The CUInsight Experience podcast: Maria Martinez – Finding the way to yes (#7)

"If you do good, good comes back to you" - Maria Martinez

Welcome to episode seven of The CUInsight Experience podcast. Hosted by Randy Smith, co-founder and publisher of Our guest this week is Maria Martinez. Maria is the president and CEO of Border Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Del Rio, TX, serving 13 Texas counties. Maria is currently on the CUNA Board of Directors and a proud Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE). She has been in the credit union industry for over 28 years, 20 of those years as BFCU’s President/CEO. You really need to check out Maria’s bio to see the depth of her passion for credit unions. The best one I found is here (you’ll notice there’s not enough page for her accomplishments if you scroll to the bottom).

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. 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.

In this episode we discuss the path Maria took to get where she is today. How serving the underserved and hispanic community has been a lifelong passion. We also touched on the importance of Border FCU in the community. Our conversation about engaging and educating young people was the perfect lead in to the leadership and life hacks section of the show. And as always we wrapped it up with the rapid fire questions to get to know Maria a little more.

Listen to the full episode and check out below for the show notes and to read the full transcript. This was a fun conversation. If you listen all the way through you’ll find out why Maria wishes she could clone herself and why her husband may be against it. I really enjoyed recording this episode. I hope you enjoy listening to it too.

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How to find Maria:
Maria Martinez
President and CEO of Border Federal Credit Union
Twitter | Linkedin

Show notes from this episode:
Network of Latino Credit Unions & Professionals Annual Networking Reception at GAC
White paper: Achieving Latino Mobility by Scott Astrada and Gwyn Hicks
Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) program (Maria and I are both DEs. You should be too.)
Maria’s 2017 Foundation Wegner Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement video
Come hang out with Maria and I at this year’s NCUF Dinner presenting the Herb Wegner Awards
Make sure to read Maria’s full bio here (couldn’t even scratch the surface of her accomplishments)
Favorite album of all-time: Michael Buble – It’s Time
Book mentioned: Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

Find all past episodes of The CUInsight Experience here.

Full episode transcript:
Randy Smith: Hello boys and girls of credit union land and welcome to this seventh episode of The CUInsight experience. My name is Randy Smith. I am one of the co-founders and the publisher of and it’s my job on the show to have conversations with the best and the brightest from around the credit union community to pick their brains and hopefully find a few nuggets that we can all learn from. My guest today is Maria Martinez. She is the president and CEO of Border Federal Credit Union. I was looking forward to this conversation with Maria. I’ve watched from afar at all the great work she’s been doing around credit unions, but we really had never had that chance to meet and have an in depth conversation, so that’s what we’re going to do on the show today. When I was asking people who I should have as a guest on the podcast over and over and over again I kept hearing Maria’s name, so I was very thankful that she agreed to be on the show with how busy her schedule is. We talked about a wide range and it doesn’t really even scratch the surface of her accomplishments, so make sure you do check out her bio. We talked about Maria’s path that she’s taken to get where she is today. We talked about the credit union serving the underserved and her work in the Hispanic market. We talked about mentoring and the future and the importance she puts on education and financial education specifically with the youth and her community. That leads so well into the leadership and life hack section. And then as always we wrapped it up with the rapid fire questions to get to know Maria a little bit more. You’ll even find out, much to her husband’s chagrin, why she’d like to be cloned. Without further ado, I give you my conversation with Maria Martinez. Enjoy.
Randy Smith: Hi Maria. Thank you very much for being on this episode of The CUInsight Experience. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation, so I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day.

Maria Martinez: Thank you. Thank you for having me here.
Randy Smith: Like I said, I’ve been looking forward to this, so I just want to jump right into the questions. I have so many to ask you.
Maria Martinez: I’m ready for them.
Randy Smith: All right, good. Let’s get going. The first question I had was, has your approach to serving your community, specifically the Hispanic market, changed since you first started at Border Federal Credit Union in 1994? And I’ll add, I don’t know if this is my own commentary, but it does seem like the social and political environment has changed over the past few years. Have you had to change even more?
Maria Martinez: Well, I tell you that and the more get involved in this industry, the more that I feel that credit unions are the perfect fit for Hispanics and I then I think it’s because we have the services that match their needs, their financial needs especially. And I just don’t know why more credit unions don’t do this. There’s so much to do for them, for this group. I don’t know if you know, but the buying power of Hispanics, it’s humongous. They are the fastest growing minority. And so there’s a need for them to be banked and we’re not banking them. And that’s the thing, you know, I know there’s been a lot of sociopolitical issues come through, you know, serving Hispanics is you serve in a group that it’s, some are low income, but the majority of them, they have good jobs, good jobs. They need a car, they need a home, they need our services and they’re not getting that through us. They’re getting it through somebody else, maybe payday lenders. And we need to have them on our side because they’re very loyal members, customers, and to us, you know, for me, for my credit union and it’s been great. Of course I’m in the border.
Randy Smith: Yup.
Maria Martinez: So you know, I serve that group that I don’t have any choice. You know, I don’t have, it’s not like I can hand pick, but it’s been grateful for me to serve that group. I don’t know if you’re aware, but back in 2006 a group of credit union CEOs, we all gathered together. It was in Durham. It was during one of the conferences that were happening there and we started a group is called the network of Latino Credit Union Professionals. And with that group, what we do is we get together and we host an event once a year and this happens to be doing CUNA GAC. And you’re invited.
Randy Smith: I saw that.
Maria Martinez: Those people that have listened and they’re invited too. They just have to register.
Randy Smith: We’ll make sure to link to that event in the show notes below.
Maria Martinez: That is one event that we host and people say, well you just hosting it just to have fun, because I love to have fun, but we’re hosting it to make others aware that there is the need out there. And if you have any questions about how to service them, this is a networking event where you can come and ask questions. I’m proud to say that this year’s going to be really nice because we’re going to have a congressman, which is my Congressman Will Hurd and he’s from here from Texas and we’re also having another congress woman and she’s a brand new. It’s just a freshman congresswoman Escalade and she’s from El Paso area. Aside from that we’re going to have Martha and she’s with the NCUA and then we have a Scott Estrada and he wrote a white paper on serving Hispanics. It’s going to be a really, really good program. It’s probably going to be one of the best programs that I’ve, that we’ve had because we have a really good set of guests that we’re going to be having.
Randy Smith: That sounds fantastic. I’ll have to get the link to the white paper that you mentioned from Scott also and we could link to that. We will do that. I’ll tell you that when you mentioned that the payday lenders, a few years back when I was going through DE, we did the mystery shopping and it happened to be over a holiday. So all of the credit unions and banks were closed, but the payday lenders open. So that’s where we went and I think all of us were blown away by how easy and welcoming they were. When you walked in the door you didn’t feel threatened or bad. Are there particular products and services that credit unions maybe aren’t offering to the Hispanic market? You said, auto loans, home loans, or is it all the same?
Maria Martinez: You know, we don’t do mortgage lending at the credit union, but we do home equity loans. We thought when we first implemented home equities that we were going to do a lot of second liens. Well, if you look at my portfolio right now, I believe we have less than 5% on second liens and majority of them first liens and the delinquency ratio on that is so low. I mean my overall delinquencies under .80 yeah, I think it was .65 we ended the year. .65 so it’s very low because these people are very loyal. If they’re not going to pay you, they’re not going to pay you for something else before their home for their house. Right. Because they’re very loyal with it. Their car, they, their wheels. And of course if the economy doesn’t it, it’s not there for us or for them either they’re going to default. But more than likely, they’re going to be good, good consumers. One of the things that we do here at the credit union, we provide a lot of financial education and when you provide that, you bring them ahead of time before you do the loan, you counsel them and you tell them we’re taking a chance on you. So therefore we’re doing a lot of the, uh, once they default on the first payment, we call them back, that way they can come in. And we counsel them again. So there’s a lot of opportunity out there. I think payday lenders make it so quick and so easy for them. For us we’re regulated. We have to document for everything we do. And so that’s the only downfall with with us credit unions that I wish we had and more lenient on that. I think it’s getting better. We’re doing better at that, but I just wish we didn’t have all those constraints and that’s why it’s hard to bank them.
Randy Smith: Yeah, a little more flexibility for the members. And when I was doing a little background homework, I saw that since you started as the CEO of Border in 1997 at the time you had 13,000 members and 30 million in assets and now over 26,000 members and wrote 150 million in assets. What has been the biggest driver of growth over the past 20 years and has your membership or community changed over that time as well?
Maria Martinez: When I started with the credit union, we had a three counties that we serviced in Texas. Two of them are border towns, so we’re right on the border with Mexico. As a matter of fact, if you ever come to visit me, we can take across to Mexico and we could go and have lunch over there, like 10 minutes away. It’s so funny. I’m going to tell you a funny story. I know we’re doing something else here, but I’m going to tell you a funny story. So my vendors that come visit me, I tell them, hey, you know, if you come visit me bring your passport and we’ll go across the border and go eat. And they get all excited and they bring their passports. And then when we’re there, I say, if you don’t give me a good deal on that contract, I have connections here in Mexico. I can keep you here.
Randy Smith: You’re going to stay.
Maria Martinez: We’ve never left anybody. But you know, when we started with them, when I started with a credit union, my goal was to create jobs. I think anybody, any business owner, any CEO that can create jobs in their communities are going to develop a better community and you’re going to put food on people’s tables because you’re creating jobs and it’s not just creating a job because you, you have space, but creating a job so those people can also, you know, bring things back to their homes in their kids can get educated. I think job creation should be in mind for every CEO that’s out there and for every business owner. So that was the thing when I came here, our members, you know, now they expect more. I think that things that have changed through through the years is now they expect technology, they expect us to make changes. So it’s becoming harder and harder because you know, you need money to do all those things. They want convenience. We need to provide them with all that because the competition is fierce. So, but one of the things is that they love to come in to our lobbies. Our lobbies are packed because they like to come visit with us. They like our friendly staff and they the prefer to visit or branches versus sometimes going online. It’s a very different community. They like the one on one personal business.
Randy Smith: It sounds like you’ve created a sense of community around the branch. Is that from your involvement in the community outside of the Credit Union?
Maria Martinez: It’s a small community. When I’m talking to a small community del Rio, it’s about 48,000 people and then we serve Eagle Pass area, which is another county that Maverick County, their another 50,000 so there’s smaller towns and those are the biggest counties that we serve as. And then the other counties that we serve as their big but not that. Not that big.
Randy Smith: Okay. Your family immigrated from Mexico when you were 14 years old. And it’s been interesting when Gigi Highland was on the show, she talked about being born overseas and we talked about, has that influence not only her career choice and I would ask you the same question. Did your background and immigrating when you were a teenager, has that kind of guided your career and how has that guided you, I guess outside of Credit Union in life as well?
Maria Martinez: My family and I came to the US with a visitor’s pass. My mom’s sisters, they lived in San Antonio, Texas and I was the first one to stay here. It was one of my aunts stayed home by herself at night. And before we were leaving, we were going back to Mexico. She approaches and she says, hey, would you want to stay? You want to stay here with me and you know, cause I stay home at night and that way you can keep me company. And I said, yeah, but all my clothes are already in the truck and we’re leaving. Just don’t worry, I’ll buy you clothes. I’m going to have new clothes. And so I ended up staying and she says, there was a school right across from my aunt’s house. She said, I will go in on Monday, which was the next day, and we’ll see if we can put you in and go to school here for at least the, it was, that was in like in December. And uh, so, you know, I started school there. Then in the summer I went back home and I told my mom, I said, why don’t, why don’t we all go, you know, that thing, we can have a good life over there. And then my brother, my older brother, you know, of course, you know, you’re talking about teenagers. My, my brother was 16 and then my brother says, yeah, yeah, why don’t we give it a try? So we came to the states with a visitor’s pass and we were undocumented for almost 13 years. We were undocumented. Then there was an amnesty that came through in 1986 and through that we were able to legalize ourselves. But, but in the meantime, we try to make everything the most out of everything. You know, we make sure that, and my mom made sure that we went to school, that we got educated and then we never got in trouble, you know, so that we can not be deported back. It was a hard experience. It was not easy.
Randy Smith: When you were 14 did you speak English?
Maria Martinez: No. But you know what? I was really good in math, you know, coming from Mexico. I don’t know what they, what they do over there, but we’re already doing Algebra and they, when she took me to school, they put me in fifth grade, which I was whatever they were doing addition, subtraction, division. That was way over. You know, for me, I, it was too boring. So I was assistant, the teacher, I was helping her grade papers and all that. And so, but I didn’t know any English, but a lot of the kids around me, they wanted to be my friend and they want it to be the one to guide me. So it was, it was really a nice experience. And finally they would fight over me, you know, the new, the new girl and everybody wanted to be around the new girl. Through the years I learned that, you know, you’ve got to be grateful for those people around you because I had a lot of help. And then at night my aunt was also learning English. So she would go to school and I would go with her. It was an adult education center and we were both learning English. So it was so funny because I ended up being the teacher and I was like 15 years. So when I became the teacher at that adult education center, because you know, I picked it up so quick. When you’re that age, I mean you pick it up so quick. Yeah, I was the one teaching the adults and English and, but, but I went to school during the day and then to the adult education center at night.
Randy Smith: You were back at a young age obviously, so it must be in your blood.
Maria Martinez: You know, but then you don’t realize that. Yeah. You know, you don’t realize that when you’re, when you go into things, it just comes natural after a while.
Randy Smith: One of the questions that I had asked when looking through your bio was there was a reoccurring thing about engagement with young people, whether it was working with kids, teaching financial education in teens. You were actually teaching yourself at 15 years old. What is it about community outreach as far as like the kids and the teenagers go that you find so rewarding?
Maria Martinez: They’re our future. Who’s going to pay our social security. You might as well do it now, but I just wish somebody had taken the time when I was young to teach me about just a simple financial tools. You know the tactics we hosting because of all of this. We host, a camp here at the credit union. We’ve been doing it for, Gosh, I think we’re at least over 15 years that we’ve been doing this and we bring in kids between the ages of 14 through 18 and we teach him anywhere from business etiquette how to get a job, how to buy a car, how to build a good credit report. Those things were never thought and they’re still not being taught at the schools. We need a lot of that. Those are then the daily things.
Randy Smith: I remember going away to college and every credit card company was there, but in high school you never learned anything about personal finances. Right? I mean a program like the camp that you hold to me, that’s really cool and it seems like it’s something that should be taught in the schools as well. Maybe it does now, but it’s been a few years though
Maria Martinez: Now it’s so neat because they have so many apps that they can download and they can keep track of their finances. They can keep track of their credit report. There’s so much that’s out there that we didn’t have.
Randy Smith: Yeah. Oh, that’s, that is true. I, I’d like to switch it up a little bit. When you get into kind of the second part of the podcast where we talk about leadership and life hacks and just kind of pick your brain to help our listeners. The question I love to ask everybody is there is about the inspiration. So what was it about credit unions that inspired you to, to take the job as president and CEO of Border Federal Credit Union?
Maria Martinez: When I graduated from college, I got an offer for a job the same day from a hospital, which I used to work at. Okay. I mean I hire one of those uh, hiring companies, you know, to give me a job because it was really hard for me to get a job after college. I had an accounting degree and I figured, well there was this agency that it was advertising for jobs. And I said, well, let me go to them. And so they call me for a job and they say, hey, we have a savings and loans that is looking for an accountant. It was actually a data entry clerk that they were looking for. And then so they said, would you want to consider it? They want, they want to interview you. Well, yeah. So I went and did the interview, so they call me in on the same day that they called me they also offered me a job there where I was at. So I had the option of going into banking or hospital. I opted for banking because I liked the way they dress. They always so nice, nice, cute dress and all that. And I said, I want to dress like that. I want to, I want to look cool. And so I opted for that. But when I started with them, uh, I remember one day I was, I was a staff accountant and I wrote down on a piece of paper that I wanted to be a bank president and I would always look at that piece of paper. And I, that was one of the things that I wanted to do. I wanted to be a bank president, but it’s not just writing it down. You have to do something about it. So I started preparing myself. So as things went through, I joined the credit union. I never knew anything about credit unions. And when I started working for the credit union, I wanted to be a credit union CEO. I said, that is my goal. It just happened. Then my husband gets a job in del Rio and he says, I found a job that they need a city engineer. I want to, I want us to move and I’m going where’s del Rio. I didn’t know her del Rio was and we, I hadn’t never even passed by here. And I said, well, you know, I guess this time we’ll do it for you. Just like any other couples do it, you know, they moved for their, for their significant other, you know, whether you know what I mean,
Randy Smith: From the south to freezing cold Connecticut.
Maria Martinez: So he moves first, and then I start calling all the banks around town around del Rion and I called the credit union also and the CEO of the Credit Union answered and he says, well, we only have teller positions. And I said, well, keep me in mind. And that was like in August of 94 keep me in mind if something comes up, call me. And so it, sure enough, two months later he calls, he says, Hey Maria, are you still interested in, in getting a job here in del Rio? And I says, yes I am. He says, well, my VP of lending is going to be retiring and I would like for you to come and interview. I didn’t have any lending experience, but I was comptroller. I knew the accounting side and I knew a lot about credit unions. So I come to the interview, he says, you won the job, it’s yours, but during the interview. I remember that he made a mention of him retiring and he said, I plan to retire in about two to three years. In my mind. I didn’t hear anything else on that interview that ,I’m serious. I mean not, I didn’t hear anything else. I just thought to myself, okay, I know the accounting side. I know the investments that data processing now it’s an opportunity for me to learn all the operational side of it. And I did. So he retires and I applied for the job. And it’s a funny story because when I applied for the job, I also found out that I was pregnant and I went to my husband’s office and I said, I’m pregnant, and he gets all excited, and I said, no, no, no. You don’t know what I mean. Nobody can know that I’m pregnant because they won’t give me the job. You know? They’ve never had a woman much less a Mexican woman, in the position. I’m pregnant, I said, they’re not going to give me the job. So I don’t know. I just felt like I had to hide it and I hid it for five months until they announced that I had the job and then I let my tummy go. That’s right.
Randy Smith: I love that story. I have a question. In those couple of years, like from the time that you started at the credit union until you knew that the CEO was retiring, you knew that you wanted to be the next CEO. What did you do to prepare yourself to be ready for that?
Maria Martinez: So I knew my accounting, I knew my finances and I wanted to make sure that I knew everything that had to be done with the operational side. I implemented a few programs. When he said he was going to be retiring and I told them, hey, you know, I, I applied for the job and I said, can you tell me you know how to do it? And I still remember that he was standing by the door and he says, no, Maria, you’ve got to do it on your own. And that, I think that just gave me more power. I wanted, I wanted to prove to him and to everybody else that I could do it. You know, you just have to learn everything. And I’ve always tell even my management team, I tell them, look, if you don’t know something that an employee’s asking, you don’t tell them no. You know, research, especially now with so many tools, we, I didn’t have all the tools that there are now, but there’s always a way to make things yes. Our system should be a system of saying yes instead of no in looking for a way to always make things happen. And I think that that’s what helped me, that I prepare myself and I, I went to the interview, well prepare with a big binder and I have questions for them too. It wasn’t just, you know, them asking me questions. So I think you just have to prepare yourself for it.
Randy Smith: Has the inspiration changed at all with time on the job?
Maria Martinez: Yes. It seems like I just want to do more every day. I wish I could clone myself. I do, but I don’t think my husband would like that or anybody else here.
Randy Smith: When I’ve talked to people around credit union world about you, the word role model and kept coming up. So whether it was role model for female leaders or role modeled in the Hispanic community role model for CEOs in general. That idea of you being a role model in the way a credit union is supposed to serve its members. It sounds like it’s something that you wear as a badge of pride, that you want to be a role model for others in this industry.
Maria Martinez: If classifying me as a role model as a way to inspire others, then let’s do it. Yes. It’s really hard to wear it a title like that because you have to, you know, always be on the lookout kind of thing. But to me a great compliment. It’s food for my soul. Yeah.
Randy Smith: That’s a weight to carry. Is there anything that you do to not let it overwhelm you?
Maria Martinez: Uh, yes. It can be overwhelming. Only if you force yourself to do things. I think if you’re forcing yourself to do things, it can be overwhelming, but I don’t force myself. I think in the end it just comes natural and when you do things just because they make you feel good, then it’s going to happen naturally. And the thing, you just got to have passion for it. I just feel like every time you’ll hug somebody or you know, somebody tells you how grateful they are because you helped them. It energizes my battery. You know?
Randy Smith: This was the question after going through your bio and things like that, that is a 100% scratch my own itch question. How do you decide what to say yes to with the limited amount of time one Maria has and do you say no to things and how do you make those decisions?
Maria Martinez: I’ve said no before and I feel that if you cannot commit 100% to do what’s required of you, whether it’ll be on a board or a committee or anything, then you got to say no. You know, because it’s not fair for that company. Is that fair for that organization to have somebody that is going to be consistently absent and you got to also know when to step back. Let’s say you’ve served on a board for a while and you say, you know what, I just can’t commit anymore. I have so much. You know, my first priority is my family or my job, whatever it is. You got to step back and say, no, you know, I’m so hyper, I’m a hyper person, so I think I don’t need medication as long as I stay busy.
Randy Smith: How would your team describe your management style? What is it that you think is your greatest strength as a leader?
Maria Martinez: First of all, I don’t like to micromanage. I’m very passionate about my job in improving people’s lives, but I like to be in control. I mean, I think it can be a pro, but it can also be something that can go against you. Um, the time that let people do whatever it’s necessary of them because I know what they’re supposed to be doing. As long as you’re supposed to know what their jobs and responsibilities are, you hold them accountable for it and you don’t have to be watching out for what they’re doing every single day or whether they come in on time or not. I don’t, I don’t like to do that. I’m very lenient on that. And that could be my, that’s probably my weakness. My weakness through my being lenient and then I guess one of my weaknesses could be also that I procrastinate too much. Sometimes I wait till the last minute, you know to do things. They always turn out okay though.
Randy Smith: It all works out. Is there something in your leadership style that’s changed over time?
Maria Martinez: I think I’ve gotten better at delegating. Before I think I used to do more things and I had to start delegating because of the growth. When your institution is growing is really hard to do it all on your own. But I like to do things on my own because I learned from it and then I can let go because I know what questions to ask, you know? So you know, once you learn the project then you can let go, but then you know, I’m going to ask this question because I know this is supposed to be done, so it’s been good.
Randy Smith: I get that completely when I started to CUInsight. I knew how to do absolutely everything with it. Right. There were things that you would hold on to along the way. And that’s something that I talk about with my staff actually quite a is, okay, you got to let some of the stuff goes so you can do the more of the important stuff. Delegate that off. So yeah, I know that’s, I think that’s a tough one for most people. Right. To keep on the change topic. How have you seen credit unions the strangest since that first day that you walked into the door at a credit union as an employee?
Maria Martinez: You know, I’m really sad that smaller credit unions have slowly been disappearing. I’m a big advocate of credit unions and as a matter of fact, I’ve been very instrumental on helping a couple of them get started or some of them that started the process they never went through. But I always put the word out that if anybody wants me to help them, you know, I’m, I’m willing to do that. I think credit unions should exist and it will be required to exist. Even like in small communities, even if it’s not in the big cities, because the big cities have the big credit unions that can do the job, but the smaller credit unions don’t. Like for instance, we serve 13 counties and now the 13 counties, we’re the only credit union that’s there in the majority of the counties. And they need us there. They need credit unions we’re the right fit for those communities.
Randy Smith: I was looking forward to ask of you this. As a leader, is there something that your team has heard you say so many times that they can finish your sentence?
Maria Martinez: Yes. So I always tell him, you know, whenever something happens, I always said, God always looks out for us. And I always say it in Spanish also. Because everything happens for a reason. And sometimes things don’t go according to what you want, but they always say that, oh Maria is going to say, oh, God always looks out for us.
Randy Smith: So not a single one of them will be surprised to hear that.
Maria Martinez: That’s right.
Randy Smith: Has there been a piece of advice or a life lesson that you received that you just find yourself carrying throughout your career?
Maria Martinez: My saying has always been, and I think they kind of ride this, you know, when I die they are going to write it on my tombstone then. But if you do good, good comes back to you. I think my mom was a, she was a woman that was very giving and she would always be helping others and I know she didn’t have much cause we were really poor growing up. But whatever she has, she always wanted to share it with others. And I think that’s something that I learned from her that I’m just a firm believer that, you know, God gives some of us a little more so that we can help those that don’t have anything. So it’s always been my belief.
Randy Smith: Did your mom see you become a CEO?
Maria Martinez: Yes she did. But my mom was really, before she passed, my mom was in a wheelchair and she had dementia and she’s so really, she was not really there to see all my triumphs. As a matter of fact when I got the Herb Wegner award, I dedicated it to her.
Randy Smith: I remember that.
Maria Martinez: It was her birthday that day when I got it. So it was just like an amazing thing. It was. It was amazing.
Randy Smith: My guess, she had to be very proud of you.
Maria Martinez: Yes. Yes.
Randy Smith: So another leadership style question and one that I really enjoy talking to people about is when you’re running into a problem or start butting your head up against a wall, is there anything that you do on a kind of life hacks to take a step back or relook at things?
Maria Martinez: I like to get other people’s opinions. Normally when I’m stranded, I’ll walk down the hallway and talk to others. It may not be on that topic that I’m working on, but it just to get my mind off of it for a little while. But if I know that there is somebody that I can bounce things off from, I’ll go to them and I’ll say, hey, I’m working on this. What do you think? I like to get people’s ideas and people’s opinions because I don’t have the greatest ideas. I think ideas come from everywhere and you’ll be surprised what you come up with. I mean, it works really good.
Randy Smith: So do you primarily do that inside the credit union with your team or do you have a network of people that you kind of depend on outside your credit union as well?
Maria Martinez: I have a lot of credit union friends, and at times, you know, I’ll send them an email, hey, or text them, hey, you know, you have a minute to talk. And the networking that I’ve developed through the years it within the credit industry, it’s phenomenal. I mean it’s, I know I can count on anybody and now, now you’re going to be on my list.
Randy Smith: I would love to be on that list. I couldn’t agree with you more on that. I will tell you that I’ve told people who don’t work in our industry, you would not believe just how wonderful the people as a whole are. And how over the years, many of my best friends are all from credit unions. Even my partner is from credit union. I’m pretty lucky, dude. Right. I love this industry that we’re in. Um, if you have a free day, and I don’t know if these exist for you, but if you do and there’s nothing on your calendar, what passions outside of credit unions do you have? What does work life balance look like to you?
Maria Martinez: No, I don’t have too many of those. You’re right. I’m always doing something, you know, outside of here, there’s always something that I do. I don’t watch too much TV, but I love to dance. I love to dance, and I love to socialize. You know, in go to a nice bar and just drinking a good glass of wine and just talk to people. And to me that it’s amazing. Anytime there’s an opportunity to go out there and have some fun, if there’s some good music and some good company, I enjoy it.
Randy Smith: So you get recharged from other people. That’s good stuff. As a leader, is there a way that you keep your message fresh to your team and how do you keep your credit union’s message fresh to your numbers and your community as a whole?
Maria Martinez: I think once in a while you have to regroup. You have to make sure that we’re all on the same page. So we have meetings to regroup and to stay connected as we have grown, one of the things that has become harder, it is to stay connected and maintain good communication, but, and we managed to come together. No, no matter what happens, it’s just really hard sometimes, but it’s just the communication. I think in every relationship, whether it be a marriage or you know, a company, a partnership, there’s gotta be communication and, and that’s probably been one of our downfalls at times whenever we fail because there was not enough communication. But if you can keep that intact, I think it’s going to happen. Good things are gonna happen. Okay.
Randy Smith: When you fail, is there something that you do to bring that back around to start the communication again? Is it just bringing everybody together?
Maria Martinez: Yeah, we’ll regroup. Once again, mistakes, you know, we all make mistakes and there’s been things that you wish, oh my God, why didn’t I do that? I should have done it differently. But you just learn from it and move forward. Um, you know, I think everything has a solution in life. The only thing that doesn’t have it, is death, but everything else has a solution. And I always say, you know, no matter how bad it is, we’re going to make it through. We’ll pull this through. I remember back in 2008 when the economy was really bad and you know, our credit union, you know, we lost money because we had a lot of our members that lived in, worked in areas where there were, there were oil rigs. And I remember that at that time it was hard for us. You know, I was down because I don’t like losing money. But you know what kept us really good is that our capital was so strong, even at that time, that it’s almost like you’re putting away your savings for the bad days, and that’s what we did. We did good during those times because we had prepared ourselves to, to be there.
Randy Smith: We all know they come in cycles, right?
Maria Martinez: yes. Yeah,
Randy Smith: Being prepared for it. Probably one of the things you teach in your financial education classes to the teens. Okay. So I’d like to kind of get towards the end of the episode where we have a little bit of fun, the rapid fire questions and the questions are rapid, but your answers do not have to be. Do you have any daily routines that you have to do every day or your day just feels off at the end of the day? I keep mentioning on every show, I journal in the morning.. So yeah, but that’s the first thing I do every morning before I checked my phone or email or anything else. If I don’t do it, my head’s going a million miles an hour. Is there anything that you have that you just have to do everyday?
Maria Martinez: I drink about 20 ounces of water every morning before I even get started to do anything. And I like if, if I don’t drink it, like I’m not energized, I need that. And then I take my B complex vitamin get that energy going, you know? And then after that you check your calendars, you know, check your phones and make sure that you know, you have a good day. But that’s about my, my regular routine. I check social media and see what’s going on with everybody.
Randy Smith: The random question of the show, what is the best album of all time? The one you can listen to from the beginning to end and you’d take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
Maria Martinez: I love Michael Bublé. He is one of my favorite and he has an album called It’s Time and all the songs in that album are so good and I’ve seen him in concert a couple of times. And, uh, he just, my heart just drops when I hear.
Randy Smith: We’re going to put together one heck of a playlist at the end of the year from everybody’s answers.
Maria Martinez: That sounds good.
Randy Smith: So I am a reader. We have a stack of books in our house that had been recommended to us. This is one of my favorite questions because I tend to go on Amazon afterwards and order more books. Is there a book over time that you’ve either gifted to others or it’s just like that one that you tell everybody they should read?
Maria Martinez: I guess I could tell you that it was the NCUA rules and reg.
Randy Smith: I don’t know if an order that one.
Maria Martinez: I don’t know read a lot of books, but the one that I’ve really enjoyed is the Who Moved My Cheese. And I know it’s, it’s an old book, but I read it over and over and I think it’s because you can get inspired by it. Have you read?
Randy Smith: I did, but it was years ago for me.
Maria Martinez: But I still have it. I have the same book that I’ve had it for years and once in a while I just go back and read it again and I’ll just, you know, so that I know that there’s going to be change and you, you have to be able to change things in order. Not to become extent. If anything, and that would be my book, not the NCUA right now.
Randy Smith: We’ll link for anybody who hasn’t read the book because they should. We’ll link to that below in the show notes also so they can and go find it themselves on Amazon. As you’ve gotten older, what’s become more important to you? Has anything become less important to you?
Maria Martinez: I think relationships have become more important. As I think about retirement, I think about, okay do I have friends? Who am I going to call when I retire. So you know, so I always try to be nice to people or you know, cause you never know when you’re going to need them. Young professionals nowadays, they have so many tools and resources that I didn’t have growing up. I think the opportunities are endless. Young people could do so much now because everything is given to them, it’s in their hands. All they have to do is turn on a computer or their phone, whatever app they have and they learn from it. We didn’t have that growing up, but I’m so glad that I have it as I come closer to retirement because I think I’m going to be using a lot of them.
Randy Smith: Absolutely. So stay connected. Right. This is a question that I didn’t send you. When you hear the word success, who’s the first person that pops in your head?
Maria Martinez: Oh Gosh, you know, I’m going to say my mom.
Randy Smith: I love it.
Maria Martinez: And it’s not because she was a professional woman. It’s not because she made a lot of money, because she didn’t. But I think she, you know, us, the siblings, you know, she did a good job with us and I think you know, with that, I mean I would give her the most successful award of the year because she did it. I know you don’t have to have success in a, in an environment of a corporate environment, but as long as you’re successful at anything you do, whether you’re, you know, the bartender, you gotta be the best bartender, or the person that’s sweeping the floor, you got to be the best at it. And I think I, I always give my mom that credit.
Randy Smith: Ah, well that’s beautiful. And it seems like she’s instilled that in you, so that’s probably a good thing. I think that’s a perfect place to wrap up the show. Again, thank you very much for taking the time and being on it. I’ve really enjoyed this. Do you have any final asks or final thoughts for our listeners today?
Maria Martinez: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to be on this podcast. I mean, I’m so excited and I want to send shout outs, I could not leave this without sending shout outs to my staff. I owe then my success because of them. I could not be here and most importantly, my family. I mean without my family, I, I wouldn’t be nobody because they’ve been able to support me in everything that I’ve done. There were days when I couldn’t make a football game or a soccer game or something because I was working, but now that my kids are grown, I think they understand where I’m coming from because they’re going to experience it now. And so I just want to thank my staff and my family and they made me the person that I am today. Thank you for that.
Randy Smith: That is perfect. Well, again, we will link to everything we talked about below in the show notes and I thank you very much again Maria and I will see you at GAC, I’m sure.
Maria Martinez: Thank you. Thank you so much. And you put my email out there and I’m on social media, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram.
Randy Smith: You’re everywhere. And we will link to all of that. Is there a preferred way? Or is it just any of the above or would you prefer them to go through Twitter or something like that?
Maria Martinez: Email is better because I check my email daily. I mean, even at home or when I’m on the road, I’m always checking my email.
Randy Smith: If people have additional questions, they will know where to find you. And again, thank you very much and I hope you have a great day.
Maria Martinez: Thank you. Thank you.
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