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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – Mary Madden can pride herself on becoming a member of the “female CEOs of billion dollar credit unions” after working in the corner office of Hudson Valley FCU for only two years. She not only has that notable achievement by the $1.75 billion credit union to be proud of. In January 2003, Hudson Valley FCU converted to a community charter covering Dutchess, Ulster and Orange Counties, a step which has been followed since by some impressive results. Between January 1 and December 31 assets rose 17.3%, savings 18.4%, loans 18.9% and membership 9.1%. “We had net new members of over 11,000,” Madden notes. “We had record loan and savings growth. Part of that was due to economic conditions and the low interest rate environment.” As far as HVFCU has been able to determine, Madden is only the fifth woman nationwide to hold the president/CEO title among credit unions with $1 billion or more in assets. She manages the third largest U.S. credit union headed by a woman. That sounds like a position a college student eyeing a career in financial services might eventually attain. Actually, “I fell into the credit union industry,” Madden says. After graduating from Indiana University with a major in journalism and minors in psychology and marketing, she worked in various marketing positions. Then in 1987 she launched her credit union career when she accepted a marketing job at Digital Credit Union in Maynard, Mass. After about four years she shifted from marketing to operations. Deciding she need additional education to progress, she earned an M.B.A. at University of Massachusetts while continuing to run the operations side at Digital CU. “It’s very important to not only have the hands-on experience, but also the theory behind the hands-on. That’s what the education does for you,” Madden says. She adds her undergraduate education in marketing and psychology has also proven helpful. “My philosophy of management involves very open communication, both from the CEO to the board and the CEO to the rest of the staff. I also truly believe in the team concept and team effort in making decisions and working on projects. “I appreciate the perspective of others. The goal is to have a consensus, knowing the final decision has to be made. I like a friendly, sometimes humorous environment,” Madden says. After Digital CU the next move was to HFCU in 1995, where her first job was running operations. Eventually she was also placed in charge of lending. When the CEO left for another job in September 2001, Madden was named acting CEO. After a formal search, the job became permanent in May 2002. It’s a demanding job, but when not at her desk, attending meetings or traveling on business Madden stays physically active. She enjoys kayaking, running and horseback riding. Although her schedule doesn’t permit owning her own horse, she takes lessons and recently went riding through the jungle in Belize. She’s also involved in the arts. She serves on the board of the Dutchess County Arts Council and the board of a local non-profit art gallery. Throw in the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation, the American Heart Association board and some other posts, and you have a busy schedule. The credit union is also bustling. But while enjoying growth, HVFCU hasn’t rushed to open new branches. A couple sites are penciled in for this year in Ulster and Dutchess Counties, but whether or not they actually open depends on the tight real estate market. “We’re growing, and our delivery channels need to keep up with that growth,” Madden says. `I think the credit union does a lot of things right, and they’re calculated. We want to grow in various markets, but we also want managed growth so we don’t lose that one-on-one relationship with members,” Madden says. HVFCU was formed in 1963 as IBM Poughkeepsie Employees FCU. Through the years the field of membership expanded, and in 1993 the name was changed to Hudson Valley FCU. Evidently the name changes haven’t bothered members, because a number of current members have been with the credit union since it opened. “We have a very solid reputation in our marketplace,” Madden says. “Our brand is very strong and we keep it that way. It’s important to us to provide outstanding service at a good price.” Yes, managing growth is a challenge, she continues. Growth adds complexity, and HVFCU wants to make maintain its image and service level. Staff education is seen as very important, so the credit union offers full tuition reimbursement. HVFCU is currently launching an organizational development process focused on career and succession planning plus identifying high-potential employees. Like most other credit unions today, HVFCU wants to position itself as the members’ primary financial institution. So while all members are “Choice” members, a combined balance of $10,000 earns “Choice Plus” awards including unlimited bill pay. Members with a combined $20,000 balance qualify for “Ultimate Choice” privileges including periodic certificate bonus rates and consumer loan discounts. “The whole idea is the more business you do with the credit union, the more rewards you receive,” Madden confirms. “We launched it last June and we’ve seen members progressing from Choice to Choice Plus and Ultimate Choice. From June of last year until now number of Ultimate members has gone from 27,000 to 34,000. Plus started at 14, 600 members and is now more than 16,000.” In another effort to maintain that much-sought relationship with members, HVFCU established The Investment Center in the early 1990s. The CUSO provides members alternative investment opportunities such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and insurance products. At the time the stock market was hot, and funds were flowing out of financial institutions. The subsidiary has remained profitable, even during the past few years when the market staggered. In fact, as members demand more products and services, The Investment Center remains a strategic HVFCU arm. “Our demographics are aging slightly, so long-term care insurance becomes important. We do have a fairly strong affluent market, so estate planning will become important,” Madden says. What is she proudest of in her credit union career so far? “I’m proudest of seeing others progress, facilitating growth in other people, and helping members through tough times.” she answers. “It really makes you feel good about yourself that you’ve made a difference. That’s why you’re here.” -

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