NCUF’s Newest CUDE Graduates from the Northwest Agree: ‘It Always Comes Back to Serving Our Members’

Amy Ridley thought she had a pretty good understanding of credit unions and the work they do. After all, she’d been a credit union employee for 24 years, the past 12 of those at BECU in Seattle.

But she was wrong.

“When you’re in the midst of your daily grind,” Ridley says, “you don’t realize what CULAC does, or exactly how CUNA supports both large and small credit unions and what that really means to you as a credit union employee. But through Development Educator training, I was able to connect the dots and familiarize myself with organizations that support the credit union industry.

“And that,” she says, “made me feel even more engaged in the credit union movement.”

Ridley and two other credit union professionals from the Northwest—Gayla Duerr of TwinStar Credit Union and Kimberly Ingham of Peninsula Community Federal Credit Union—can now add CUDE to their titles after completing Credit Union Development Educator training from the National Credit Union Foundation.

Forty-two executives from around the world completed the Fall 2013 course, which was held at the University of Wisconsin in September. During the week-long program, they participated in group exercises, went on field trips, and held intense discussions with speakers from around the credit union system. They also were required to complete team projects, which included finding solutions to payday lending, building an Islamic banking center, and deciding whether or not to compensate credit union boards of directors.

Ridley’s team project: deciding whether two small credit unions should merge.

“It was fascinating,” BECU’s business development manager says. “We came from all over the globe, but we had two things in common: our love of credit unions, and our deeply engrained need to do right by our members. We did decide to merge, due to the added benefits for the membership, and that’s what we presented to the group.”

Ingham, the assistant vice president of branch operations for Peninsula in Shelton, Wash., worked with her team on a “Don’t Tax My CU” campaign, looking for ways to help the Credit Union National Association attract more participation from members and advocates.

“It was fitting, because the day we presented our project was Sept. 10, the day of the ‘Twitter Tuesday’ social-media blast,” Ingham says. “And our assignment turned into a real-life opportunity when we learned we were actually presenting to Bill Cheney, CUNA’s president and CEO. We started by splitting the room in half and doing a chant: ‘Don’t Tax – My Credit Union.’ It certainly warmed up the crowd!”

Duerr, the business development manager for TwinStar in Olympia, and her teammates—the group called itself “The Survivors”—were asked to act as the North Virginia Credit Union League and come up with plans for building an Islamic banking center.

“The project challenged us to quickly dive into research, organize ideas and work as an unselfish, united team,” she says. “I think we were all amazed at what the process taught us about the value of cooperation.”

For all three executives, CUDE training also served as a chance to dive deeper into the history and philosophy of the credit union movement. And it was a reminder, as Ingham says, “that the operating principals we were founded on in the 1930s still stand true today. Unfortunately, so do the issues we face, like taxation.”

As a CUDE graduate, Ingham says, “I now have the privilege and responsibility to share what I’ve learned with others, to spread the good news of credit unions, and to promote the power of our cooperative movement.”

At Peninsula, Ingham oversees branch operations, production and staff development. She also works with business and community partners to develop financial literacy programs and with organizations like the Asset Building Coalition of Kitsap County to help underserved communities.

“Credit unions have a goal to serve all our members well, including those of modest means,” she says. “I look forward to seeing situations with fresh eyes, and to being even more aware of the issues faced by our members. It always comes back to serving our members, and CUDE solidified that for me.”

Ridley agrees.

“My goal is to have at least one member of the BECU staff attend the CUDE program every year,” she says. “BECU is a large credit union, and my goal is that as we continue to grow, we still remain in touch with our ‘People Helping People’ roots. The more CUDE graduates we have, the easier that will be.”

Ridley handles marketing and events for 12 of BECU’s branches. She also works with the corporate marketing team on sponsorships and on bringing the credit union message to workplaces, festivals and fairs. “Meeting people where they live, work, and play is a completely different experience,” she says. “I love it.”

Ridley says she also loves working with underserved populations in the Seattle area, a passion that has grown immensely after a poverty simulation exercise during CUDE training. “I’m working on bringing that simulation to BECU as well,” she says.

Duerr leads a team of business development officers who work with companies and charitable organizations and share the benefits of credit union membership at community events. Every day of CUDE training was packed, she says, “with interactive, engaging exercises that helped to remind us of our rich credit union history, our mission, and what differentiates us.

“I came away from this experience with renewed energy, enthusiasm and respect for our movement,” Duerr says. “I am proud to work in an industry so intent on helping to better peoples’ lives through financial services and education.”

The National Credit Union Foundation has scheduled three CUDE training classes for 2014. The first, Jan. 22-29, will take place near the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill; the others—April 23-30 and Sept. 10-17—will be held at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. For more information or to register, go to the NCUF website or click on Register for DE Training.

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

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