Hunter Takes On A New Challenge

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LAS VEGAS-It's a job some wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole, but Andrew Hunter is coming out of retirement and moving from the Golden State to the Silver State to take it: CEO of troubled Silver State Schools CU.

"For me, anyway, this is actually a really good job," Hunter told Credit Union Journal. "I have a background in education credit unions, having worked at Riverside Campus Credit Union and Orange County Teachers (now called SchoolsFirst), so I'm really comfortable with that field of membership. It's a deserving membership, and the credit union model works well there."

But Hunter, who retired as the CEO of Patelco CU in San Francisco in 2009, knows there are some very real challenges ahead. He will be taking the reins from David Rhamy, who actually retired from Silver State Schools once before in December 2009, only to return a week later. The one-time $1-billion CU, like many "sand state" credit unions, is still digging out from a number of big losses ($72 million 2009 and 2010) as it works to pay off a $22-million emergency loan/capital infusion from its private deposit insurer ASI Inc., Dublin, Ohio.

"I am aware of the circumstances there," Hunter said. "But I am looking forward to the challenge. Like a lot of people who retire, I thought I was retiring for good, but then I got restless and wanted a new challenge, and now I've got one that fits my skill set."

Hunter, who will take over July 11, also noted that moving from the San Francisco Bay area to Las Vegas was a good fit for him geographically, as well, as it's not that far away and is a major "destination city."

Still, it comes back to the challenge. "The credit union had earnings issues in 2009 and 2010, but that seems to be stabilizing now," Hunter said, noting that Silver State Schools posted a modest gain in the first quarter of 2011. "We are going to have to work every aspect of the operation-lending, expenses, everything-and do the best we can. We'll also be working on connecting with the education community-but it's not as though they weren't already doing these things. It's not as if everything has gone bad there or that the credit union hasn't already made great progress. It's actually much more stable than an outsider might think."

As Hunter doesn't take over at the credit union until July 11, he declined to discuss what his first actions would be, wanting to have the chance to talk with his new staff about that first. He also declined to discuss whether any discussions with ASI or the state regulator have occurred but did say, "Both ASI and the Nevada FID are aware of my coming aboard, and both organizations want the credit union to succeed."

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