Every year, credit unions from around the country enter top-performing employees, volunteers and institutions to be considered for NAFCU’s prestigious annual awards competition. The annual awards are NAFCU’s way of providing well-deserved recognition for industry professionals, volunteers, CEOs and credit unions. A panel of credit union peers narrows the entries down from dozens of outstanding candidates to just eight winners who are making their marks on the industry.
“This year’s award winners have demonstrated their exceeding commitment to strengthening the credit union industry,” says NAFCU Awards Committee Chairman Keith Sultemeier, president and CEO of Kinecta Federal Credit Union. “NAFCU is honored to recognize these winners for their efforts to change the industry for the better and their ability to facilitate the industry’s mission of providing exceptional financial services for their communities.”
There are two asset size categories with four awards each: Credit unions with assets of more than $250 million and credit unions with assets of $250 million or less. For information on entering next year’s competition, visit www.nafcu.org/annualawards. Interested credit unions are encouraged to begin applying in January.
CEO of the Year More Than $250M
Commonwealth Credit Union
Karen Harbin started her career at Commonwealth Credit Union as an accountant and worked her way up to become the institution’s president and CEO eight years ago. Under her leadership, Commonwealth Credit Union has reshaped its organizational culture for the better — recognized as best-in-state by Forbes magazine two years in a row.
Harbin believes in staff education and development, which led her to initiate a comprehensive, yearlong development course for newly hired managers and supervisors. The program offers mentorships, coaching, team-building exercises and a promise to invest in their development beyond the program. In addition, Harbin prioritizes community involvement. Shortly after she became president and CEO, she launched the #HeyKaren initiative — an open-door approach to listening to members and the community. She adopted the same program internally to ensure that a comfortable stream of communication is fostered throughout the organization.
In addition to her role as president and CEO, Harbin serves as a member of the Commonwealth Credit Union Board of Directors. She effortlessly balances this role as volunteer with the authority of president and CEO by keeping the board informed of critical issues and interpreting financial and operational reports as needed.
Harbin has a passion to serve and eagerly took on the task of reshaping the organizational culture at Commonwealth Credit Union. Her focus is on employee empowerment and recognition, and she believes that internal service with team members is as important as external service to members. Just last year, Commonwealth Credit Union was named one of the Top 10 Best Places to Work in Kentucky by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
CEO of the Year $250M or Less
North Jersey Federal Credit Union
Totowa, New Jersey
Lourdes Cortez has been a trailblazer in the credit union industry for more than 35 years. Her career with North Jersey Federal Credit Union began when she was hired as a teller right out of high school. After working in almost every department at North Jersey FCU over her 20 years of service, Cortez was promoted to CEO in 2005, becoming the first Latina CEO of a federal credit union.
As CEO, Cortez grew North Jersey FCU from assets of $168 million to more than $200 million. Though her financial accomplishments are exceptional, North Jersey FCU staff members believe she will be remembered for her community service and gift for identifying and nurturing the individual talents of her leadership team.
With a strong passion for education, Cortez developed the first student-run, curriculum-based credit union at her alma mater, JFK High School in Paterson, N.J. North Jersey FCU has hired graduates of this very program. In addition, Cortez launched the first credit union website in Spanish in 2005 and worked to include both Spanish speakers and collateral in all of North Jersey FCU’s financial literacy outreach efforts.
Cortez aims to ensure that all employees reach their highest potential. At North Jersey FCU, she implemented a tuition assistance plan for all full-time staff members who desired to get ahead with their career and education. She also prioritizes a healthy work-life balance and provides flexibility for employees to take care of their families.
Professional of the Year More Than $250M
Power Financial Credit Union
Pembroke Pines, Florida
In her 35 years of service, Alicia Quevedo rose from an entry-level position to her current role of senior vice president and chief membership officer. Her knowledge of the credit union industry and her personalized approach to member experience have contributed immeasurably to Power Financial Credit Union’s success.
At the age of 18, Quevedo began working for Pan Am Credit Union prior to its merger with Power Financial. At various points in her career, Quevedo grew from a branch manager to a part-time teller, and from vice president of information technology to a project manager. Her career path, though nonlinear, has been cross-functional and fostered a deep understanding of the credit union industry as a whole.
As a beneficiary of an empowering mentorship herself, Quevedo is a strong proponent of “paying it forward.” She is willing to go above and beyond to provide members and colleagues alike with guidance and support. Through her position at Power Financial, Quevedo oversees all operations related to member experience and is instrumental in the organization’s pursuit of membership growth and loan growth.
Quevedo handles an array of community engagement on behalf of Power Financial and consistently attends her credit union’s community service initiatives. Whether spending time with her family, improving the member experience at a branch office, or conducting community outreach, Quevedo is committed to the betterment of others.
Professional of the Year $250M or Less
Wyo Central Federal Credit Union
In just over two years at Wyo Central Federal Credit Union, Laramie Cummings has been promoted three times — a testament to her outstanding professionalism at her credit union and within the community. Cummings is always striving to be better and has a strong focus on continuing education. She has developed a professional development course for staff at Wyo Central that takes place over 12 months and has revamped the credit union’s policies, which helped it achieve one of its best audits ever.
In addition to these initiatives, Cummings has taken Wyo Central’s marketing to the next level. It is because of her efforts that Wyo Central has continued to develop into a prominent institution in Wyoming.
Cummings is known for living out Wyo Central’s mission of being “community-minded just like you.” She is an executive board member at two nonprofit organizations and has fostered a partnership between Wyo Central and organizations including the local Humane Society, Wyoming Rescue Mission, Mimi’s House and Girl Scouts. Through her volunteerism, Cummings is a positive influence and never stops promoting the values and benefits of her credit union.
Cummings wears many hats and has proven time and time again that she will go above and beyond to help as needed. Her passion and dedication certainly add to Wyo Central’s success.
Volunteer of the Year More Than $250M
Vice Adm. John Lockard
Navy Federal Credit Union
Retired Vice Adm. John Lockard has had a stellar 28-year career of volunteer service to Navy Federal Credit Union and to the credit union industry as a whole. He is a strong proponent of the unique role military credit unions play in the financial well-being of our nation’s service members and their families.
During a 36-year career of naval service, and later as vice president and general manager of engineering for Boeing, Lockard sharpened his superb skills as a manager, enabling him to lead Navy Federal to high levels of success. In 2019, his leadership garnered support for Navy Federal’s launch of a Government Shutdown Loan Program, disbursing more than 31,000 interest-free loans totaling $53 million to more than 18,000 members.
Under his guidance, Navy Federal expanded its physical footprint to ensure accessibility for its membership, many of whom may be assigned anywhere in the world. His leadership assisted the establishment of a new Navy Federal campus in Pensacola, Fla., in 2002, as well as the expansion of Navy Federal’s field of membership to include all Department of Defense employees in 2008. The list of accomplishments that Lockard had a hand in goes on.
Lockard has been a driving force in successfully building Navy Federal’s strong foundation based upon its exceptional ability to meet the unique financial services needs of military personnel and their families around the world. He has been instrumental in the development of products and services specifically designed to meet the financial needs of military members.
Volunteer of the Year $250M or Less
New Orleans Firemen’s
Federal Credit Union
Donald Bock has served as chairman of the Board of Directors at New Orleans Firemen’s Federal Credit Union (NOFFCU) for nearly 32 years. During his 50-year career as a firefighter with the New Orleans Fire Department and the Jefferson Parish Fire Department, Bock also lent his invaluable leadership skills to the credit union industry. Bock has a true conviction about the benefits that credit unions offer. He is and always has been a champion of the philosophy of the credit union movement.
During Bock’s leadership as chairman, NOFFCU progressed from a savings and lending institution to a thriving, competitive alternative in the banking arena. Beginning with the introduction of share drafts and followed by the offering of more complex lending services, NOFFCU has been transformed by his direction and enthusiasm. In addition, Bock’s commitment to serving consumers has led NOFFCU to qualify for Community Development Financial Institution status.
Bock has an ability to actively participate as a volunteer in many roles throughout his community. Over the years, he has been certified as a financial counselor and an enrolled agent for the IRS. He has also served as treasurer
and chairman of the Louisiana State Firemen’s Association.
As a member of the Louisiana Credit Union League Board, Bock attended countless conferences, seminars, and presentations over his credit union volunteer career. Ask anyone who has the pleasure of working with Bock or has experienced his thoughtful leadership: He is one of a kind and has a passion for service.
Credit Union of the Year More than $250M
UT Federal Credit Union
UT Federal Credit Union (UTFCU) is dedicated to giving back to its community and providing members with innovative, exceptional service. UTFCU has seen rapid loan growth, especially in the past two years. In 2018, UTFCU annualized 11 percent loan growth, which jumped to 14 percent in 2019. UTFCU maintains very conservative ALM limits to protect its members and the credit union in the event of an economic downturn.
UTFCU respects its members’ voices and recently surveyed members about desired programs and services. As a result, UTFCU launched a debit cash-back program and is working to implement a digital wallet round-up savings program to meet members’ needs.
To better serve its community, UTFCU offers a payday alternative loan for members who may be stuck in the payday lending cycle. To promote its goal of fostering financial literacy in young adults, UTFCU performs budget simulation games and lessons with students at its high school branch throughout the year.
For the credit union’s 50th anniversary in 2019, UTFCU staff sought to make a difference in the communities it serves by completing 50 acts of kindness between branches and departments. Some acts were seemingly random to the recipient, such as paying the grocery tab for shoppers at a local market, and others took the form of a donation. Veterans’ organizations, local programs for those in need, and several schools and youth programs were graciously given items they needed to comfort and provide for those in their care.
Community involvement does not stop there for UTFCU. Employees volunteer for such things as Habitat for Humanity builds, local food drives and clothing drives, and several community building programs throughout the year. In addition, UTFCU contributes to CU Aid, which assists in disaster recovery for UTFCU’s fellow credit unions impacted by natural disasters.
Credit Union of the Year $250M or Less
Commodore Perry Federal Credit Union
Oak Harbor, Ohio
Commodore Perry Federal Credit Union (CPFCU) is an award-winning certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with an NCUA low-income designation. With over 83 percent of CPFCU’s borrowers qualifying as low-income, many households face the challenge of paying for basic needs. In response to its membership’s needs, CPFCU developed a program called “Career Connection Ottawa County,” providing opportunities for members to finance job training programs with low, fixed interest rates and deferred payments while in school.
CPFCU has partnered with the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation and Terra State Community College to make the program available to prospective students. In recognition of this unique and necessary program, CPFCU was awarded a CDFI grant of $875,000 to support the development and deployment of this program to the Ottawa County community.
In addition, all CPFCU’s team members are certified Community Development Financial Counselors, equipped with unique financial counseling training tailored to the specific needs and challenges of low- to moderate-income members.
Over the past two years, CPFCU has experienced great financial successes that further strengthen the financial soundness of the credit union. Specifically, CPFCU experienced asset growth of 10 percent in 2019 and has increased its net worth ratio by more than 200 basis points since 2018. CPFCU’s membership also grew 4.23 percent during that time.
CPFCU strives to create lifelong relationships with members and is designed to help members improve their financial position. Last year, CPFCU helped more than 500 members improve their credit scores, with a whopping 48-point average increase.