Executive Spotlight: Robin Larsen

Robin Larsen, President and CEO of Cobalt Credit Union.

Q: What led you to the credit union sector, and to Cobalt Credit Union?

A: I have worked in the financial industry, specifically banks and credit unions, for 40 years. I cherish the credit union philosophy of “People Helping People” and the fact that our employees are active participants in the communities we serve. From small dollar loans, mortgage loans, financial planning and helping our members establish credit, we are with them through every stage of life. Cobalt has a great story to tell! Our employees are our greatest brand ambassadors and the relationships they build with our members often last a lifetime. Being a financial co-op where profits are returned to members in the form of low or no fee services, higher interest rates on deposits and lower loan rates attracted me to the credit union sector.

Q: What’s your leadership style? How do you lead an engaged team?

A: I consider myself a transformational leader that motivates employees, enhances productivity and efficiency through communication and high visibility. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. My philosophy is to inspire, empower, and guide others to be their very best.

Q: Why is community service and philanthropy important to you and Cobalt Credit Union?

A: Community is in our DNA. Serving our community is why we exist. How we spend our time and financial resources has a positive impact on our community. From serving on chamber of commerce and nonprofit boards to offering financial literacy programs and providing educational opportunities in our schools, we’re focused on matching our strengths with the needs of our community. Our core values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence are how we operate and our outward efforts to give back to the community is vital to achieving our goals.

Q: How do you prioritize diversity and inclusion, both within your credit union and in terms of the community you serve?

A: Our hiring and training initiatives focus on respecting and valuing the differences each of us contribute to our culture at Cobalt. Ensuring all of our employees and members feel welcomed and respected in every channel we interact with them is a non-negotiable priority.

Q: Over the past year, what has the coronavirus pandemic revealed to you about Cobalt’s strengths and challenges?

A: All of our employees pulled together to ensure our commitment to “People Helping People” did not get interrupted. The rhythm of our business changed almost overnight from transitioning branch staff to work in the contact center and interactive teller/mobile banking areas. I am so proud of what we have accomplished. We added a number of new accounts and loans, as well as attracted new members from other financial institutions that had no way to serve their customers.

I am thankful we had the interactive teller machine technology, video banking and mobile applications to continue to serve our members — from our military members stationed across the world to members in their homes across our service area.

Q: What advice do you have for other executives also trying to lead their teams through this unprecedented crisis?

A: Simply, don’t lose sight of doing what’s right for your customers or, in our case, members. We quickly came together as a team and helped our employees and members through this crisis. Was the response perfect? Not by a long shot, but now we have a roadmap that serves as a guide to help us pivot and adapt to unknown circumstances in the future. Lastly, keep your focus on your employees, too. They are absolutely critical to the success of an organization, especially during challenging times.