MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – Carlo Cestra has made a career out of tapping credit unions’ growth potential and, most recently turned around an ailing Digital Federal Credit Union. Cestra took on the challenge of turning a declining DCU into an efficient, nimble, and successful credit union. When he took over in April of 1995, DCU was serving a declining single sponsor-Digital Equipment Corp.-shrinking in assets at $350 million and losing members. Cestra had been brought on after he successfully managed to grow AT&T Employees FCU (then called GHQFCU and now Affinity), from $40 million to $378 million in assets over 16 years. Prior to that, he spent seven years at Suffolk FCU growing its assets from $500,000 to over $15 million. He also served for a few years as an NCUA examiner around his time in the Army from 1969 through 1971. “It was good to me. It was a good choice,” Cestra said of his credit union career. Cestra moved quickly to diversify Digital’s field of membership by adding over 650 employee groups, six membership organizations, and seven underserved communities. Now DCU stands at $3.1 billion in assets and is the fastest growing large credit union in the country. Under Cestra’s leadership between 1995 and 2005, assets grew 813%, savings 807%, loans 992%, and membership 400% without mergers. DCU’s growth in 2005 exceeded what its assets had been in 1996. At the same time, member surveys have shown at least 95% of them satisfied or very satisfied over the last decade. In fact, 27% of those surveyed said they were “more satisfied than the year before.” “We’re very, very member focused here and I think any credit union will tell you that so we’re nothing special here,” Cestra commented. He has been granted a lot of latitude by the board, which has allowed the credit union giant to be able to quickly adopt and adapt. Like in 2004 when HP, the successor to DCU’s original sponsor asked that DCU close its on-site facilities in favor of HP’s credit union. DCU moved to open new community branches through 2004 and 2005 while maintaining the loyalty of DCU’s HP members. Looking to 2006, DCU has opened two new branches and secured three additional locations. The credit union also moved 120,000 of its members to electronic statements, saving the credit union $1 million a year, contributing to the 9% decrease in the expense ratio in addition to a 12% increase of return on assets. Greater reliance on electronic services has led to five major Web site ( re-designs since 1995. DCU is involved in the credit union community and outside. The credit union is part owner of Octant, a CUSO that helps credit unions do business loans; leases office space to three state leagues and sends representatives to Washington to advocate on behalf of credit unions. The credit union participates in numerous charities, like raising a record $210,000 for the Boomer Esiason Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis, and financial education initiatives. When asked why he thought he was chosen for the award, Cestra said, “I think it’s because of how the credit union has grown during the past 10 years I’ve been here and also for the various awards.” He noted in particular that DCU had been voted one of the 25 Best Medium Companies to Work For in America by the Best Place to Work Institute three years running. Cestra works as well with the staff as he does the board and refuses to hire any manager who does not smile and say hello to employees in the hall. Employees are offered bonuses and everyone has opportunities to contribute ideas for improvements. In addition to typical employee benefits, DCU offers things like Free Food Fridays, subsidized vending machines, and the Employee Appreciation Dinner. It also offers a complete list of internal training programs and advances tuition for approved coursework. [email protected]

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