How Credit Unions are Addressing Diversity at the Board Level | Credit Union Journal

Credit unions are meant to be representative of the communities they serve, but their board members don’t always reflect the diversity of their audience. Many in the industry are working to change that.

Building on the discussions that followed the murder of george floyd in 2020, many financial institutions have adapted their hiring practices to better reflect diversity, equity and inclusion — both internal and external — and adapting their operations according to the new perspectives they bring.

Within the credit union industry, a long-standing issue with succession planning creates an opportunity to seek out new voices and new talent, said Susan Mitchell, chief executive of consulting firm Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates in Boulder City, Nevada, during a panel discussion at CUNA. Mutual 2022 Discovery Conference.

“Diversity is about diversity of thought, and what we are looking at right now is a significant leadership transition within our credit union space…For me, one of the critical areas that we all need to thinking is to start developing succession plans for the boards and start developing the next level of [talent]because we need people to pass on the legacy to,” Mitchell said.

In many credit unions, the boards of directors still reflect the original membership areas, despite any broadening of the institution’s membership scope or any change in the region’s demographics, Mitchell said.

“You have to bring people in and then respect what’s going on, and I really believe that sometimes breaks with the culture of what the board has created…The membership field is changing, and how much of our boards today still reflect this original band,” Mitchell said. “Being intentional about this expansion is something that takes a lot of work.”

Credit union boards seeking such a change have begun to review the composition of directors in relation to current areas of membership and are working to recruit people who better understand the needs of members within local communities.

CoTrina Matthews, district-level systems specialist for the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston and a board member of Cy-Fair Federal Credit Union (also in Houston), with $340 million in assets dollars, discussed the importance of improving diversity, equity and inclusion.

CoTrina Matthews (left), board member of Cy-Fair Federal Credit Union and Stacey Walker (right), board member of Xcel Federal Credit Union. “When I’m looking for new people to network with, have discussions with [and] I try to come up with new ideas, I look for helpers in the community, the people around me, who show up and raise their hands and they get the job done,” Walker said.

“Our community at Cy-Fair has changed significantly to a predominantly Hispanic community in terms of numbers, but our board of directors hasn’t necessarily always reflected that,” Matthews said. “I am excited about the aggressiveness of our leadership in ensuring we have a board that reflects its members [and] of the community that it serves to have a more diverse thought process.

Recently, the credit union continued its efforts to encompass other demographics in March with a merger with neighboring historically Black Prairie View Federal Credit Union, a $3.1 million credit union based in Prairie View, Texas.

As a component of succession planningmany credit unions that have seen leaders resign for one reason or another have appointed millennial and generation Z leaders to guide and develop strategies to meet the needs of underrepresented members.

Michael Maxwell, vice president of strategic development at ad agency Smart Circle International and president of SCE Federal Credit Union, a $993 million institution in Irwindale, Calif., explained that many boards are still lagging behind. to attract younger and more diverse professionals.

“We’ve definitely had this change over the last few years to make sure everyone was included. [and] has a voice,” Maxwell said. “I’d love to say a lot of credit union boards have that, but we know the reality is we know they don’t. [and] we know it’s a type of age, it’s a type of thinking, and you get to this bunch of things that never really promote that change.”

Members of the LGBTQ community who hold leadership positions have engaged in similar work to ensure that others like them have pathways to leadership roles.

But changing hiring practices and creating new paths to leadership is no small feat, and can take months or even years to execute properly, said Margo Byrne, CEO of Channel Islands YMCA and vice president of the Ventura County Credit Union in Ventura, with $1.3 billion in assets. , California.

“We have this desire to start a conversation and have closure at the end of the board meeting about where things are going, and I think we have to give ourselves permission that it may take us. three, four, five or six meetings a year to really move something important forward, and that those strategic conversations are okay,” to be extended as long as they’re productive, Byrne said. “We’re getting used to having to start and finish and have a conclusion, decision and next steps within 15-30 minutes, but you can’t make big decisions in that time.”

Credit unions can look to active community members involved in philanthropic efforts as their potential next leaders.

“When I’m looking for new people to network with, have discussions with [and] I try to get new ideas, I look for helpers in the community, people around me, who come forward and raise their hands and they do the work even in other industries,” said Stacey Walker, member of the board of directors of the Xcel Federal Credit Union, with assets of $194 million, in Bloomfield, New Jersey.”It is the people around us who want to do great things, and the co-operatives certainly are an avenue for that in terms of board leadership.”

Leslie M. Gill