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SAVANNAH, Ga. – You’re on the board. You just received word that your recently-hired CEO was killed in a car accident and your two executive vice presidents have already taken CEO jobs at other credit unions – whose next in line to take the helm? This was the challenge presented to a group of chairmen attending the National Association of Credit Union Chairmen’s Roundtable Forum. The premise is attendees don’t know the challenge topic until it’s read to them at the beginning of the session. Participants in the forum were charged with coming up with long-term and short-term options and their pros and cons of each. This is the third year NACUC has issued the `Challenge’ forum. Suggestions included having a short-term contract; to turning to the state league or bringing in a retired CEO. One chairman said it was important to find someone who “knew the day-to-day of the operations” even if it meant bringing in a branch manager. “We have a succession plan in place with persons ready, willing and able to step in for the short term,” said Ronald Gilpatrick, chairman of $77 million Aldenville CU in Chicopee, Mass. But getting someone up to the speed, even for a short interim period, could take too long. “You need someone to run the day-to-day operations even it’s a branch manager,” said one chairman from a Michigan credit union. “If you bring in someone new, you’ll spend more than a month teaching them.” At this point, one chairwoman interjected, “CEOs should not be doing the day-to-day.” Jacksonville, Fla.-based Community First Credit Union, which reached the $1 billion in assets mark this month has a succession plan where its CEO identifies two people who can immediately step in, said Howard Winesett, chairman. Each of its vice presidents can also name two immediate successors. “For the long term, we might call on CUES or someone like Dan Mica to help identify someone locally,” Winesett said. Long-term, most agreed hiring a head hunter would be one of the best ways to go although one chairman of a small credit union did say the expense would have to be considered. Still, “it sends a good message when you’re promoting from within,” said Leroy Harvey, vice chairman of $225 million San Antonio City Employees FCU, who added they would still use a head hunter to rank all candidates just in case “the internal candidates might not be the ones you’re looking at for the long term.” Morbid as it sounds, news of the death of a credit union CEO would probably open up the application floodgate, said Ken Tanner, chairman of $180 million Members Heritage FCU in Lexington, Ky. “In a small town, if a CEO was killed, it’s going to make the local news and we would probably get a lot of applications,” Tanner said. Whatever the choices, credit unions are still working on striking a balance on what will work long term understanding that the final choices may not be the most accepted ones. “Succession planning as it is now, limits boards now because how do we know we’re getting the right candidate,” said Marlene Schwartz, chairman of $814 million State Department CU in Virginia. “There’s the importance of new blood and the modicum of balance with long-time employees.” -

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