RENO, Nevada – In February, CUNA’s incoming Chairman of the Board, Richard Ensweiler, will mark 40 years of employment in the credit union movement. Ensweiler has served in his current capacity as president and CEO of the Texas Credit Union League for eight years, and previously headed the Minnesota and Illinois Credit Union Leagues. He also has held positions with the Michigan Credit Union League, CUNA Mutual Group, and two credit unions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At CUNA’s Future Forum, he became the first state credit union league president/CEO to ever serve as CUNA chairman. Credit Union Times talked with Ensweiler to learn more about his expectations for his term in office. CU Times: What do you see as the responsibilities of this position? Ensweiler: My role will be to serve as an ambassador for credit unions, attending League annual meetings, spreading the word of what’s been done and what’s to be done as we continue to pull this credit union system together. It means staying in touch with the CUNA Board and making sure their ideas are communicated to management and vice versa. And, I’ll have the opportunity to work more closely with top CUNA staff on the challenges we need to address. CU Times: What are CUNA’s goals for the next year? Ensweiler: The Board just adopted a three-year strategic plan that encompasses three key areas: 1) Advocacy – We’re doing everything we can to build a strong governmental affairs department to represent credit unions on Capitol Hill. We will be doing more to promote the credit union difference, because as the banks continue to come after us, it’s important that public opinion makers understand the uniqueness of credit unions. We’re promoting the Political and Legislative Action Network, a nine-step outline that talks about what we need to do. Among those action steps that we want every credit union to engage in is completing their Project Differentiation statement and reducing it to a single page, so that they can leave it with legislators and public opinion makers to show them the unique things their credit union does. We are encouraging credit unions to be more aggressive in getting legislators to visit their facilities for special events and to become more involved in the community so they have a chance to influence opinion makers firsthand. 2) Strategic Relationships – If we can all work together and harness our resources, the credit union movement begins to be a formidable group that can stand up to the competitive pressures we face every day. CUNA is the lead organization in the credit union movement and is well positioned to bring together partners from inside and outside the credit union system to combine resources as we tackle challenges. All of the ways we can build a stronger system through partnerships and relationships – that’s what we’re looking for CUNA to maximize. 3) Products and Services – Researching, developing and modifying services is the third strategic area. As the lead organization in the credit union movement, people look to CUNA for new products, new services, new laws, anything that can enhance a credit union’s ability to serve its members. CU Times: What are your top personal priorities relative to CUNA’s list? Ensweiler: The Political and Legislative Action Network is a high priority of mine. I want to see as many credit unions as possible sign onto that program and position themselves to educate the world about the beauty and the value of credit unions. The other area I really want to encourage the credit union movement to work on is extending services to those we haven’t reached yet. Certainly that means the Hispanic marketplace. We want credit unions to do something, rather than just talk about it. The other segment we need to focus on is the small business community, which is underserved by banks and other financial groups. There’s enormous opportunity to do good for people who are already our members in many cases, and in other cases, to assist people who just haven’t had access to credit union services. Extending the reach of this great business we’re in and the services we provide is something I will stress. CU Times: How do you view CUNA’s current role within the credit union movement as a whole? Ensweiler: I believe CUNA is the vehicle to synergize the many components in this credit union business. Every credit union, every league, every CUSO, every corporate has strengths and attributes that if marshaled together can help propel this movement to be all that it can be. I believe somebody has to be the central focal point, the recipient of the knowledge of those resources, to do the training and planning and to apply the resources appropriately. I see that as CUNA’s role. CU Times: You are the first state credit union league CEO to serve as CUNA chairman. How will you balance the obligations to both organizations? Ensweiler: I have been on CUNA’s executive committee since it renewed in 1996. As I have moved up, I realized that if things worked out right, this opportunity might present itself. I have worked with three groups to make sure that happens. First, I have had tremendous support at home from my wife Judy to make sure she’s okay with it, and we have cleared the decks to be able to take on this responsibility. Secondly, I had to make sure the league staff understood that while I travel a lot now, it could significantly increase in the future. They have been very encouraging. We have realigned the staff over a period of time. We named Bob Gallman chief operating officer and man in charge when I’m not there, and he has assumed that role very nicely. The third group I had to be responsive to was the TCUL board of directors. Every year they have had a vote as to whether we should continue on to that next step. They have been enormously supportive and overwhelmingly in favor of this, knowing that it’s a rare opportunity for Texas credit unions to have one of their own serve in this top elected capacity. We’ve done the things to prepare for it. Now we have to address it every day and manage it best we can. CU Times: Have you received any advice from CUNA’s outgoing chairman Barry Jolette? Ensweiler: Yes. Barry and I have had long talks on a number of issues. He has indicated to me that the position is a tremendous responsibility with a lot of preparation for all of the meetings I’ll be chairing. He has indicated that management staff, Dan Mica and his team, is excellent to work with. And, he has given me his total support and made sure everyone feels good about the change in leadership. -

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