Orange County CU Creates 'Chief Political Officer' Job

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Orange County's Credit Union has created what is believed to be the first "chief political officer" position in credit unions.

Adam Denbo, formerly Orange County CU's assistant vice president of technology, will have a wide-ranging job description. He told The Credit Union Journal his responsibilities will include working with legislative advocates from other credit unions, the California league and CUNA. He will attend various political events, write letters to legislators, and serve as a "grassroots lobbyist" in events such as the annual Hike the Hill, though he will not be registered as a lobbyist. In addition, he will educate OCCU's associates (the credit union's term for its employees) as to the credit union difference.

"Since it is a new position, it's what we make of it," said Denbo. "The position, and the creation of the position, is proactively reactive. Our CEO, Judy McCartney, always thought the time would come when the credit union would need a chief political officer. With Operation Credit Union (a bank attack upon credit unions) and other events at an unprecedented level, she thought this was the time."

According to Denbo, his focus will cover local, state and national politics. He said the majority of his activities so far have been on the federal level, because there has been a focus on Congressional legislation. He also has been involved in California politics.

At each of the three levels, Denbo will be lobbying on behalf of all CUs, not just OCCU. He said the credit union is in the process of developing a public advocacy strategic plan.

Asked if he thinks other credit unions will follow suit and name a chief political officer, Denbo said Orange County Teachers' CU is considering doing so, and noted that WesCorp has a vice president of legislative affairs, and Pasadena, Calif.-based Wescom CU has a governmental affairs person.

"Credit unions understand the focus that is needed now. Someone cannot just do government relations as part of marketing, he or she needs to be proactively reactive."

Denbo has an extensive background in technology, and spoke at the California league's 2004 Big Valley Conference on information technology investments.

He graduated from Western CUNA Management School in 2002. He remains active in the school's programs.

"My goal is to become a CEO," he said. "I don't know how soon it will come, but Judy McCartney has a lot of faith in me."

Denbo started in his new position in July, though OCCU did not announce the move until Dec. 2.

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