The CUInsight Experience podcast: Marlene Schwartz – Laying the groundwork (#62)

“You begin to grow exponentially when you understand yourself and your limitations” - Marlene Schwartz 

The CUInsight Experience Podcast - Marlene Schwartz

Welcome to episode 62 of The CUInsight Experience podcast with your host Randy Smith, co-founder of This episode is brought to you by our friends at CO-OP Financial Services. CO-OP is your trusted payment processing partner whose mission is to drive the credit union movement forward.

For this episode, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Marlene Schwartz at the recent CUES Symposium in Hawaii to discuss credit union planning, collaboration, and leadership from the perspective of a board member and volunteer. Marlene has the distinction of being the first board chair/volunteer to be featured on the podcast. She is the board chair of State Department Federal Credit Union and the board chair for the National Association of Credit Union Chairmen

Marlene and I discuss how the National Association of Credit Union Chairmen is helping to connect and educate credit union board leaders. She also speaks about her experiences with State Department Federal Credit Union, and why the credit union was so quick to lend their support to Filene’s Center of Excellence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Additionally, listen as Marlene shares her thoughts on the evolution of the credit union industry and board succession planning, as well as State Department FCU’s goals for the next year. Marlene also chats with me about her unique career trajectory from the U.S. State Department to her role as credit union chairwoman, while also discussing the credit union movement and her leadership style.

Marlene has worked most of her life in a male-dominated field, and has achieved success beyond her wildest dreams. She has accomplished so much and shares so many life lessons on this episode that you can’t miss! I hope you enjoy this great episode. 

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

Books mentioned on The CUInsight Experience podcast: Book List 

How to find Marlene:
Marlene Schwartz, Chairman of State Department Federal Credit Union and the National Association of Credit Union Chairmen
Twitter | Facebook 

Show notes from this episode:
Shout-out: to our friends at CO-OP Financial Services, our first sponsor of The CUInsight Experience podcast. Thank you! 
Check out all the work Marlene and her team are doing at State Department Federal Credit Union here
Check out all the work Marlene and her team are doing at the National Association of Credit Union Chairmen here
Shout-out: CUES and the CUES Symposium
Shout-out: Chairman Rodney Hood
Shout-out: National Credit Union Administration   
Shout-out: Filene Research Institute’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 
Shout-out: U.S. Department of State 
Shout-out: State Department Federal Credit Union President and CEO Jan Roche
Shout-out: Former New Jersey Congressman Peter Rodino 
Shout-out: John Spence 
Shout-out: Jill Nowacki 
Shout-out: Maurice Smith
Album mentioned: The Jazz Singer by Neil Diamond
Book mentioned: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Shout-out: Ella Fitzgerald
Previous guests mentioned in this episode: John Spence, Jill Nowacki (episodes 4, 18 & 37), Maurice Smith, Rodney Hood
You can find all past episodes of The CUInsight Experience here

In This Episode:
[01:46] – Welcome to the show, Marlene!
[02:40] – Marlene shares why she believes board chairs should be involved in events like the CUES Symposium.
[03:57] – What the National Association of Credit Union Chairman is about and what they do?
[05:41] – Marlene speaks about Chairman Rodney Hood from the NCUA.
[06:56] – Marlene shares what it’s like to be on the board.
[08:17] – She discusses why State Department Federal Credit Union was quick to give their support to Filene Research Institute. 
[09:57] – What do you think needs to change to keep credit unions relevant going forward? 
[11:15] – Marlene chats about what she sees happening at SDFCU over the next year and what she is proud to have accomplished.
[14:45] – How did you choose to have a career in the U.S. Department of State? Did you want to be a politician?
[17:21] – Marlene recalls the State Department being called the “womb to the tomb department” internally.
[18:08] – Marlene shares why she decided to become a board chair for credit unions.
[19:24] – Did the inspiration change once you became a board chair?
[20:37] – Marlene discussed her leadership style when she started, and how it changed as she moved further in her career.
[22:43] – How did you cultivate the ability to make the tough decisions?
[23:57] – Marlene says that young leaders step out more aggressively without stopping to see what is happening.
[26:02] – Marlene says that a piece of advice she was given when her career began was to count to ten before reacting.
[26:58] – Did you have mentors when you were coming up? Have you mentored any young leaders?
[28:15] – Marlene shares that there have been times when she felt lost and what she did to address the issue.
[29:14] – What do you do to unwind when you have a day off?
[30:01] – Marlene speaks about the first time she remembered being in memorable trouble.
[32:40] – Marlene says that the last thing she does at night is, reflect on the day and see what she did well and what she could have done better.
[33:24] – What do you believe is the best album of all time?
[33:51] – What book do you think everyone should read?
[35:01] – Marlene shares that being driven by her career has become less important, and that her family and experiences have become more important.
[36:37] – When Marlene hears the word success, the first person she thinks of is Ella Fitsgerald because of what she accomplished even though she had many things trying to hold her back.
[37:33] – Marlene shares her final asks for the listeners.

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