The Benefit Of Being Repotted

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They're both university towns. They both offer cold climates and winter sports. And the trade group that now calls a city in one of the states its home got its start at a meeting in the other.

But that doesn't mean it was easy for Bob Hoel to leave Fort Collins, Colo., for Madison, Wis.

Hoel is well known to many across the credit union landscape, but as is so often the case, it's an accident of happenstance that he ever arrived. Hoel was happily employed at Colorado State University as a professor of business and was chairman of the Department of Marketing.

"On a fluke I recruited to be on a committee at the credit union," said Hoel of Norlarco CU, which serves the university. "Then I joined the board, and became chairman of Norlarco CU in Fort Collins."

Hoel said he ran into board members of the Filene Research Institute while at a credit union meeting, and there was even some discussion of doing research for Filene, although it never came to fruition.

"But after I started on the credit committee I found credit unions fascinating. And I got on the board, and I found it intellectually fascinating," said Hoel. "I was excited that we did a good thing for our co-workers and that we were a good deal and good for the community. To me there was a lot of satisfaction there."

The Filene Institute's executive director's position opened up when Dave Chatfield left to take over as president of the California league. The job was offered to Hoel, but not accepted before some soul-searching.

"It was a big personal decision for me," he admits. "I was a tenured professor. You do not walk away from that. I had been very happy as a professor. It was very traumatic coming to Filene. The credit union system is much more complex than I would have imagined. You will never hear me say the 'average' credit union, because credit unions are very diverse and complex. I went through this trauma. I thought I knew credit unions. But I also understood businesses, and there are business fundamentals."

Today, Hoel said he is happy with the decision, and currently serves on the board of Great Wisconsin Credit Union, the former CUNA Credit Union. In the process, he said some advice from an old colleague has also proven true. "An old horticulture professor told me that people are like plants and are usually reinvigorated when repotted," he said.

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