BECU’s Gary Oakland Wins Credit Union Foundations’ Mark of Excellence Award

As CEO at BECU, Gary Oakland has navigated recessions, strikes and the housing market meltdown while growing assets to $9.5 billion and membership to more than 700,000, and he will be recognized with the Mark of Excellence honor next month.

In his 25-year reign as President and CEO at BECU, Gary Oakland guided the credit union to the top of the industry charts in assets, membership and consumer confidence. He has been a leader through recessions, Boeing layoffs and, most recently, the housing market meltdown. Oakland instilled a “member-first” culture that is palpable at BECU.

From its proud origins in 1935 as a banking alternative founded by 18 Boeing workers with assets of just $9, BECU today is the nation’s fourth-largest credit union, with nearly 703,000 members and assets of over $9.5 billion.

But Oakland’s true leadership did not just come in the name of growth and expansion, but with a spirit of truly understanding and addressing the needs of BECU’s members. When Boeing strikes interrupted members’ incomes, Oakland authorized low-cost loans allowing workers to keep up with their bills. He later directed that the same loan program be extended to victims of natural disasters as well. He put the brakes on an old policy that took the final paycheck of laid-off workers to pay off outstanding loans, and he turned a policy of rewarding the highest interest rates to the biggest savers upside down, instead awarding the highest interest rates possible to the first $500 members deposited in their checking and savings accounts.

For his service to the industry, Oakland will receive the region’s highest honor from the Washington and Oregon credit union Foundations—the Mark of Excellence Award—at the Summit Awards dinner on Sept. 22. The Washington and Oregon Foundations will co-host the event at the Hotel Murano as part of the 2011 Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) Convention.

“Gary’s leadership embodies the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people’ by employing a decision-making process that starts with examining how any decision will impact BECU members or its employees,” said Tom Berquist, SVP Member Strategies, who nominated Oakland for the honor.

Summit Awards Committee member M. Earlene Frantz concurred.

“Gary stands out for his achievements on many levels,” she said. “The list of his accomplishments and activities is overwhelming.”

Oakland is currently Chairman of the Board board for the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and serves as a board member of Junior Achievement of Washington, Impact Capital and other organizations. He worked with the Washington Credit Union Foundation and other industry leaders to help fund and launch BizKid$, the Emmy award-winning, nationally televised program teaching financial literacy to elementary and middle school students.

Oakland earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Washington State University. He also spent a semester at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, studying comparative political and economic systems, graduated from the Advanced Management Program at Duke University Fuqua School of Business, and is a Certified Consumer Credit Executive.

The Foundations will present three other Summit Awards to industry leaders at the dinner. The Distinguished Volunteer, the Credit Union Professional of the Year and the Young Credit Union Professional of the Year award winners will all be announced in upcoming editions of Anthem.

Questions? Contact Foundation Development Associate Josalyn Alston: 206.340.4814, jalston@nwcua.org.