The Credit Union Movement Remembers Tom Sargent

The Credit Union Movement was built by and remains strong because of the work of visionaries, and one of the most influential in the last several decades was Tom Sargent. Sargent, who passed away on Nov. 26, was known for leading with both his head and his heart.

During a decades-long financial services career, Sargent held the reins as CEO at First Tech Federal Credit Union for 25 years before his retirement in 2010. On his watch, the credit union grew from a local, $100 million financial institution to a $2.3 billion asset regional leader.

“During his tenure, Tom put the credit union on a strong trajectory for innovation and growth, including developing the nation’s first online banking solution, providing a wide variety of digital banking options with secure internet transactions for members,” according to a statement released by First Tech leadership. Current President and CEO Greg Mitchell said, “Tom was an inspirational leader who always placed the interests of members first. He was open to new ideas and developed collaborative relationships which contributed to a positive member experience and a challenging, exciting, and rewarding work environment for employees.”

His passion for a good working environment drove his desire to be a mentor. Denise Wymore, now the Marketing Manager for QCash Financial, worked for Sargent in two different credit unions.

“He told me that people who never make any mistakes aren’t doing anything worthwhile,” Wymore said. “I would not be the risk taker I am today had it not been for the moments with Tom.”

Sargent lent his banking technology expertise to CO-OP Financial Services as Chair of the Board of Directors from 2003-2005, supporting CO-OP in its mission to provide technology solutions, such as networked ATMs, to credit unions.

“His passion for the credit union movement was unparalleled,” said Todd Clark, CEO, CO-OP Financial Services. “Tom’s leadership, mentorship, and friendship will be missed. We are better for having known him and we will continue our support of Children’s Miracle Network and the movement to carry on his legacy.”

Sargent was an early champion for Credit Unions for Kids, which started raising funds for OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland 35 years ago. There is a safety center in the hospital that bears his name. Though often credited with being a founding father of what is now the national Credit Union Movement’s “charity of choice” Sargent always gave credit to a village of champions.

“I think one of the keys… and particularly locally, was the collaboration between credit unions,” he said in this video interview with NWCUA in 2014. “It wasn’t one credit union doing things. They all participated. They all got involved.”

Sargent was the first credit union CEO to Chair CMN’s Board of Directors. Since its founding in 1986, Credit Unions for Kids has raised $200 million for CMN Hospitals.

“Tom was a passionate credit union trailblazer,” said Troy Stang, President and CEO, Northwest Credit Union Association. “He accelerated credit unions’ participation in technology and innovation. And his efforts for Credit Unions for Kids laid the groundwork for a living legacy.”

Posted in Around the NW, Leadership.