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TULSA, Okla. – The fact that Lisa Finley has known for two years that she was the incoming president/CEO of the Oklahoma Credit Union League hasn’t diminished the importance of the transition for her or her appreciation of the fact that she is now a member of the small but growing female league presidents club. The 39-year old Finley who’s worked at the League for more than six years, most recently as executive vice president, officially becomes president/CEO of the Oklahoma Credit Union League on Feb. 1, becoming the youngest female league president – there are seven women league presidents out of 53 credit union leagues/associations. She succeeds credit union industry veteran Bob Bianchini who retires the end of this month after 34 years of credit union industry service. Finley was actually designated as Bianchini’s successor in Oct. 2003 as part of a president/CEO succession plan approved by the League’s board when the 64-year old Bianchini first announced his retirement. He’s been president/CEO of the Oklahoma League since 1994. As part of that succession plan, Finley who was then SVP and Chief Operating Officer, supervising governmental affairs, communications, administration, the Credit Union Development Division, and the League Services Corp., was bumped up to the EVP spot. Finley’s hiring by the Oklahoma League in 1998-right at the start of the H.R. 1151 legislative battle-to head up its communications and governmental affairs department, was the right job at the right time for both her and the league. A native of Tulsa, Finley is a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation. Her mother is three-quarters native American and her father is Irish-American from Arkansas, a combination she quips “makes for an interesting blend of lineage.” Her maternal grandmother was half Cherokee and her maternal grandfather was full-blood Osage Indian. “Indian people are very land, home and family oriented, and my mother and grandmother did an excellent job of passing these values down to me,” says Finley. “My mother and grandmother were very involved in going to a lot of ceremonial events and took me with them. They taught me the importance of family and the closeness of people who are important to you. Later, when I worked for the Cherokee Nation as director of business development, press secretary for the principal chief and congressional liaison, it was a membership driven organization that provides services for its members and works to help those who can’t help themselves, to make sure members of the tribe get the education they need to have a good solid life. Very much like what credit unions do. “That’s one reason why working with the Oklahoma Credit Union League and credit unions has been so wonderful, because the principles are so similar,” says Finley. The soon-to-be new Oklahoma League president admits that when she first began working at the League she had no idea what H.R. 1151 was about. “I thought it was a new loan program,” she admits. But after working in her position with the Cherokee Nation which she described as being very fast-paced and dealt a lot with congressional delegations, Finley says “coming to the Oklahoma League was doing similar work and just learning a new subject.” Finley says her experience dealing with legislators when she worked with the Cherokee Nation has been a tremendous asset. “I know how the system works,” she says. Finley has certainly made the adjustment and has been able to apply much of what she learned working with the Cherokee Nation to her various responsibilities with the Oklahoma League over the years, particularly with reaching out to the state’s underserved which Finley says comprises a large part of the state’s population. There are currently only two community development credit unions in Oklahoma – Central Oklahoma FCU and Morning Star FCU – and Finley said one of her priorities as League president is to find ways to work collectively with credit unions to help them serve the underserved Hispanic and Native American population including providing financial education. She added that the state’s economy has taken a hard hit recently, especially the Tulsa area, and “that’s been very challenging.” “The good majority of credit unions in Oklahoma are located in the major metropolitan statistical areas and they may not be aware of what community development credit unions can do. Sometimes also credit unions prefer to go in on their own to serve underserved communities rather than working collectively. We’ll begin to look at that also,” she said. There are currently 89 credit unions in Oklahoma, 35 of which are state-chartered. Tinker FCU is the largest FCU -$1.3 billion in assets- and Tulsa Teachers CU is the largest SCCU – $643.2 million in assets. Another area Finley says she wants to excel in is having better communications with credit unions. “I want credit unions to know I’m open to constructive criticism,” she says. “I don’t just want them to complain, I want them to offer solutions on how to improve whatever situation they cite as being problematic. It’s important to discuss things and listen to new ideas. It’s very important to get input from credit unions on important issues. They’re the ones out there serving their members. It’s important to be upfront with credit unions, talk with them about issues, and learn how they think before we take any action.” As one of the handful of female league president/CEOs, Finley concedes she’s probably a role model not only to women, but men also. “People should strive to be whatever they want to be. I’ve been given great opportunities, and I hope to be able to provide similar opportunities for others.” As for Bianchini, Finley calls him “the most tremendous mentor I can think of. He’s been the person who’s instilled the credit union philosophy in me and taught me how important it is to be conscious and sensitive to our industry.” With her new position and responsibilities, Finley realizes she may have to work harder to make down-time to enjoy her favorite leisure activities. She’s an avid sailor and is certified with the American Sailing Association as a charter sailor. She also fly fishes. Cognizant of the recent high turnover in league presidents, Finley said credit union leagues are operating in a “changed environment” these days. “The boards are challenged to find and keep the right people running the leagues. There are so many controversial issues out there, so it’s so important for league boards to provide the proper leadership. It’s sometimes difficult for credit unions to understand that leagues operate differently from them. The board sets policy and direction, and the board is representative of credit unions. So I answer to the board through the credit unions,” says Finley. -

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