The CUInsight Experience podcast: Ryan Donovan – Taking the hill (#61)

“Never let the number of times you’ve gone around the sun be a limit on your potential” - Ryan Donovan

The CUInsight Experience Podcast with Ryan Donavan

Welcome to episode 61 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.

Do you think policymakers’ perception of credit unions is static? Listen as Ryan Donovan, Chief Advocacy Officer at the Credit Union National Association, and I examine the impression that policymakers still have of the credit union movement, and discuss how CUNA is working to align those perceptions with the pace of change that’s happening in our industry. We also chat about how CUNA’s approach to advocacy and public policy challenges has changed over the years. 

Ryan and I also talk about what he sees as the biggest challenges for credit unions at the advocacy level and the need to engage members in a conversation about the public policy changes facing credit unions. Ryan also shares what he feels needs to change to keep credit unions relevant going forward fundamentally, including modernizing the Federal Credit Union Charter, leveraging state league’s progress and efforts, and further promoting the great things credit unions are doing for their members and communities.  

Hit play to learn more about Ryan’s hopes for the future, past accomplishments, and leadership style, as well as his perfect day in the office. We also discuss the many mentors that have supported him from his time as a Legislative Director to now. Plus, hear about the first time he got into memorable trouble in high school, and how he was able to affect change through the situation.

If you ever wanted to know how politics on the Hill affect credit unions, this is the episode you don’t want to miss. Ryan has been there and shares his experiences. So, sit back, take notes, and enjoy!

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Books mentioned on The CUInsight Experience podcast: Book List 

How to find Ryan:
Ryan Donovan, Chief Advocacy Officer at the Credit Union National Association
LinkedIn | 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 Ryan and his team at the Credit Union National Association are doing here
Make sure to follow CUNA on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too
Shout-out: Ed Filene 
Shout-out: Jill Nowacki 
Learn more about CUNA’s Project Zip Code here
Shout-out: our friends at the Northwest Credit Union Association 
Shout-out: our friends at the Iowa Credit Union League
Shout-out: Jeff Olson
Shout-out: our friends at the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas
Learn more about CU Social Good here
Shout-out: our friends at the Wright-Patt Credit Union
Shout-out: our friends at the University Federal Credit Union 
Shout-out: our friends at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues
Shout-out: Bill Cheney 
Shout-out:  U.S. Rep. Bradley Sherman 
Shout-out: Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt 
Learn more about the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC), the federal PAC of CUNA here 
Shout-out: Samantha Paxson
Shout-out: Tracie Kenyon
Shout-out: Bill Hample, former Chief Policy Officer at CUNA (Ryan’s mentor) 
Shout-out: Jim Nussle 
Shout-out: Jill Tomalin 
Shout-out: Todd Spiczenski
Shout-out: Greg Michlig
Shout-out: Brad Miller 
Learn more about CUNA’s grassroots efforts here
Learn more about CUNA’s advocacy priorities here
Shout-out: our friends at the National Credit Union Administration
Give it up for the St. Louis Cardinals! 
Learn more about Prodigy Communications Corporation here
Shout-out: Diana Dykstra
Shout-out: Mitt Romney
Album mentioned: Flying Upside Down by Griffin House
Book mentioned: Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal
Previous guests mentioned in this episode: Jill Nowacki (episodes 4, 18 & 37), Jeff Olson, Bill Cheney, Sam Paxson, Tracie Kenyon, Jim Nussle, Diana Dykstra
You can find all past episodes of The CUInsight Experience here 

In This Episode:
[01:47] – Welcome to the show, Ryan!
[02:17] – Ryan shares what he sees as the most significant challenges coming to credit unions from an advocacy level. 
[05:01] – Do you think the pace of change in credit unions and the perception of policymakers can align?
[06:08] – Ryan shares about the need to engage members in a conversation about the public policy challenges facing credit unions and keep them informed about the status and cooperative structure would make his job more manageable.
[09:15] – What do you think needs to change to keep credit unions relevant fundamentally?
[10:49] – Ryan speaks about what he will be proud to have accomplished a year from now.
[13:52] – Ryan shares what his inspiration was for taking the job at CUNA in 2007.
[16:37] – Has the inspiration changed with time on the job?
[19:05] – Ryan believes his leadership style is to hire good people and then get out of their way.
[21:31] – “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there” is something he says all the time to his team.
[22:26] – How have you cultivated in yourself the ability to make hard decisions?
[24:02] – Ryan shares the mistakes he made when he started and the mistakes he sees young leaders making now.
[26:34] – He speaks about the mentor he most admired and how much he learned from him.
[28:42] – Have you ever had self-doubt in your career? How did you get past it?
[30:59] – Ryan chats about a regular day at CUNA and tells us what a perfect day would include.
[32:04] – Is there a moment of accomplishment that you look back on and smile?
[34:30] – Ryan speaks about the advocacy goal and the new course they have taken. 
[37:35] – Ryan shares what he does when he has a day off to recharge.
[38:34] – What were you like in high school, and do you remember when you first got into memorable trouble?
[41:38] – Ryan chats about wanting to be a pilot when he grew up.
[42:07] – He has to eat lunch at noon every day, or his whole day feels off.
[42:31] – What is your favorite album of all time?
[43:37] – What book do you believe everyone should read?
[44:24] – Personal fitness and his girls have become more important, and partisan politics and the small stuff have become less important.
[46:01] – Ryan shares that when he hears the word success, he thinks of Mitt Romney.
[47:42] – Do you have any final thoughts or asks of our listeners?
[48:57] – Ryan, 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