MEDFORD, Ore. — How does he do it?
Skim Tim Alford’s resume and you’ll find an impressive list of civic and credit union groups to which he has belonged and an equally extensive roster of honors ranging from Outstanding Corporate Citizen and Hometown Hero to Credit Union Advocate of the Year and the Credit Union Association of Oregon’s Distinguished Service Award for Professional of the Year.
Ask Alford, president/CEO of Rogue Federal Credit Union, how he finds the time, and he’s quick to praise others.
“I have a very supportive board, and I have a very professional take-charge staff. When I was gone I never had to worry about the operation. I knew without a doubt they would take care of anything that came up. Through all the years, my staff has never let me down,” he stresses.
He also believes that as a community credit union, RFCU has an obligation to give back to those who have helped the credit union grow and prosper.
Alford will retire Jan. 15. He hopes he’ll be remembered by his credit union colleagues as someone who worked well with them, cared about them, and was passionate about credit unions.
His credit union career began in 1969. Fresh out of Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Ore., he was working as office manager and accountant at a Ford dealership when a friend who was leaving a credit union asked if Alford would be interested in the manager’s job.
“When he said that, in my mind I pictured a credit bureau,” Alford says. “He set up the interview with the directors of what was then called the VA Hot Springs Federal Credit Union in Hot Springs, S.D.
“About halfway they started talking to me about savings and loans and members. Members? I could kind of understand that, figuring you had to be a member of the credit bureau to get information. But I didn’t know credit bureaus did savings and loans. Finally they said, ‘No, no. We’re a credit union.’ “
Despite what could have prompted the board to show him the door, Alford was hired. In 1973, he was selected as managing director of the South Dakota Credit Union League. Then in 1978, he became CEO of the University of Montana Credit Union. In 1981, he headed to Medford, Ore., to become associate manager of Rogue Federal. He’s been at RFCU ever since.
Over the decades, credit unions have certainly changed. Have those changes been positive ones?
“Most have been for the better,” Alford answers. “You can do more for your members, you can make a wider range of loans and you can serve more members.
“But there’s also been a whole lot of bad. When I started 37 years ago, you had half a sheet you filled out on a loan application. You turned it over and that was the note, agreement, everything. The member signed it and that was it. You knew every member and they knew they had an obligation to become part of something and help other people.”
Today, he continues, there’s mass marketing and homogenization of financial services. There are also numerous regulations that, as far as Alford is concerned, prevent a credit union from efficiently serving members.
“You have to be so careful about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s that you really can’t focus on that member’s needs. That’s a travesty. I love working with members. I love credit unions. But I feel we’re impeded from doing our job by all the regulations you have to follow today.”
Given the fact he dubs himself a workaholic, you might expect Alford to have a long list of activities to occupy him when he retires. But he’s pretty laid back about his plans. He and wife do plan to travel and visit their children as well as parts of the United States they haven’t seen. Alford is an avid fisherman, so he’ll probably spend some time pursuing that hobby. He also has some deferred chores on the house he wants to tackle. But overall, he simply wants to enjoy retirement and see what develops. He’s upbeat about the future of credit unions as leadership is turned over to a new generation in the coming years. “There are a remarkable number of people within the movement that are coming up and are capable,” Alford declares. “They probably have more skills, and they’re certainly more technologically advanced and savvy than I am. I also think they’re as dedicated as we were,” Alford declares.
“I do think it will be harder for credit unions to recruit those people because there is more opportunity out there. The job of managing a credit union is a hundred times more challenging than when I started.”
That means a lot more stress and a heavier workload, he continues. You’re actually on stage 24/7, 365 days a year. There is no place in town where somebody isn’t going to stop you and ask about something. It’s difficult, Alford says, and some people may not want to give up everything to take on the job.
“I think that’s going to be the toughest thing. How are CEOs going to be able to balance their personal lives and the demands of work?” Alford wonders.