Dykstra Outlines Agenda As California League Chief

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SAN FRANCISCO – Diana Dykstra, the newly named president and CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, said pursuing capital relief will be one of the first priorities in her new job.

Dykstra, who has been president and CEO of San Francisco Fire CU for the last six years, will take over as head of the trade association Oct. 18, filling the void created by Bill Cheney, who was named CEO of CUNA in early July. Former president and CEO Dave Chatfield has been serving as interim president/CEO since July 6.

Dykstra told Credit Union Journal she is eagerly looking forward to her new role. “I know what a leader has to do: you have to listen, you have to learn, and you have to take what you heard to create solutions,” she said just hours after the announcement. “I don’t know what all credit unions want from the league, because my expectations as a credit union CEO are not the same as others’. Also, I need to learn from the leagues’ staff what their challenges are and where they think the leagues are going. I don’t know what I don’t know. My first 30 days will be absorbing this information and helping credit unions prosper.”

With that said, she added, “Capital relief is a priority – we need to get capital for California and Nevada credit unions that have been hammered by losses and have to chase off deposits because they hurt net worth ratios.”

Brett Martinez, head of search committee and president/CEO of Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif., said Dykstra was the best candidate because times are “different” today for credit unions. “There are challenges today and it will be challenging moving forward, so we needed someone with a well-rounded knowledge of the industry,” he said. “Diana has many innovations in her past and she does great things at her credit union. Her credit union is very focused on member value and we are all members of the trade association and she has a proven track record on that.”

Martinez said the names of other finalists for the job were confidential. “We had many talented applicants and although we are extremely pleased with our decision on Diana, it was not an easy decision.”

Credit union consulting and executive recruiting firm O’Rourke & Associates was part of the search and is owned 50% by the California CU League. Although Dykstra is the chair of O’Rourke & Associates, Martinez said that played no role, “as the choice was made by the executive committee and the California League Board. Everything was disclosed up front and we feel there was no conflict of interest,” he declared. “It would be strange to use an outside firm when the league owns 50% of O’Rourke & Associates.”

The Golden and Silver States have been hit harder by the recession than most, and many of their credit unions continue to struggle as members face stubbornly high unemployment. However, “Things are getting better,” Dykstra said, adding she is an optimist. “Yes, we have a long road ahead and it will be difficult, but we’ve learned a lot over the last two years and we are finally seeing sunlight.”

Chatfield said Dykstra, “is going to do a great job and the staff is really pleased to work with her. Everyone at the league office knows her and respects her.” Dykstra served as chairman of the California and Nevada CU Leagues in 2005.

The hiring process began for Dykstra in July, shortly after Cheney left, and ended with final interviews last week. The boards of the two leagues approved her hiring on Monday, Aug. 23. “It was grueling, but it should be,” she reported. “Hiring a CEO for any credit union trade association is the most difficult thing for the board to do. There were good questions and good exchanges and at the end of the day I had the skill set they were looking for.”

There were “big shoes to fill” when Dave Chatfield retired four years ago, and “bigger shoes to fill when Bill left,” Dykstra said. “I look forward to the transition and getting guidance from both of them. I will be different, but we all have the same laser focus – that we need to create an environment for credit unions to prosper and thrive in serving our members. This can be legislative, education, information and leadership, whatever it takes.”

Under Dykstra San Francisco Fire CU – which serves 27,000 members with assets exceeding $670 million – achieved wide recognition for innovative products and services, and for consumer satisfaction. She previously was the president and CEO of CoastHills FCU, and led the team through a name and branding change.

She has also served as SVP at Patelco CU in San Francisco, and was responsible for developing member education programs and as CEO of CUSO operations. Prior to that, Dykstra was responsible for consumer lending and other functions at The Golden 1 CU, Sacramento, where she helped develop a prototype that would later become the Credit Union Direct Lending (CUDL) program.


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