Hired By Herb Wegner, CEO Challenges CUs On Legacy

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EVERETT, Wash.-Bob Schumacher, the well-known CEO of MountainCrest Credit Union here, said he plans to retire in January of 2012.

Schumacher has had a 34-year career in credit unions, beginning with CUNA in 1977 and holding positions with the Washington and Florida leagues and their service corporations, and a mortgage CUSO.

Active in numerous local, national and international efforts, including working on two WOCCU People-to-People projects in the Philippines, and the winner of the Washignton League's Ambassador Award for lifetime contributions, Schumacher is perhaps best known for serving as the emcee of the Herb Wegner Awards each year in Washington-a fitting role given that he was hired by Wegner at CUNA.

Schumacher told Credit Union Journal he will host the awards again in 2012, before retiring from those duties, too. Below, Schumacher shares his thoughts in this CUJ Q&A:

CUJ: How did you come to be involved in credit unions?
Schumacher: I became involved in credit unions, other than my first car loan at CUNA CU, when I was in the hotel business in Madison, my first career. I worked the CUNA Quarterly meetings for the Park Motor Inn and always yearned to be on the CUNA side of things. When there was an opening in convention services at CUNA, I applied and was hired by Herb Wegner to step in and work there. The rest is history.

CUJ: What is the biggest change you've seen during your career?
Schumacher: The biggest change I've seen is in the complexity of how credit unions operate compared to 10 years ago, the depth of knowledge that is needed, and the compliance requirements to which we must all adhere. It's just gotten more and more difficult, especially for those of us that are relatively small in asset size.

CUJ: At one point you were involved in CUNA's National Advertising Program. That is the subject of much discussion today? Is it feasible?
Schumacher: You would think that, after 77 years, we'd have that figured out by now. But until we can set aside parochial attitudes, egocentric thinking and credit union politics, we will never get to that point. Sometimes I believe that the confederation structure of CUNA, the leagues and credit unions, and the dual chartering/states rights construction of our movement are our both our strongest assets and our biggest hindrance. This is especially the case as it regards developing a national brand and a shared marketing program, such as the NAP was built to do.

CUJ: You've also been active in international CU development and the Development Educator programs. Why should U.S. CU leaders care about either?
Schumacher: In my earlier comments about the biggest changes in the movement over my years of involvement, I mentioned the concentration of operational performance, products and services. What the Credit Union DE Program (including the international DE programs) and international involvement bring to the table is the constant and consistent reminder that we are a cooperative movement with shared principles that all work under the same philosophical umbrella - people helping people. This kind of rejuvenation and invigoration are needed now more than ever, because of our current technical environment. Without what DE teaches and international credit union cooperation promotes, we're just another bunch of financial institutions.

CUJ: What advice would you have for a new CEO?
Schumacher: My first piece of advice would be to become a DE! This foundation will prove invaluable. As a CU mentor of mine, Mary Cunningham, put it, "DE is the filter through which I make my daily credit union decisions." Secondly, I would say get involved in local, state and regional credit union worlds. And then become a sponge and absorb the credit union world around you, including the exposure to the international world of credit unions. The entire network of credit unions is unfathomable in its power and reach.

CUJ: What is your view of the future of credit unions, if there is to be one?
Schumacher: Will there be credit unions? You bet! As long as there are banks, there will need to be credit unions. The questions are: what will the movement look like? Will there just be Really Big CUs, or will there be a need for us smaller guys, too? My fondest desire is that there will be credit unions of all sizes for many different consumer needs.

The real answer to this question is in the hands of our national leadership, the regulators and the politicians whom we will need to influence with our differences as credit unions. Our jobs as credit union individuals will be to stay informed, involved and to leave a credit union legacy.

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