More Than the Bottom Line

Debra Schwartz, NAFCU Board Chair

My entire career has been in financial services. I have worked for credit unions for almost 30 years, but I didn’t start there. I worked in the banking industry for the first decade of my career. While similar industries, they have significant differences. The credit union difference is real — from the way we prioritize our members, to the way we take care of our staff, to our commitment to investing in our communities.

Seeing that difference in action is life changing. It’s so inspiring.

As CEOs and presidents of financial institutions, we are responsible for maintaining the well-being of our institution. That means ensuring financial stability and soundness — proven critical amid a pandemic that drastically changed our members’ financial habits and health — meeting the expectations of our board and other stakeholders, fostering a compliant work environment, providing products and services that meet our members’ needs and hiring a team that is responsive and responsible.

As CEOs and presidents of credit unions, there is much more that we deem essential to our institutions’ well-being, and that is what I’m most proud of.

At the core of our industry is the importance of giving back. To our members, to our employees, to our communities. We are more than our bottom line.

We are the donations we made to food pantries and hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. We are the billions of dollars in small business loans we made to Main Street businesses so that they could pay employees and stay open. We are the financial education programs we provide to students, first-time homebuyers, and others in need of financial guidance so that they can make smart financial decisions. We are the culture that welcomes all.

Our members trust us because we put our mission statements into action. For my credit union, we tell our members that their success is our bottom line. Whatever financial dreams or goals they are working to achieve, we’ll be by them every step of the way to make it happen. That’s why we continue to grow.

While my time serving on the NAFCU Board of Directors and as chair will soon come to an end, I have been proud to serve you and our association for these past several years. As I reflect on my time within the credit union industry, our accomplishments give me strength even in trying times.

My proudest moment as a CEO came not when we had our strongest year financially (which was great), nor when we had our best NCUA examination (also a point of pride), but when during a pandemic, our employees recognized us as a top workplace — distinguishing our leadership and diversity — and we were able to raise meaningful resources for local charities.

Our industry is in good hands with NAFCU. The NAFCU team understands how personal our relationships with our members are. They know that excessive regulatory burdens limit the resources we can invest in our members. They fight every day for policies that ensure we can serve our members and communities at our fullest potential.

The trajectory of our industry is strong. I am confident our efforts and commitment to our members will lead us to an even brighter future.

Because we are more than our bottom lines.

Debra Schwartz is president and CEO of Mission Federal Credit Union in San Diego.