Ten years ago, dealers and credit unions were like oil and water. Now there’s more of a mutual respect and dependence. Credit unions don’t realize how much dealers need them,” Boutelle says. That’s not to say it’s a piece of cake now for credit unions to work with dealers. “It’s still a challenge,” says Boutelle, “but credit unions have realized that not all dealers are bad. Credit unions have come to understand how dealers do business, and the dealers have a better understanding of how they can do business with credit unions.” He emphasizes that as hard as he’s worked to show credit unions how to work with dealers, “the loan is still a commodity. The member wants the car, and credit unions need to be there for the member when they’re ready to buy one. So the credit unions have to figure out a way to work with the dealers.” In 2000, CUDL expanded its dealer network to the New England region. The company now has its sights set on Southern Florida. It already has a contract with Eastern Financial FCU in Miramar, and it’s also in contract discussions with the South Florida Acceptance Corp. an indirect lending CUSO formed by four area CUs – Tropical Financial CU, Power 1 CU, City and County CU of Fort Lauderdale, and Pan-Am Horizons CU. The CUSO will use CUDL for the front-end piece with dealerships (CU Times, Aug. 21, 2002). Boutelle may not be getting his hands into the type of work he planned to do when he attended college, but he has no regrets and is comfortable living the Southern California lifestyle. These days the man from Minnesota enjoys spending time with his wife Kathy and four-year old daughter Lauren at their home in Tustin, Calif., located just north of the city of Irvine. Instead of dealing with snow and freezing temperatures, he relishes going to the park and just spending time with his family. “Between ballet school and plays, just keeping up with all of that is a lot of activities,” Boutelle says. But he manages to make time to ride his mountain bike three or four times a week or his specialized Greg Lemond road bike. When he was in college he played on the men’s soccer team, but he had to give that sport up because of back surgery. Boutelle isn’t shy when he admits that in five years, he hopes CUDL is a major force in auto lending in the U.S. It’s already the largest indirect lending network for credit unions in the U.S. He’s focused on the goal of helping credit unions increase their share of the auto lending market. The company is already the third largest lender in California. Boutelle is surprised so many credit unions still aren’t involved with auto lending, but if he has anything to say or do about that, they will. -

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