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DALLAS-NAFCU Chair Diane Furnas’ first year in that post was smooth sailing, thanks to the help of the breadth of experience of the rest of the board. Even though some the issues have been tough over the last year, the president and CEO of Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union knows NAFCU has come out of it strong. Of her first term as chair, Furnas remarked, “It went very well I think. I think I have to give a lot of credit to the people I worked with previously on the board. They are just one of the best boards that we’ve ever had, so that certainly made my transition easier.” Furnas was recently re-elected to serve as chair and will begin serving that term at the close of NAFCU’s Annual Conference. One of NAFCU’s main goals has been strengthening the federal charter, which Furnas said has enjoyed tremendous updating. “I think that NAFCU has made a lot of in-roads on that in the legislative and regulatory (arenas). I have to give NAFCU a tremendous amount of credit for that,” Furnas said, “but I also say that Dennis Dollar has changed the environment, you might say, to make some of these suggestions and things we’re trying to implement more possible.” She added that the current NCUA Board “is really working in the best interest of the credit union industry.” One potential problem Furnas said she sees for the upcoming year could be the bankers’ drive to tax credit unions. “Certainly, within the year, the biggest problem is going to be if the bankers are able to make any inroads in some of the major states-such as Texas, California.Utah, they were trying so hard and didn’t do as well-if they make a few inroads there by being able to either divide us or get some legislation there, then I do think it’s going to affect us on the federal level,” she commented. Furnas explained that she did not see much progress prior to the elections, but the bankers are working so hard, they could make progress in the next year or two. To combat this credit unions need to be active participants and just keep on doing what credit unions do, according to Furnas. She has served on the Texas Credit Union League Board and CUNA’s Board, in addition to NAFCU’s. “I think it really gives you a broad perspective of really what affects you at the credit union, because if you are not involved, you don’t know all the laws that touch each credit union,” she said. “It’s just broader perspective that, I think, makes you a better manager if you’re involved in things. And change stuff.” Furnas added that Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union does a number of things that help maintain that credit union distinction that the banking groups always argue is disappearing. She said the credit union’s top priority is to serve their members. “We just are trying to make a loan. We’re not there to price it out, be sure the profit is completely there. We are trying to serve the person who has walked in the door,” she explained. “So that member service and that need are critical to us.” She added that many of their members do not have the highest credit scores and that they try to educate members on how to get out of those situations. In addition, over the years, Furnas said that Southwest Airlines FCU has served as a mentor to a number of credit unions or donated equipment or helped with marketing-things you would not see at banks. She advocates for more experienced CEOs to help struggling credit unions through difficult times. “I think it’s always in our best interest to try to salvage as many credit unions as we can.Sometimes you’re successful with it, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. It needs to be done no matter what,” Furnas stated. That type of cooperation is one of the best things about working in the credit union movement, she said. “I like it mostly because I think we get to work with some really great people this way. It’s not as commercial and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.” That is what has kept Furnas in credit unions for more than 30 years. In fact, a large number of people working in the credit union community tend to stay – of NAFCU’s executive committee, the person with the least experience in credit unions has 17 years under his belt. Having an experienced executive committee gives the organization historical perspective. “If you’ve been in a credit union for a long time, you see ups and downs, legislatively and regulatorily, how those things can affect you, and you get more experience in helping to fight those kind of things that are detrimental to the industry,” Furnas said. “And I think it’s just maturity, I think, that makes it possible for you to be the most effective person you can on some of the boards like that, especially on NAFCU at the federal level.” The breadth of perspective on NAFCU’s board does not stop with seasoned credit union CEOs, but also includes some volunteers as well. “I think that’s an important part of it to because they bring a different perspective,” she said, like the volunteerism angle and as volunteers they seem to really focus on the purpose of credit unions But it is important to get a breath of fresh air Furnas recognizes. Just before being elected to another term as chair, she was elected to her third and final term on the NAFCU Board. Furnas described the feeling as “good and bad.” She said she will miss all the work when her final three years are up, but, at the same time, “There’s a whole generation coming up that I personally believe are going to also bring an awful lot to the forefront in ideas, in energy, and so forth, and that’s why I think term limits have some effectiveness in certain areas. It allows some new people to come on with new blood and new ideas.” Demonstrating this belief, Furnas shook up some of NAFCU’s committee structure to make room for the new while there is still some of that historical knowledge remaining. Not only did she spearhead an effort to get some `youngins’ on the committees but they also opened membership up below the CEO level. “I think it’s been extremely effective because it’s an avenue for those people to have an opportunity to participate and begin to understand what NAFCU can do for them,” she said. Other items she initiated for NAFCU during her tenure was the daily e-mail sent out to the membership and advocating the growth of NAFCU/PAC, the trade association’s political arm. [email protected]

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