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SAN FRANCISCO – When it comes to board term limits, Patelco Credit Union Succession Committee Chair Carol Highton knows all too well that they shouldn’t be set in stone. “We all thought instituting term limits back in 1997 was such a great idea and we were all behind it. We didn’t really think about how over a five year period, transitioning board members off every year, it would be difficult to find really good new board members,” said Highton. “We were looking at a situation in 2010 that our board would only have two `seasoned’ board members, who would’ve been only two to three years into it, and the nine other board members would be new -the credit union would be in complete turmoil.” Highton says it wasn’t an easy decision for the board to reach but changes had to be made which went into effect only last year basically setting the term limit to age 70 or after serving five three-year terms, whichever comes first. “We still have a strong belief that people need to retire from the board, they can’t get a position and stay forever – especially here,” said Highton. “The changes were made to stagger the limits and ensure the baton is passed smoothly and strategically.” Highton says initially the greatest challenge was getting everyone to agree to the change. Some wanted to keep the existing term limits and felt the credit union would just hunker down when the time came. Eventually everyone realized that given the potential future, it was the right decision to make for the credit union’s continued success in the future. To address the issue of finding the right board replacement candidates the succession committee was established. “We made a concentrated effort to identify just what are the elements of board members we’re looking for and searched through our 1,400-plus SEGs, narrowed it down to the top 200 and set out to find the potential board candidates from within,” said Highton. “As we bring new people on, the outgoing board members take them under their wing through a mentorship program.” Highton says another challenge is in diversity and finding the right mix of members who can work well together. Potential members are asked to complete an extensive application, provide their resume and a letter of intent. In addition, they undergo a background check and interviews are scheduled with the nominating and succession committees. Candidates that make the cut are appointed to give them an opportunity to learn how the board operates and then at the following annual meeting they are renominated. “We consider it a honeymoon trial period for the candidates and the board. Personality is very important so if they seem to fit in or bring something more then they are usually re-elected,” said Highton. “The mentoring program also helps in that the new member can access this person who is specifically responsible for guiding them and helping them feel more comfortable.” Highton adds that term limits are a step in a positive direction for the credit union. “I think credit unions have to recognize that if they are honest, even if the current board is great, there is always something that can be improved,” said Highton. “In a regular job people change positions and responsibilities the longer they stay. With the credit union industry moving as quickly as it has been it makes sense to have fresh blood to offer new perspectives-it boils down to balance.” [email protected]

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