The CUInsight Experience podcast: Gigi Hyland – The art of giving a damn (#2)

"There's a lot of good that needs to be done in this world" - Gigi Hyland

Welcome to episode two of The CUInsight Experience podcast. Hosted by Randy Smith, co-founder and publisher of In each episode we have wide ranging conversations with thought leaders from around the credit union community. What issues are facing credit unions? What are they working on to help? What leadership lessons and life hacks have they learned along the way? What’s the greatest album of all time? These questions and more will be asked and answered.

The goal of The CUInsight Experience is to dive deeper with the people of the credit union community and find gems from their experiences that add value to all of us.

Our guest today is Gigi Hyland (@hylandhighway). Gigi is the executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation (The Foundation), recognized as the national charitable arm of America’s credit union movement.

Gigi brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role as the Executive Director at the Foundation. Gigi’s career in the credit union system spans 27 years – as an advocate, attorney, federal regulator and now, philanthropist. She inspires credit union professionals to collaborate and incorporate consumer financial health and cooperative principles into their business strategy. Read more about Gigi here.

Listen to the full episode or scroll all the way down past the short video and show notes to read the full transcript. You’ll find out why Gigi thinks we should all “give a damn.”

How to find Gigi:
Gigi Hyland, CUDE
Executive Director at the National Credit Union Foundation
Twitter | Linkedin

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Show notes from this episode:
New engagement department announced press release
Save the date for CU FinHealth19 (It’s in Vegas!)
Wegner Awards Dinner & Ticket information (Go buy one or a table! The CUInsight crew will be there too.)
Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) Program (All the cool kids are doing it.)
Book: Simon Sinek – Start with Why
CUAid: Uniting resources to help credit unions during disaster.
Health and Financial Well-being: Two good things that go better together. The case for credit union and health care collaboration. For more information, you can download the full brief here. (You will not be disappointed.)
Restaurant: Jaleo by Jose Andres
Restaurant: China Chilcano by Jose Andres
Restaurant: MiniBar by Jose Andres
The sushi bar Gigi mention on Maui: Koiso Shushi Bar (Ranks high on TripAdvisor. I’m ready to go.)
Favorite album of all-time: Neil Diamond – Hot August Night
Book: Paulette Jiles – News of the World
Book: E. Annie Proulx – The Shipping News

Find all past episodes of The CUInsight Experience here.

Full episode transcript:
Randy Smith: Welcome to the second episode of The CUInsight Experience. My name is Randy Smith. I am one of the co-founders and the publisher of My job on the show is to talk to the brightest and best from around credit union land. Find out what they’re doing to make the movement better. Pick their brains get us some little nuggets we can all learn from. Today’s show is no exception. I had the honor of sitting down with and I was so excited for this conversation with Gigi Hyland, the executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation, former NCUA board member and a life long credit union advocate. I knew this conversation was going to be interesting because of past interactions with Gigi, knowing that she has diverse interests.
Randy Smith: Today we talked about everything from what the foundation’s doing all year around, the upcoming Herb Wegner Dinner, both of us being DEs it’s something near and dear to our hearts. We then got into a topic that I found fascinating about credit unions and healthcare, it’s something that Gigi has a lot of experience with. From there, we moved into leadership and life hacks, things that we could really dig into to know Gigi a little better. Then wrapped the whole thing up with, a lot of people’s favorite part of the first show, the rapid fire questions, so stick around for that. Get to hear why Gigi thinks we should all give a damn. But without further ado, I give you Ms. Gigi Hyland.
Randy Smith: Gigi, welcome to the show. Thank you for being our second guest ever.

Gigi Hyland: Thank you, Randy. I appreciate the opportunity. It’s great to see you. Happy 2019.

Randy Smith: I’ve been very excited about this since we had the time to talk in December in California. I started doing a bunch of research for the podcast and was excited about seeing you. We need to get Gigi. So thank you very much. To jump right into the questions, we’ve worked with the foundation for quite some time and I was going through the mission statement. The idea that the foundation is a catalyst to improve people’s financial lives. So my question to you is what does that mean to you?

Gigi Hyland: I think the only thing that I would add is we’re a catalyst to improve people’s financial lives, but through credit unions. That’s the glue that holds it all together and it winds up being really three things. And I’m going to just use three words. So one is inspire, one is ignite and the other is respond. It’s really those three things. And what we mean by that is, you know, the inspiration part is to help people really understand what it means to be a credit union. What are these things called the cooperative principles and values? What does that even mean in 2019, what do I do to leverage those in my credit union, in the job I have, and to make my members’ lives better and my community better and ultimately healthier in the context of really broad sort of health and financial health.

Gigi Hyland: The ignite is all about igniting people’s passion around member’s financial health because that’s where it’s all at. Credit union DNA is all about serving members and if you understand where your members are and you can meet them where they are, that’s really where the road opens up to help them achieve their financial aspirations and so it’s helping people understand. Members may not be like they were 10 years ago. How do I get a handle on that? How do I understand that? And then how do I respond to it in a way that’s dignified appropriate for the member? Because you know Randy, you know don’t talk about religion, money, politics, and you know, talking about sex either generally in polite company, but you know the money part is a hard one for people. People don’t talk about money, so we inspire people to help their members talk about money and to do more for them. And then the response piece, that’s the one that people very viscerally understand and that’s CUAid. So when disaster happens, we harness cooperative generosity and the credit union system and we help our credit union family, wherever they are, get better from disaster, get back on their feet so they can go and serve the members that have been impacted by the disaster. We’re excited by that mission. We think there’s a lot to do. We do a lot in the credit union system, so it’s a good place to be.

Randy Smith: It reminds me, when you were talking about money being one of those uncomfortable topics. I grew up in Michigan and one of my first jobs out of college, in financial services, the sales manager said, my job is to break you up your midwestern values. You don’t ask people about money. He wasn’t from the Midwest and he said, everybody in the Midwest won’t talk about money. That’s my job to make sure you ask people about their money.

Randy Smith: Looking forward to 2019, I just recently saw the press release that you now have an engagement department, that’s exciting. If you’d like to talk a little bit more about that and is there anything specific for 2019 that you guys are working on it?

Gigi Hyland: We’re doing a couple of different things. One in that inspired category. A lot of demand for our development education program and we have four classes per year and we limit it deliberately because it’s about 42 to 46 people and there’s kind of magic in that number and that people really get to bond. They spend a week together, they build their network and adding more really doesn’t work to keep that secret sauce. What we’ve done is we’ve pulled materials from the curriculum to put things online. It’s a way for more credit unions to be exposed to this idea of what are the operating principles, how do I leverage them? What does that look like in 2019 in the reality when I have a member sitting in front of me or when we’re strategically as a credit union trying to decide what to do. Those materials, we hope, are going to be rolled out probably February ish before GAC and that will do it through CUNA CPD Online and then for those that aren’t on CPD online, we’ll offer them to the Foundation’s website. It’s a really great training tool for people to either do on their own or a training department at a credit union could use or could be an all staff day sort of discussion and training.

Gigi Hyland: Trying to respond to demand Randy is really what we’re trying to do. Trying to meet that demand, people have said that I really want more of my staff to hear this, to understand that, to learn about it and to be able to apply it in the credit union.

Gigi Hyland: That’s really exciting.

Gigi Hyland: On the ignite part, really that’s our engagement team. So in 2018 we decided not to continue doing what was the enhanced FISEP program, CUNA does FISEP, it’s a fabulous program, but we realized that we really needed more of our team to be multitasking and doing more and so Andy Johnson, who did our enhanced FISEP is now moving to the engagement team and Danielle Brown who has done a lot around BizKids, a lot of our programmatic work is also shifting that role to engagement and it’s not dissimilar to sort of CUNA’s engagement team and that we really want to be there for credit unions to hear what they need and to see how we can be responsive to that. Because I think the value of the foundation is, we have a lot of connections around the credit union system and outside of the credit union system. And how can we help credit unions really thrive to effectuate that mission of improving people’s financial lives. Danielle and Andy are going to be on the road a lot, doing a lot of talking, a lot of speaking and, it should be good. We’re looking forward to that. I think also doing in-person, leveraging the credit in difference sessions, the credit union says, we really want you to come in person to do that. We’re all over that and we’re available, so give us a ring.

Randy Smith: That’s a cool new thing. I’m sure it’s going to make a lot of people want to go through DE as well afterwards.

Gigi Hyland: All good things come in threes, so the third priority as we continue to focus on financial health and we have a conference that we do CU FinHealth now. We do it in collaboration with Balance, with the California Nevada Credit Union Leagues and it’s really meant to have people who practice whether they’re community relations people, CFOs come to this conference to really learn what can you do more to put member financial health at the center of your strategy. What does it look like to operationalize it? What does it look like to use it in your advocacy conversations? And so we’re really doubling down on kind of everything we do on financial health because it’s a really big issue nationally. You have a lot of different players outside of the credit union system talking about how do we link things like health, physical health and financial health, how do we build healthier communities overall, how do we create collaboration among different nonprofits and different organizations that are all trying to serve Gigi Hyland consumer, but how do we make sure that that all is really synergistic, we’re doing a lot of work in that area. You’ll probably see a lot more writing from us and a lot more thought leadership from us on that to get people into that area. So yeah, those are the three biggies for us.

Randy Smith: Okay. There’s so much to unpack there and I’m going to jump into a few things just really quick. The conference, is that something that people outside of California can also go to?

Gigi Hyland: Yeah, it’s a nationwide conference, so if folks go to our website, they’ll see it and CU FinHealth. It’s in April, April 24th through 26th in Vegas, which is kind of ironic when you’re talking about financial health, but it works. It’s a convenient place.

Randy Smith: We’ll link to everything in the post below so that people don’t have to take notes.

Gigi Hyland: That’s awesome. We’ll be opening up registration probably at the end of this month for that. So we’re finalizing the agenda and that should be ready, but at least people can do a save the date and lock it down on their calendar if they want to come.

Randy Smith: A few different things I wanted to jump into, some we’ve hit on some we haven’t, but just a little bit more of a deep dive. First GAC is right around the corner. So we’ve got the National Credit Union Foundation awards dinner, the Herb Wegner’s, for people who haven’t been. What is this?

Gigi Hyland: This ain’t your great grandma’s awards dinner. A lot of people have been in the credit union system for a long time, and they may remember going to this dinner 10 years ago and it may have been a painful experience, or not, but typically when you say awards dinner, people are like, oh. So this is a really big party. If you want to be inspired, if you want to meet all the people who are the movers and shakers in the credit union system, you got to be there on Monday night. First of all, it’s a glamorous event. Everybody gussies up, some people call it the credit union prom. You will not hear me call it that. I prefer to call it the Academy Awards for credit unions and it’s a great place where we truly celebrate leaders and organizations in the system that have gone above and beyond to really live and breathe those cooperative principles and to really focus in on improving people’s financial lives and also inspiring others to do so. This year we’ve got three. We always have amazing winners, but this year we have three amazing winners. We have Crystal Long down from El Paso and Diana Dykstra from the California Nevada Credit Union Leagues and then Nusenda credit union from New Mexico and it’s going to be a great night. We’re also honoring Brett Martinez with a fairly rare Anchor award for all of his leadership around the California wildfires. So you gotta be there or be square is the short summary of that, Randy,

Randy Smith: I’ll tell you, I am with you, the first time I went, I think it was about 10 years ago and in the last few years, it’s been amazing. It’s just such a different experience. Is there a favorite moment in the last few years since you’ve been running the show from awards night?

Gigi Hyland: It was pretty awesome last year to bring Moziah Bridges, our BizKids I mean he stole the show. I kind of feel bad for them for 2018 because Moziah was definitely the star of the show. He is such an amazing guy, to walk up to be on the main stage of GAC with him right before President Bush and have him being cool, calm, collected, and then to have so much fun with them at the Wegner dinner was really, it was just a joyous moment and you know, it gives you a lot of hope for the future when you see somebody like that and he’s just got it going on. So that was a great moment.

Randy Smith: I’m going to move on, we will have links for everybody down below. Again for tickets. Everybody should come. It’s awesome. Come take selfies with us. I’d like to talk a little bit about DE, we both mentioned earlier that we were DEs. There’s that tough question. How do you explain DE to somebody who has no idea what it is? I went through in 2015. David from CUInside went through it last year. I think Danielle and I are actually both going to Africa this summer. It’s one of those things that just kind of gets in you. But I personally have found it hard to explain how it’s so beneficial and life changing. As an individual, do you have a better version of explaining it than I do?

Gigi Hyland: I don’t know if I do Randy, but I’m a big believer in Simon Sinek premise that you always have to start with why. And I think DE gets to the why. And so a lot of us at our credit union careers or otherwise, you know, we get the job, do the job, do the job well, but oftentimes we don’t think of the why am I doing this? Why am I bringing the gifts that I have here and using them here. And I think DE answers that question and I say that because, there’s some DEs that graduated who went back to wherever they were working and said, you know what, this is not the right place for me. I need to do something that aligns with what I just learned. And there are many other DEs who really moved through career credit unions because they went through DE, I’m one of them. Certainly. I mean, I’ve told this to, to the main stage GAC, I don’t think I ever would have been on the NCUA board without being a DE because of my passion and love and understanding of the difference credit unions can really make in members’ lives and in communities. And so I think it’s. My short answer would be it answers the why. If you don’t know why. If you ddon’t know why, DE answers the why.

Randy Smith: You answered the question, I was thinking about. Is that what you hope for people when they sign up and they go through that week long program? Is that the why is answered when they complete it?

Gigi Hyland: That’s my personal answer to that. I’m not sure if Chad, Chad, who’s our director of DE, he would answer it differently, but that’s my personal answer because I’ve heard so many people say, oh my gosh, I’ve been in the credit union system for 10 years and I never got it, and now I get it. That’s why I come back. It’s why I come back to the light, that I think that that’s the right way to express it.

Randy Smith: When I went through DE, I thought it was amazing. There was a father and son in the class, the father was a CEO of a credit union. They were at different tables, nobody knew they were father and son. He was 30 years plus and the son was a few years and to watch the different experiences and to see the father actually like break down afterwards and say I needed, he’s obviously loved credit unions, but he just said it revitalized him. Amazing experience. Are there any changes? You mentioned Chad, so there’s been a transition in leadership at DE after many years with Lois. Is there anything new coming that we can be excited about?

Gigi Hyland: There’s not anything coming programmatically. I say that with an and attached to it is that DE is very much a living, breathing things. So the experience I had a DE is a, it’s a very different training now than what I went through and yet the qualities are still there. We’re always kind of tweaking and learning from every class to make the next class better and better and better. So I say, no major change but it’s, that’s not a lie outright, but it’s, we’re always kind of tweaking around the edges and learning. So it always subtly, subtly shifts a little bit as as we move through, but for the most part, you know, kind of same.

Randy Smith: What’s working, what has worked actually. So to move to CUAid briefly. There seems like there’s been a lot of disasters the last couple of years. When it’s activated, how do those dollars raised get to the credit union community that needs them in a timely way?

Gigi Hyland: Yeah. So you’re right, disaster seem to be more of a regular occurrence than not. And the way CUAid works is we work very, very closely with the state credit union league that happens to be on the ground wherever the disaster is happening. To really have a conversation with them around what are you seeing? What’s the magnitude of devastation? What do you need? How many credit union employees or volunteers do you think are affected? And this always sounds weird to say, Randy, is it a disaster big enough to merit doing a nationwide call for funds? So what we try to do and CUAid is we try to have a general account which is sort of your emergency fund, your buffer account. So for those disasters that may not merit literally doing a nationwide call, we still have money that can respond. Because you know, a disaster is obviously very individual and so for 10 families that lose their home because of a flood, that’s $20,000 for those 10 families, that still is huge for them. We typically try to have that conversation with the league and in the last several cases obviously the disastrous have been enough magnitude to really merit opening up CUAid. And certainly hurricane Michael is the most recent example of that. As is the earthquake in Alaska. And let me talk about that. They’re a little different and they give you a good case studies of the difference. So in Florida obviously there is the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and so we collaborated with them in terms of what that need might be. And when they said, Yup, this is a big one and we need to open up, CUAid, we did that and we opened up a fund specifically designated for Hurricane Michael Relief and so people could donate and that money would be specified directly for that specific disaster and it would go to that specific disaster. In the case of the Alaska earthquake, because of the population of Alaska and a lot of that damage being in Anchorage, but also beyond anchorage where there aren’t as many. There’s not as much human habitation. While the devastation was still big, there were less credit union employees affected, so we worked very closely with Alaska USA and really coordinated and sent out grant forms to all of the CEOs in and around the Anchorage area so that if they saw employees that needed relief funds, then they could simply fill out that request and send it back to us. And that’s a really good example of, we already had reserved money over here that could be applied for the earthquake and for the damage for those particular employees. It kind of flows depending upon what the disaster is and what the need is, but most importantly there’s a lot of collaboration and conversation with the state credit union league and normally the state credit union foundation so that we’re in lock step and what we do is we distribute the bulk of the money to the league and then the league or the foundation manages the individual requests that CEOs would submit for their particular employees or volunteers and all of that is rolled up for us to make sure that everything is appropriate and can be audited and all that good stuff in that donor’s money, most importantly, the donor’s money is being used for what they intended to be used for.

Randy Smith: It sounds like partnering with the league system that you can get the money there quick. I wanted to talk about your white paper. I will tell you, I think we could do an entire show on it. Your white paper on health and financial wellbeing. I thought it was awesome. Well done. I do have to ask, what was it like working with your husband on a project like this? Seems like amazing or something.

Gigi Hyland: Actually it was an awesome experience, and I have to go back 20 years. I fell in love with my husband because I started working with him. So my husband, Christopher, use to be a lobbyist at the New York State Credit Union League. And at the time I was with CUNA and I was the in house counsel for CULAC, for the pack, and so he and I would talk a lot about, how he could raise money and how we couldn’t raise money and we fell in love and the rest is history, all that good stuff. So I had had a chance to actually to work with Chris for many years previously. And this paper came up because Chris’ background was recently really is in the healthcare field. He was working for a children’s hospital as the federal lobbyists for a healthcare system out of Delaware and out of Orlando, Florida. As we had conversations at the dinner table I would talk to him about this burgeoning field of financial health and what that meant. And this translation from financial literacy to really, really much more wholistic financial help. And similarly he was saying that was also the journey that was happening in the healthcare side of the world, obviously after the affordable care act and as payers really force, and I use the word forced but forced institutions to really look at what are you charging and is that really valued based for the patient and that dynamic of having healthcare systems have to justify how much they’re charging for particular things. And also I think the healthcare system realizing that many of the things that are imminently arguably preventable, whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, oftentimes are caused by things outside of the four walls of the hospital and of the clinic. And so healthcare really has moved out of those four walls and are looking at the technical term or the social determinants of health. Meaning, you know, does Gigi Hyland have enough food and access to good quality food? So that was going in her is keeping her healthy or is she eating Cheetos and Oreos all day long? Is she living in a house or an apartment that is safe and does she have access to transportation? So sort of all of those things. And as we had that conversation, we kept kind of having this Aha moment of wow, there’s so much alignment here. And so, I finally, we finally kind of looked at each other and just said, you know, we’ve got to start putting this down on paper and if nothing else, just so we can just have it on paper. And so it wound up being that brief and as we talked about it, we really thought that there could be a model for credit unions to spearhead and lead the way in kind of bridging that conversation with healthcare systems to start that dialogue of collaboration. And so we proposed a model for that and now the just is, can we get credit unions to help us test that model? What works, what doesn’t work, what are some case studies that we can bring to the rest of the credit union system to say, hey, here’s an idea and you may want to look at it and see if it might work in your community. It’s really been a fun effort. We’ve had a lot of feedback, interestingly, outside of the credit union system, from funders, from nonprofits, from others that are working in this area. So there’s a great deal of interest to have credit unions be part of this dialogue. So now I’m kind of, I’m looking behind my shoulder Randy going, all right credit unions, come on with me.

Randy Smith: I’d love to circle back to that on what the next step is for credit union or for how to get credit unions motivated? There were a few terms in it that I wanted to throw out there. The first was behavioral economics. That seems to be, I’d say a hot term. It’s one of those terms you’re reading about more. At least I’ve been reading and hearing more about it. So it seems to be gaining interest. Could you explain what behavioral economics

Gigi Hyland: It’s always dangerous to have a lawyer explain economic terms, so I’ll explain it in the way I understand it, which is, if you think of sometimes why people do things which seem either, you know, stupid, dumb, insane with their money, behavioral economics tries to explain why would people behave in a certain way with their own finances that may seem adverse to their wellbeing and their health and what’s driving that. So it’s not a particularly artful definition that I just gave you. It’s trying to link the human factor and the emotion of money with what people actually do and the decisions they make and deferment of decisions that they make and how is all that linked together and how can we explain that better in order to be able to take actions that can really help people ultimately.

Randy Smith: There was a term, and I think this ties into it that I remember underlining when I was reading it. It was financial toxicity. That one I just kept thinking, wow, that’s a great term. Could you explain more about what that is?

Gigi Hyland: In the paper we cite an example which was a lady Janet, 67 years old who had metastatic breast cancer and as she was being treated for that, the cost of that wasn’t fully paid by insurance, as it normally isn’t, and so her medical debts, every month was increasing exponentially so that basically the end of her treatment, she had about $100,000 worth of medical debt and the toxicity part comes in because that amount of debt or that amount of commitment, to getting better from a really serious illness has huge implications of what you do with the rest of your life. So the toxicity is that it literally, like, it kind of eats away at. No, we can’t go to the movies. No, we can’t go on a vacation. No, we can’t go out to eat because our focus of our life is trying to figure out how to get out from this burden of debt. And so that’s where the toxicity piece comes in is that, you know, oh my gosh, I have an illness uncovered by insurance. Well, yes, and you may have a really significant medical debt depending upon what the illness is and what the treatments are. That’s the term that was coined as part of that description is financial toxicity.

Randy Smith: This was something that I was thinking about. We talked a lot about financial literacy obviously in our space, and I noticed you used the term health literacy in the paper as well. How do those two play together? I mean, is that what you were just talking with the financial toxicity? The one can actually affects the other and vice versa?

Gigi Hyland: They certainly can. There was a focus group that was done in Rochester, New York and one of the participants answered, if you want to lower my blood pressure, help me pay my electricity bill. So kind of this recognition that people are, when they are stressed financially, that definitely has physical manifestations, but also has manifestations at work, it has implications for employers and how their employees are dealing with or trying to manage financial issues that they might have going on at home. And how much time is spent away from working because day in and day out, those employees are trying to figure out how they keep their finances on an even keel. And so I think that the issue is how do you, when people come in the door and say, I have an issue, I have diabetes, again, the healthcare system is really saying, yeah, we can treat that with insulin and we can probably manage it the right way, but how do we help you prevent it? How do we help get at the root cause of the issue versus spending all this money on treating you once something has happened. And so that’s where this kind of looking around your community and saying, oh my gosh, this person lives in a place that’s a food desert and they have no access to healthy fruits and vegetables and things that would keep their diabetes in check. Rather, they’re always eating at either fast food or picking up stuff from a fast food store. And that’s not helping them at all. There was a really interesting funding opportunity that I believe Cobank did in Georgia I think last year and they funded a tablets like ipads for women ages I think 40 to 65 who had diabetes and gave them Internet access to track their diabetes to actually be able to track it and to have access to telemedicine to be able to talk to a doctor any time of day on the decisions they were making, the results of that were that those women were able to completely control their diabetes with the access and the information and the ability to communicate with doctors 400 miles away, but have access to that. I’m in control of my life. I can have access to people who can help me make the right decisions around my health. So just one example.

Randy Smith: To circle back on this, and we’ll link to the brief, A lot of times that first step is the toughest, how do you get credit unions to take that first step?

Gigi Hyland: I think the first thing is, do you have a relationship with a healthcare system as part of your field of membership? One example that we listed in the paper was Bethpage. And Bethpage is not chartered to be a health care credit union and yet it has Northwell Health as part of its field of membership. And there’s a lot of conversation, and action taking place around, when there’s a health fair, can we also have a financial health fair partnered with that? Just one example. There are other examples listed in the paper of credit unions that really have strategically partnered with the healthcare system to bring this combination of health and financial wellbeing together in the same place. It’s really easy for consumers to do both of those things in a place that’s comfortable and that kind of meets them where they are in life. There are a lot of credit unions that are healthcare related credit unions that started because they were a hospital system and in the paper we suggest a couple of things. Can you start a dialogue with the CFO or the CEO’s office to say, can we be more than just an HR benefit to your employees? How do we try to help you deal with this issue of the value proposition for consumers and really making sure that the community as a whole is is healthier in the broadest definition of healthy, that everybody has the ability to really choose his or her life in a way that’s as healthy as possible, so a lot of the times, Randy, and it sounds so ridiculously simple, a lot of it is picking up the phone and making that call and talking to somebody who may not have talked to before and it starting the dialogue. Because credit unions have their own language, let’s say it’s Mandarin Chinese and healthcare systems speak French and the translation has got to happen, but it happens because people have the courage to say, let’s start a dialogue on this.

Randy Smith: I recommend everybody reads it. Like I said, it made me think a lot.

Gigi Hyland: Thank you. Thank you. A lot more work to come, but it’s. It’s all good. It’s just starting on the first brick of the yellow brick road.

Randy Smith: I look forward to seeing where it goes. That’s for sure. I’d like to switch gears here. Take a turn and we’ll get into the second part of this. While I was doing a little bit of research and scouring the interwebs for information about you, I noticed in your bio that you grew up overseas. Where did you grow up?

Gigi Hyland: So my dad was in the air force. He was an attorney with the air force and work for the Jag office and when he and my mom were first married, they were stationed over in Normandy, France and I was born at the air force base in Germany, but live the first two and a half to three years of my life in Normandy. French was my first language. Then came back to a Puerto Rican grandmother, my mom’s mom and then learn Spanish. And then finally I think I kind of speak English but not as well as maybe the other two. But yeah, so I had a chance to have at least the first few years of my life be overseas and my parents made really good friends with a French couple and their two sons are my age and they’re really my brothers, but from a different mother, they’re really family to me. So it was a very cool experience. I feel very blessed.

Randy Smith: I know that you’re a foodie. So is that where the food background comes from?

Gigi Hyland: You know, if I showed you pictures of myself as a baby, there’s no doubt to that question because I was a little porker as a child.

Randy Smith: French and Puerto Rican food, both delicious.

Gigi Hyland: Yes. All good. It’s all good.

Randy Smith: Any recommendations when everybody heads to DC for a restaurant?

Gigi Hyland: Well, you know, our celebrity chef Jose Andres, not only because he’s a fabulous cook, but because he’s very much a humanitarian, so any Jose Andres restaurant that you pick is going to be awesome. Whether it’s Jeleo or China Chilcano or MiniBar, go to a Jose Andreas restaurant.

Randy Smith: Do you think growing up overseas, I mean obviously your family spent quite a bit of time with your father being in the air force overseas, how did that shape you, an obviously I think it would have to, but also maybe your career path?

Gigi Hyland: It shaped me in that I just, I love, I love being an American and I love to live in the United States, but I love to experience other cultures. I love to see how other people do things, what they’re passionate about, things that seem sort of natural to us are completely foreign to them and vice versa. I love to see how other people live and do and what brings them joy. So I really, I love, I love to travel overseas and an experience that. I know that know that that’s close to your heart as well. So for me that just, I’m perpetually curious. I’m like, I’m kinda like a crow or raven. I’m a birder too. So that’s probably a good analogy, but I’m perpetually curious about how people think about things and what drives them. So I think that’s probably how it affected me.

Randy Smith: Let me ask you this, do you have a favorite experience that combines, maybe not all three, but do you have a favorite food? Favorite travel experiences?

Gigi Hyland: Let’s see. Favorite food experience? There is a tiny little Sushi restaurant in Kihei, Maui with a sushi chef that has been there for about 40 years, Koiso Sushi, and that was probably one of my most amazing experiences because it is the best sushi I’ve ever had. I will send it to you because I know you want to go. That that’s pretty awesome. Bird experience. Oh my goodness. I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya many years ago, probably about 30 years ago now. And I did get a chance to go on safari and I remember, you know, we were looking for obviously all the big beasties, but one day we didn’t, we weren’t successful finding them and we started to see all these birds and it was just mind boggling. The beauty of the variety of all of the birds that you see in Kenya. And I’m sure I’m sure other places, but just so loaded and I just had a great time seeing all the things that I would never see here in the United States.

Randy Smith: That’s what travel does for us. Right?

Gigi Hyland: Exactly. Exactly.

Randy Smith: I had this very interesting question asked to be at a wedding of all places. I was introduced to a woman in the way I was introduced was, Randy loves to travel, you like to travel, go talk. That type of a thing. Somehow in it the question was what makes you feel alive? And she’s said is it travel? And I spent months thinking about that after, this woman has no idea how much this question sat with me for years actually now, but that idea of the experience that you only get from it was really what I dug down into it. It’s not the actual act of traveling, but that idea of like what you were just sharing, you were there for a safari. It became a birding trip. Right. And that’s an experience you wouldn’t have had if you weren’t there.

Gigi Hyland: Exactly right.

Randy Smith: When you think about credit unions, your career in credit unions. Was there something that did inspire you to take this career path and has that inspiration changed over the years?

Gigi Hyland: My parents were lawyers and I grew up at the dinner table, swearing I would never be on the layer and I am living proof that have never say never. I graduated with a degree in comparative literature and then I looked around and realized, well, there’s not a lot you can do with in comparative literature. So I went to law school really more from the business perspective of it and I wound up falling in love with the law and I really, because of my language ability, I really wanted to do international law and when I tried to do that, the 1991 recession hit and nobody was hiring in international law. So I wound up going into my parents law firm and you know, for the hand of fate, their law firm, really primarily credit unions because my dad had worked at CUNA in the early seventies and so that’s how I got into credit unions and I wound up falling in love working with credit unions, mostly because the people are so amazing and you build lifelong friendships by being in credit unions and so that I guess I got hooked on credit unions and then certainly going through DE and all of the other experiences I’ve had have just reinforced that.

Randy Smith: Is there a line that your team has heard you say so many times they could finish your sentence?

Gigi Hyland: I say it’s all good a lot. It’s meant to be more empowering of my staff that, you know, we all, we always face challenges in, in a career and you know, sometimes things work and sometimes don’t. I think just recognizing how you learn from, from things and that, you know, it’s all good. There’s no atomic bomb going off. There are no poor children dying and it’s, it’s all relative. I think my perspective is that, how do you categorize this in terms of seriousness and really if those other two things aren’t happening, it’s probably. It’s all good.

Randy Smith: Speaking of that, is there anything that you do when you’re faced with a challenge to work through it or come at it from a different angle?

Gigi Hyland: I have to be outside Randy. I have to be in nature. Nature is what restores me. Nature is what gives, gives me balance, so when I’m trying to work through a problem I just know I have to get outside for a little bit and spend some time outside and not think about it for awhile, but breathe some fresh air and walk to your point, just be, be in a place where I can be restored by things that are not technology or people and just kind of get that, get that energy back in that creativity bag because that’s that’s kind of what it is, is your creativity just fizzles out and so that’s for me, that brings it back.

Randy Smith: This is one that I’ve found interesting and I’ll tell you, this question comes from, CUInsight just celebrated 10 years, one of the things that we’ve been looking at a lot, I would even say that I’ve struggled with some is that idea of keeping the message fresh, not only for me personally with my team and I would ask you with your team, how do you keep your message fresh as a leader but also to the greater credit union community?

Gigi Hyland: That’s particularly appropriate now because we just did our strategic planning for 2019 and 2020. We really put everything on the table. We didn’t assume anything. We didn’t assume that what we’re working on should continue to be what we worked on, but you know, time and time again, we came back to where we think we provide value in the credit union system that’s different from what other entities and other organizations provide. And we came back to those three things that I talked about. You know, the inspire, ignite and respond. And I think for us as Foundation staff, we’re really intrigued by describing what credit unions do in improving member’s financial health through this lens that the rest of the world is now using, through this conversation around social determinants of health and health equity and you know, describing a way that is not left and it’s not right. It’s what everybody’s talking about. It’s how do we make people healthier in the broad scheme of things and how do we make communities stronger and allow them to thrive and be and be healthy. And so I think that’s really intriguing to us. And for us, that’s really new language that we can bring to the credit union system to maybe break that cycle of, you know, and it’s not meant to be derogatory that, you know, we’re volunteer driven and member owned, which is all true and it’s all good, but for people who don’t understand that lexicon, who don’t understand that Mandarin Chinese, how do you translate it into the speak that currently is happening in the world? And so I think the Foundation has a real opportunity to do that. I think that for us that’s really energizing because that is a new quote unquote spin on what we’re talking about and how we’re talking about it.

Randy Smith: Is that something you have done often, like in your strategic planning or is it something where you like as an organization you looked at it and said, we need to modernize whatever term you want to use for this? Right, because things do change the way people talk, the way we communicate, all of that.

Gigi Hyland: I would recommend doing it regularly. When I first came on board, we did a strategic planning session and one of the questions we asked is should the Foundation still be around? Is it needed in the credit union system? Obviously I’m sitting here today five years later the answer was, yes, but I think we ask that question again. In this strategic planning, and we asked how do we bring to life again, what we do in a way that really gets people’s attention? So I think it’s good to ask on a regular basis to make sure that you’re staying relevant and that you’re responding if you believe you’re providing value to check in and make sure you’re continuing to provide that value.

Randy Smith: Good stuff. All right, so I’d like to leave that there and I want to be respectful of your time. Some rapid fire questions. Do you have anything in your daily routine where you just feel off if you don’t do it?

Gigi Hyland: Yeah, I have to work out in the morning. I can’t work out in the afternoon. I have to get up and I have to work out and get the blood moving and that can be as simple as a walk or it can be weightlifting or whatever it is, but I have to move in the morning because that’s a great set for my mind for the rest of the day.

Randy Smith: Next one, if you’re stranded on a desert island, what’s the one album, your favorite album of all time front to back?

Gigi Hyland: Oh, so easy. Hot August Night. The first one by Neil Diamond, whatever it was, 1971. I can sing every song of that album and my husband who is a Rush fan, my beloved Chris, he’s a Rush fan. Probably 10 years ago, his birthday present to me was to take us to Neil D,iamond concert that was here in DC and the funny part Randy was at 20 minutes before the show, the voice of God comes on and says, Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Diamond will be on a stage in 20 minutes and you saw everybody with their walkers and their canes head to the restroom and they all came back and then he opened up with the first song off a Hot August Night, which is Crunchy Granola Suite, which of course, I knew from the like the second beat and all the other ladies, older ladies, we all knew it and we all stood up and acted like teenagers and it was awesome.

Randy Smith: I love it. I love it. Do you have a favorite book over time that you’ve either gifted people or that you recommend that everybody should read?

Gigi Hyland: Okay, so that is like the most impossible question because I too am a really. I’m a big reader. I just, I love to inhale books, particularly this time of year when it’s cold outside and it gets dark early. You can really just go through a lot of books. Um, you know, they’re, they’re just, oh my gosh, Randy, I thought and thought about that question and it’s really hard. So I’ll go with a couple that I, that I read recently. I just read News of the World, which is a very short book, and it’s about this wonderful gentleman who’s charged with taking a Kiawah Indian who was a young girl kidnapped by the Indians back to your home in San Antonio, and it’s a short book, but it’s beautifully, beautifully written. So I would recommend that. And then what’s really good to read in the winter time is a book called the Shipping News. It’s kind of a dark dreary book, but it’s an awesome, awesome book. Oh my God, I could, I could go on and on and on and on because I love to read. So it’s very hard to come up with one

Randy Smith: We will link to those as well. Now here’s a question that I didn’t send you because I wanted it to be on the spot. When you hear the word success, who was the first person you think of and why?

Gigi Hyland: I think of my mother, my mother for many reasons, but she came to the United States from Puerto Rico. Her family lost their sugarcane plantation twice in different hurricanes and her parents brought her and her sister here because they wanted their girls to have education. My mom went to the University of Miami. Then she went to Georgetown Law School in the mid fifties when there were only three women at Georgetown law school and she wound up, she met my dad there, she wound up not graduating because her dad got really sick and he needed care and she went back in the 1970’s back to Georgetown and got her law degree. And so she has always been my inspiration. I love my dad. I’m a lot like my dad. I’m also a lot like my mom. But my mom was a person to whom anyone could talk to and she could have an immediate emotional connection with that person. And I remember at her funeral there’s so many people coming up to me who had met her just briefly and said, oh my gosh, what a difference she made in my life. So I think of her often. I miss her terribly. She has been gone now 19 years. Um, but she, she is always my inspiration. I always think she is with me and she would be my champion, if you will, in terms of my hero.

Randy Smith: I love that. So great. A beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

Gigi Hyland: Thank you for asking.

Randy Smith: One last question then we’ll wrap it all up. Has anything become more important to you as your career has went on? Is there anything that has become less?

Gigi Hyland: Yeah. So Randy, the weakest muscle in my body is my patiences muscle and I would tell my 25 year old self, girlfriend, you’ve got to keep working on that muscle because it ain’t as strong as you think it is. Continuing to work on patience and just letting life flow, but being patient not only with people with situations and just you know that that’s certainly one of my constant things that I work on. Shall we say.

Randy Smith: Last and final question, do you have any asks of the people that are listening? Any final thoughts that you have? Twitter? Email? Best way if people have more questions for you to get a hold of you?

Gigi Hyland: The best place to get a hold of me is via email or just give me a ring on my cell phone. It’s listed on my, on my email account. Last words of, i don’t know if they’re wisdom or not, but give a damn. Give a damn. There’s a lot of good that needs to be done in this world and pay attention and do something about it because everybody has an amazing skill to bring, but you got to take the action to do it and don’t be afraid because there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Randy Smith: I love it! That seems like the perfect place to end. So Gigi again, thank you very much for being on our second ever show and it’s been so much fun. I can’t wait to see you at GAC.

Gigi Hyland: That sounds great. Thank you for the opportunity, Randy. Always great to talk to you. I really appreciate it and look forward to seeing you at GAC as well.

Randy Smith: Thank you, Gigi.

Randall Smith

Randall Smith

Randall Smith is the co-founder of, the host of The CUInsight Experience podcast, and a bit of a wanderlust. As one of the co-founders of CUInsight he looks ... Web: Details