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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. – Effective March 1, Xerox FCU CEO Bill Cheney will become the new CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. Cheney is very well-known nationally, but more for federal credit union issues. He is currently Treasurer of NAFCU, has testified twice before Congress on behalf of credit unions, and is known across the country for his advocacy work in Washington, D.C. Cheney had developed such a reputation nationally and in federal credit union circles, he didn’t seem like a natural choice to head a state league, especially to those outside California and Nevada. League officials, however, say they are thrilled with their choice. Diana Dykstra, who chaired the league’s search committee, said Cheney was selected from more than 300 applicants and about 15 “serious candidates”. And even though Cheney’s resume is heavy on national experience and federal credit union leadership, he is plenty qualified to lead the league, Dykstra said. “He does have a lot of national contacts, but he’s also very involved in state politics here in California. All along, regulatory and legislative acumen was important to us, and Bill really was the whole package for us,” Dykstra said. Dykstra said the committee wasn’t overly concerned with finding a new CEO who had California connections, but she added that “at the end of the day, for eight and a half years, (Cheney has) been in California, so he understands the players and the needs and wants of our member credit unions.” Ultimately, the league also cited Cheney’s enthusiasm for the credit union movement as a deciding factor in his selection. “Bill has such tremendous passion for our movement, we said to ourselves, `here is a guy who can take the league to the next level with his vision, enthusiasm and passion’,” Dykstra said. Outgoing CEO David Chatfield agreed that Cheney’s enthusiasm probably helped him win over the committee. Chatfield said he was not directly involved in the selection process, but the organizational cornerstone said some committee members did ask his opinion. And besides, it’s hard to imagine the committee selecting a successor without first gaining Chatfield’s blessing. “Bill has a level of understanding and enthusiasm for credit unions that is shared by many people, and that’s part of what the board and search committee was looking for: proven leadership, energy, enthusiasm, vision and his track record as an executive were just the right kind of mix to fill the position,” Chatfield said. Chatfield said he also feels Cheney has the ability to build consensus among member credit unions, a daunting task considering the variety of credit union sizes, charters, and philosophies represented in the two states, not to mention the strong personalities involved. “Bill has a reputation for building relationships and getting things done, which, of course, is very important for this position,” Chatfield said. Cheney said his experience on the NAFCU Board will help him in his new role as league leader. “Working on the board at NAFCU is what gave me a window into the trade association world, which is so different than running a credit union. I was exposed to issues trade associations face, not just from a member’s perspective, but from within the organization, too” he said. Although NAFCU has provided Cheney with an insight into the needs of federal credit unions, what about state charters? The percentage of state chartered credit unions is slightly lower in California than the national average; however, the majority of California’s billion dollar club are state chartered, making them major players to be reckoned with. Chatfield, however, feels Cheney is up to the job, citing his many existing relationships with CEOs of state chartered credit unions, and his work with them on league committees. Cheney said the expertise of league employees will be a big help to him when he takes over, especially when it comes to continuing the organization’s active advocacy efforts, which Cheney said “is the most important thing we do for our members.” The new chief said that in addition to continuing advocacy efforts, the most pressing issues facing the league include building grassroots support, communicating the credit union difference, and keeping member credit unions united, although he added that “I may have a different answer six months from now.” Despite challenges from the banking industry, Cheney feels credit unions can maintain their success if they stick together and focus on what they do best: serving members. “As a credit union CEO, my philosophy has always been pretty simple: it’s a great advantage to be member-owned, because we don’t serve multiple constituencies. As long as we take care of our members, we’ll be okay.” “I think if we concentrate on that, and don’t let outsiders divide us, the credit union movement will continue to be very successful,” he said. Small credit unions need to continue to play a role, Cheney said, calling them “absolutely critical to the continued success of the credit union movement.” Cheney’s first day on the job at the league is March 1. He said he will spend most of January and February at Xerox, although he will attend key meetings and events at the league as needed. Ironically, March 1 falls during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., allowing Cheney to take over the reigns in the city where he’s so comfortable. “I would have been there anyway, so I guess I’ll just change hats on March 1,” Cheney said, chuckling at the uncanny timing. Once he returns to California, Cheney will spend the month of March with Chatfield, learning the ins and outs of running the largest state trade organization in the industry. “The inside out part, which I don’t see as a member, I need to take some time to learn that. I’m just pleased I’ll have a month while Dave is still there to take advantage of what he knows,” Cheney said. Chatfield agreed with Cheney’s assessment of where to begin. “Trying to force consensus is very different from running a credit union, where you’re responsible for financial performance. Association management is quite different – you have to develop the ability to glean different viewpoints, understand where people are coming from and create consistency,” Chatfield said. The outgoing CEO also said he will give Cheney pointers on balancing his business and personal life, which Chatfield said is a challenge for someone in his position. [email protected]

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