Gary Oakland, Sarah Canepa Bang Accept Wegner Awards with a Nod to Collaboration, Innovation

Northwest credit unions and their inspirational leaders took center stage at the Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, when the National Credit Union Foundation presented its Herb Wegner Memorial Awards at an elegant dinner and gala.

Denise Gabel, the Northwest Credit Union Association’s chief operating officer, served as the night’s emcee for the second consecutive year, and many of the Northwest’s 225 GAC delegates were in attendance. The awards ceremony celebrated four of the highest national honors in the credit union movement, including two that went to familiar faces:

Gary Oakland, retired president/CEO of BECU, accepts the Wegner Award for Lifetime Achievement as emcee (and NWCUA Chief Operating Officer) Denise Gabel, NCUF Chairman Laida Garcia and NCUF Vice Chairman John Radebaugh look on.

  • Gary Oakland, who led BECU in Seattle to unprecedented growth as its CEO for 26 years and whose generosity and selflessness made him an industry leader and an influential contributor to a wide variety of community causes, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award.

    “I’ve worked with and admired so many who have been recognized with this award, yet there are so many I know who have yet to be recognized,” Oakland told attendees. “This is not about me winning an award. This is about collaboration, friendship and shared efforts.”

    While at BECU, Oakland played a key role in the launch of the PBS television show “Biz Kid$”; established the BECU Foundation, which has awarded more than $1.5 million in college scholarships; located the funds to keep more than a dozen low-income credit unions afloat during times of hardship; helped found two low-income-designated credit unions; and created a credit union service organization that provides mortgage solutions to approximately 600 credit unions.

    (Watch an inspirational tribute to Oakland here, and learn more about him in an Anthem interview here.)

Sarah Canepa Bang (right), president/COO of CO-OP Shared Branching – FSCC, LLC and chief strategy officer of CO-OP Shared Branching, accepts the Wegner Award for Individual Achievement from NCUF Chair Laida Garcia and NCUF Vice Chair John Radebaugh.

  • Sarah Canepa Bang, president and COO of CO-OP Shared Branching-FSCC, LLC and chief strategy officer of CO-OP Shared Branching, was honored with an Individual Achievement award.

    “It’s been my experience that the credit union movement loves innovation and hard work,” Canepa Bang said after accepting her award. “How else but with innovation and hard work could we have built a delivery channel of over 7,200 locations for millions of credit union members? And how else but through creativity and dedication could our employees and volunteers raise tens of millions of dollars for children’s hospitals all over the country?”

    On Canepa Bang’s watch, FSCC more than quadrupled the number of credit unions, branches and states involved in shared branching, and expanded its technology to offer full-service kiosks, mobile banking, call centers, disaster recovery and remote deposit capture. Today, credit union members are able to leverage the nation’s largest network of surcharge-free ATMs and shared branching services.

    During her tenure at the Oregon Credit Union League, Canepa Bang was among the Oregon-Southwest Washington founders of Credit Unions for Kids, and she remains a champion of the national movement’s “charity of choice.”

    (Watch a video tribute to Canepa Bang here. You can also read the first of a two-part Anthem interview with her here; the second half is here.)

Jim McCormack, retired president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, and Tim Haegelin, retired president and CEO of Generations Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, Texas, were also honored with Lifetime Achievement awards at the dinner.

“It was an evening to inspire all in the credit union movement,” said Troy Stang, the NWCUA’s president and CEO, “and the lights certainly shined brightly on the Northwest. What a special tribute to Gary and Sarah, and to the impact their leadership has made during their distinguished careers.”

This year’s winners joined an elite group of 51 individuals and 24 organizations whose efforts over the past 26 years have earned them Herb Wegner Memorial Awards. More than 740 credit union leaders and supporters attended this year’s event

OSU Federal CEO Rick Hein accepts a CULAC Trustee Award on behalf of Oregon credit unions. Tracie Kenyon, president and CEO of the Montana Credit Union Network and chair of the CULAC board of trustees, made the presentation during Monday’s GAC general session.

Also on Monday:

  • NCUA board Chair Debbie Matz told the opening general session that massive data breaches at Target and other retailers have created a double standard “that is neither healthy nor fair.”

    “While financial institutions are required by law to protect sensitive personal information, data protection standards for retailers are too often simply not adequate,” she said.

    Nevertheless, cyber security is one of the National Credit Union Administration’s top priorities moving forward, Matz said, and credit unions must take steps now to implement risk-mitigation controls to better protect themselves from cyber threats that “can have enormous negative repercussions inside the financial system.”

    Matz said agency examiners will be looking to see how credit unions are implementing systems to detect and recover from cyber attacks. Vendor due diligence, strong password policies, proper patch management, employee training, and network monitoring are among the items credit unions will need to address or improve, she said.

  • Creating public awareness of credit unions as consumers’ best financial partner is crucial to the movement’s future, the executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation told attendees.

    “Time and time again in my 23-year credit union career, I’ve been faced with this question from my friends, neighbors and community members: ‘Yeah, there is a credit union in my community. I don’t really know what they do. Don’t you have to join or something?’” Gigi Hyland said. “As a credit union system, we are not the best at creating awareness about who we are and what we do. We must change that.”

    Hyland said credit unions should do three things to create awareness:

    Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation, addresses Monday’s opening general session.

      • Strive to become part of the “strategic architecture of their communities’ financial literacy efforts” by partnering with nonprofits, local government, other cooperatives, farmers’ markets, food banks, asset-building coalitions and others;
      • Be strategic in their philanthropic efforts and ensure they are connected to improving consumer’s financial lives. Additionally, she said, credit unions should connect the business of the credit union – saving, lending, education, other financial products and services – to the charitable donations made by the credit union; and
      • Lead efforts to improve their community’s financial well-being. For example, credit unions could hold a reality fair for high school students, stage a retirement fair to help older community members plan for retirement, or provide robust financial information in branches and online to help consumers see credit unions as a “trusted source” of information about financial issues.
  • OSU Federal CEO Rick Hein accepted a third-place CULAC Trustee Award on behalf of Oregon credit unions at Monday’s general session. Joann Sordellini, CUNA’s director of political affairs and special projects, said the award recognizes the state’s fundraising efforts, which recorded the third-largest year-over-year increase in contributions in the country.

Today in D.C.

Here’s what’s happening on Tuesday, Feb. 25 — the second full day of the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference:

  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will deliver the keynote address. Albright, a Medal of Freedom honoree and the country’s first female Secretary of State, has also served as a representative to the United Nations and as chair of numerous governmental organizations.
  • Attendees will hear from NCUA board members Rick Metsger and Michael Fryzel and a variety of lawmakers, including Sens. Darrell Issa of California and Tim Johnson of South Dakota.
  • NWCUA advocates will gather for legislative briefings in preparation for Wednesday’s “Hike the Hill” visits, where they are expected to meet with all of Oregon and Washington’s 15 representatives and four senators.
  • Afternoon breakout sessions will cover everything from housing finance reform and exam issues to cyber security and the latest developments in payments.

Make sure to check back throughout the week for more coverage of the Governmental Affairs Conference in Anthem, and watch the NWCUA’s Facebook page every day for highlights, photos and a lot more from Washington, D.C.

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216,


Posted in Awards, Events, Federal.