Mark Morrison: A 2021 Summit Icon
November 2, 2021
When Mark Morrison landed a job as a credit union teller in 1978, he had little notion that 42 years later, on the cusp of retirement, he would be held up as an icon of the Northwest Credit Union Movement. But he did quickly figure out that his initiative, yen for learning, and credit unions’ “People Helping People” philosophy made his new gig a perfect fit.
“I have always wanted to learn more and to understand the inner workings of our credit union industry,” Morrison recently told Anthem. “I was never shy and always asked for more responsibility; my thought was that it would help educate me, and it certainly makes the days go fast when you are learning new things. It also became clear to me, that if you showed responsibility and did things without having to be asked, people would see your value and you could work your way up the ranks faster.”
It worked. Since that first job, there are few credit union positions Morrison hasn’t held on his rise to becoming President and CEO of Arlington, Washington-based MountainCrest Credit Union in 2011.
Why He Won
Morrison’s methodical rise in the industry wasn’t why he was recognized by his peers with the Summit Icon award at the NWCUA’s MAXX annual convention last month. Instead, it was his passion and love of the industry and its people.
“I hope to never get away from the credit union industry because, honest to God, I feel blessed to be part of it,” Morrison said emotionally from the MAXX stage as he explained that, even in retirement, he plans to stay involved with the Movement.
According to MountainCrest Executive Vice President and CFO Susan Webster, who nominated him for the award, Morrison always leads with credit union values and his desire to make the lives of his members better. That’s true whether he’s strengthening his credit union’s member services, encouraging his employees to learn or get involved with the industry, or advocating for credit unions with policymakers, she said.
“He believes in the age-old philosophy of ‘People Helping People,’” Webster wrote in the nomination. “He preaches the importance of finding ways to help our members and totally understands the that we are here to serve the membership no matter what it takes.”
An Accomplished Leader and Advocate
Under Morrison’s leadership, MountainCrest grew from $80 million in assets in 2011 to $140 million in assets today. In that time, the credit union’s Bauer Financial rating rose from 3 stars to 5, and it was recently recognized by the local newspaper as one of the area’s best places to work.
His deep and broad credit union experience taught him to constantly look for new innovations and improvements to credit union processes that, in turn, improve member services and member experience. It also gave him a leg up as a boss.
“I think the best way to identify process improvements is to get involved in every aspect of the credit union,” Morrison said. “Further, by doing a job, you retain the details and can help other people grow along the way. People are more likely to listen if they know you have performed the same job.”
Morrison seldom passes up an opportunity to learn or to roll up his sleeves to get work done. He has a master’s degree in Business Administration and his list of credit union designations, as well as industry and community involvement, is extensive.
Advocacy is particularly important to him. He’s regular attendee at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., a current member of NWCUA’s Washington Governmental Affairs Committee, and a regular CULAC contributor. But even in the political arena, his work comes back to a passion for helping people.
“Over my 42 years in the credit union movement, I have acquired so many stories of us helping people,” he said. “This love for the industry propelled me to fight for what is right and to relay our story to the politicians who could help our cause.”
Fostering Tomorrow’s CU Leaders
Coming up in the industry, Morrison said his most important mentors were the ones who encouraged him to try new things and that doing the same for his young employees “is near and dear to me.”
“He empowers staff and encourages growth and development, hoping to build a strong core of future leaders,” Weber wrote in her nomination of Morrison for the Summit Icon award.
He’s a huge proponent of the Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) program, as well as CUNA and NWCUA’s wide array of training and engagement opportunities because “the young people coming into our industry have a great opportunity to make a real difference.”
The advice he’d give young credit union professionals today? “Make known to management that you want to learn more and take advantage of the many opportunities our industry offers. I would tell them to become a sponge and learn and share as much as they can,” he said.
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