Wings Financial CU Losing Pilot

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APPLE VALLEY, Minn. – Wings Financial CU, the erstwhile Northwest Airlines Employees FCU that grew into one of the most successful big credit unions in the country, said this afternoon its long-time CEO Paul Parish is retiring at year-end.

Parish has been president and CEO of the credit union, now $3.2 billion in assets, since January 1992. During that time he flew the credit union through the turbulence of the bankruptcy of the chief corporate sponsor, eventually converting it to one of the first TIP charters in the country, serving all air transportation employees nationwide.

Parish also attracted the enmity of many of his peers in the credit union industry in 2007 when he launched the first hostile takeover attempt of a credit union after Contintental (Employees) FCU rebuffed his friendly offer. As part of that deal Wings offered members of Continental all of the credit union's $5 million in capital as a special dividend if they moved for a special meeting to override the board's reticence. The hostile attempt was eventually abandoned and Continental was acquired last year by Alliant (United Airlines) CU amid growing losses and the elimination of all of its capital.

“Paul has done a remarkable job in his twenty years of service to Wings,” said Michael Cooper, chairman of the Wings Financial board of directors. “During his tenure the assets of the credit union have increased more than tenfold while its balance sheet has remained strong and stable. Just as importantly, Paul has built a best-in-class management team and has nurtured a culture." 

“It has been the high point of my career to assemble a great team and to work with my Wings colleagues,” said Parish. “The employees of Wings Financial demonstrate their passion for serving members and their dedication to continuous improvement in every aspect of our business."

Parish continued to diversify the credit union even more in recent years, converting it two years ago to a state charter that also encompasses more than a dozen local counties surrounding the Twin Cities, while maintaining its airline industry field of membership.  The broad diversification helped Wings maintain strong financials throughout the financial crisis. It reported net income of $28.3 million for 2010 and a net of $12.6 million for the first quarter of 2011.

The Wings board has commenced a nationwide search for a successor.


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