CU Times recently caught up with four notable Trailblazers 40 Below honorees to learn what they've been doing since their articles were published.

Here's what they had to say about where their careers have taken them, their new goals for the future and their advice for other professionals.

Stacey Walker, Board Director, XCEL FCU

where are they now

If you're looking for Stacey Walker, board director for the $192 million XCEL Federal Credit Union in Bloomfield, N.J., there's a good chance you may find her doing exactly what she loves – advocating for credit unions while traveling the world.

Since being featured in a November 2012 Trailblazers 40 Below article, Walker has become more involved in advocacy work. The New Jersey resident has visited Capitol Hill in Washington a handful of times to advocate on behalf of credit unions.

She says it's important to her to show up, be present and have her voice heard regarding issues that affect the credit union movement as well as other movements that need her support. Walker said you can more easily make changes when you have solid policies and laws in place that can back you, and when you know who represents and supports you – as well as who doesn't and what you can do to get them to support you.

In 2013, Walker spent two weeks interning at a credit union in the Dominican Republic through the U.S. Department of State Professional Fellows Program. In 2014, she completed the National Credit Union Foundation's Development Education program. That same year, she traveled to Australia and in 2016 to Ireland – all on behalf of the credit union movement.

“The credit union movement and the credit union community are bigger than any political border,” Walker said.

“For me it's … not just about helping myself, but also helping people in my community. That's something that I'm still working on, because the world is so big. I want to learn more about what people do in other countries and bring those ideas back to the U.S. and my credit union,” she added.

As Walker marks her 11th year on the board for XCEL, she said all of these opportunities have presented themselves because she let her interests be known, and she encourages others to do the same. She said she loves to learn about other cultures and has combined that passion with her dedication to the credit union industry.

“Through my interest in credit unions and sharing my story, so many things have happened to me,” she said. “It's been great.”

Matt Davis, Owner/Founder, GameFI and Co-Owner/Co-Founder, 6th Story

where are they now

Matt Davis has always been an innovator. It's one of the main reasons he was chosen as CU Times' May 2012 Trailblazers 40 Below honoree.

As the previous director of innovation at the Filene Research Institute, one of the things Davis was responsible for was teaching credit union executives how to bring ideas to life.

So after a few years of helping others do this, Davis decided to take his own advice and leave Filene to create a company called gameFI.

According to its website, gameFI delivers fun, engaging and real-time performance feedback to employees and helps financial institutions optimize operational efficiency, employee retention and customer satisfaction.

Davis said he wanted to create gameFI because he cares deeply about keeping and retaining top talent in credit unions. He said he's concerned with what's happening in the economic environment and that the people who are going to paint the future for credit unions are leaving them.

“More than anything, what we care about is keeping talent here, and you do that by recognition and giving people the gift of focus,” Davis said. “[You should say,] here is the thing we expect out of you and here's what we're measuring you on, and that's what gameFI does.”

The results thus far are good. For example, one credit union saw 100% accuracy for employees balancing registers in a branch for two months, and another credit union saw more than a 200% increase of loan coverage sold on new loans originated by loan officers (over a baseline of 30%, sustained over six months), according to Davis. Davis added that he's excited about survey results from gameFI clients who said employees feel more recognized for the positive work they do.

“Those are the side effects of the gameFI system that really drive me,” he emphasized.

Right now the system is being used on three continents, including at eight credit unions in the U.S., seven of which have $1 billion or more in assets.

In 2013, Davis, along with his business partner Denis Wymore, co-founded 6th Story, a one-stop-shop for credit union speakers, consultants and thinkers. However, most of the day-to-day operations of the company are being run by Wymore, which allows Davis to focus the majority of his attention on gameFI.

Just like the gameFI platform, which promotes focus in one's job, Davis said he's tried to create that same type of focus in his life. He no longer tries to be an expert in every area of credit unions.

“What's happened in the last few years is the realization that it's unrealistic, that no one can know everything, but I can be an expert in gamification,” he said. “It's helped me with the work-life balance. I have a singular focus and it simplifies everything.”

Nathanael Tarwasokono, President/CEO, Firstmark CU

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