The CUInsight Experience podcast: Ken Cahoon – Perfecting the process (#86)

“Save people money, increase their buying power, and enhance their lives.” - Ken Cahoon

Ken Cahoon - The CUInsight Experience

Thank you for tuning in to episode 86 of The CUInsight Experience podcast with your host, Randy Smith, co-founder of This episode is brought to you by our friends at PSCU. As the nation’s premier payments CUSO, PSCU proudly supports the success of more than 1,500 credit unions.

With more and more members opting to forgo the traditional branch experience, credit unions must be strategic in their efforts to provide great member service going forward. To learn more about how credit unions are tackling this complex issue and more, I’m sitting down with Ken Cahoon, President and CEO of Democracy Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Virginia. Ken and I talk about many of the changes Ken has seen in credit unions and what he thinks we all need to do to stay relevant in this disruptive time, both from a member service and employee standpoint.

While relatively new to the CEO position, Ken and I talk about the struggles of leading through a crisis and what he believes is the best way to keep everyone calm and focused. Ken shares some of the work he and his team are doing to overcome many of the challenges their members are facing. We also discuss the need for credit union’s to think more holistically about their members from a financial counselor’s perspective. 

Ken and I also discuss how he got to the CEO chair and what he has learned from each step along the way. He talks about why he took the position at Democracy Federal Credit Union, the phrase his team hears him say all the time, and some of the mistakes he’s made along the way. He also shares an important life lesson that he learned from his father that has stuck with him to this day. 

In the rapid-fire section of the show, we find out that Ken was an NFL player for a day, that he wanted to be a lawyer when he grew up, and that his dad is the first person who comes to mind when he hears the word success. Ken has a passion for his credit union and it really comes through during this conversation. Enjoy! 

Find the full show notes on

Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher 

Books mentioned on The CUInsight Experience podcast: Book List 

How to find Ken:
Ken Cahoon, President and CEO of Democracy Federal Credit Union
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram

Show notes from this episode:
A big shout-out to our friends at PSCU, an amazing sponsor of The CUInsight Experience podcast. Thank you! 
Check out all the outstanding work that Ken and his team at Democracy Federal Credit Union are doing here. 
Shout-out: Norwest Corporation
Shout-out: Wells Fargo Financial 
Shout-out: Justice Federal Credit Union 
Shout-out: American Spirit Federal Credit Union
Shout-out: Unify Financial Credit Union 
Shout-out: NIH Federal Credit Union 
Shout-out: Ken’s father
Shout-out: Ken’s wife
Shout-out: Ken’s brother
TV show mentioned: Perry Mason 
TV show mentioned: L.A. Law
TV show mentioned: Matlock 
Shout-out: California University of Pennsylvania
TV show mentioned: NBC’s Today Show 
Album mentioned: Illmatic by Nas
Album mentioned: Thriller by Michael Jackson 
Album mentioned: Purple Rain by Prince
Shout-out: Jill Nowacki
Book mentioned: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
Book mentioned: The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey
Book mentioned: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Book mentioned: Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins
Book Mentioned: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
Book Mentioned: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
Book Mentioned: The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded by Michael D. Watkins
Previous guests mentioned in this episode: Jill Nowacki (episodes 4, 18, 37, 64 & 82

In This Episode:
[02:08] – Welcome to the show, Ken!
[02:50] – Ken speaks about what is happening in Washington, DC.
[04:54] – Ken shares the biggest challenge he’s faced as a CEO.
[08:27] – How do you think this pandemic will change the way members interact with credit unions going forward?
[09:46] – Ken speaks about what changes will be put in place for staffing.
[11:55] – Ken discusses what he believes needs to change to keep credit unions relevant.
[14:58] – What will you look back next year and be proud that your team has accomplished?
[16:22] – Ken shares what inspired him to take the job with Democracy Federal Credit Union.
[21:16] – Is there something your team has heard you say so much they can finish your sentence?
[23:14] – Ken speaks about some mistakes he’s made in his career.
[25:24] – Ken shares advice his dad gave him; he still falls back on today.
[27:15] – Working out is something Ken does to recharge when he has time off.
[28:44] – Ken discusses what he was like in high school, and the first time he got into memorable trouble.
[31:58] – Ken wanted to be a lawyer when he grew up, and in college, he wanted to play in the NFL.
[34:13] – Do you have any daily routines that, if you don’t do, your day feels off?
[35:58] – What do you think is the best album of all time?
[36:54] – Do you have a book you think everyone should read?
[38:54] – Time and reading have become more important, and things have become less important.
[40:26] – His dad is the first person who comes to mind when he hears the word success.
[42:20] – Ken shares his final thoughts about stepping up and helping the community.
[44:14] – Thank you for being on the show!

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