Now what, emerging leaders? Life after CUNA Management School

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of teaching Strategic Marketing to 3rd year students at CUNA Management School at the University of Wisconsin, Go Badgers! I think this is my 7th year teaching (minus the COVID year) and it is truly one of the highlights of my year.

I graduated from Western CUNA Management School in 1991. Go Nus! I was 27 years old when the CEO of Portland Teachers Credit Union (now OnPoint) hand picked me to attend. I was only a Share Draft Coordinator at the time but he saw potential in me and my future. Up until then, only senior management folks were sent to Madison. I loved my time at Pomona College and will forever be grateful to John Beckwith for sending me.

Shortly after I graduated I moved on to the Oregon Credit Union League where I met my mentor Sarah Bang. Was my boss at PTCU angry? Heck no. They didn’t expect to keep me forever, and as long as I stayed in the movement, that was all that mattered.

Small credit unions and succession planning

One of the main reasons small credit unions decide to merge today is lack of succession planning or they are just unable to recruit a new CEO. We have two small credit unions at risk in New Mexico as I write this. They are both extremely healthy, serve a common bond in a very remote area and if their CU were to go away it would create a bank desert. So how do we fix this?

One solution is encouraging CUNA School graduates to join the Emerging Credit Union Leaders Council.

Last month I met the founder of ECULC, Hector Martin. Hector graduated from WCMS during COVID (Class of 2020). He told me that after graduation, he had a now what? moment, and since the shut down provided him with some free time, decided he wanted to give back to the movement. The mission of the ECULC is to Keep Talent in the Movement.

I recently attended one of their monthly virtual meetings. The guest speaker was Gary Perez, CEO of USC Credit Union. He shared his amazing story, acknowledging his mentors, and gave advice to these young professionals on how to achieve their personal and professional goals. It felt very much like a good old fashioned chapter meeting. Those meetings in Oregon early on in my career provided me with an amazing network, got me two jobs and I will never forget hearing Carol Schillios speak! I remember thinking “I want to be like Carol when I grow up.”

The in-person chapter meetings are pretty much non-existent in most states. So how do  emerging leaders get the opportunity to grow, to build their network, to learn? I heard recently that about 25% of the Crashers end up leaving the credit union movement. Why? They don’t see a career path. And yet it doesn’t have to be this way.

The ECULC is open to anyone in the nation that wants to network, learn, grow and stay in the movement. By joining ECULC you will receive access to opportunities that will develop your skills and guide you as a credit union leader. Here are the benefits of membership:

  • Networking opportunities with the CU movement
  • Learn CU topics from experts in the industry
  • Opportunity to collaborate with CU professionals and
  • Scholarship opportunities to attend CU Conferences

To learn more about this amazing volunteer, grassroots organization contact Hector Martin at

Denise Wymore

Denise Wymore

Denise started her credit union career over 30 years ago as a Teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon. She moved up and around the org. chart ... Web: Details