Banker Gregory Mitchell made a startling confession after accepting a new job in Oregon, admitting that he has been a credit union member for more than 35 years.

Mitchell, who left First PacTrust Bancorp last month in a management shakeup, has become the new president and chief executive of First Tech Federal Credit Union in Beaverton, Ore. In comments posted on the credit union's website this week, Mitchell said that his membership in a credit union gives him a familiarity with the business model.

"As a member serving the needs of Coast Guardsmen and their families, I have a sincere appreciation of the role that credit unions like First Tech play in our great country," Mitchell said. "First Tech is uniquely well-positioned to meet and exceed your expectations while also producing exceptional levels of organic growth and strong earnings."

The acknowledgement of a credit union membership is interesting. Mitchell was the chief executive of First PacTrust — a former credit union that had converted to a savings bank — for two years. He also spent eight years as the president and chief executive of California National Bank.

His previous work experience also includes Hovde Financial, where he launched the firm's West Coast investment banking operations, and the Office of Thrift Supervision. All the while, he was a credit union member.

Mitchell left First PacTrust (BANC) roughly a month after the Irvine, Calif., company announced that he would share the CEO title with financier Steven Sugarman.

Bankers have a long-standing grudge against credit unions, which are tax-exempt competitors. Recently, the two sides have sparred over a regulatory change that has allowed hundreds of credit unions to circumvent caps on business lending.

Community banking experience played a role in First Tech's decision to hire Mitchell, John Weidert, the credit union's chairman, said in a separate letter. Weidert also touted Mitchell's "deep roots in serving the community and his visionary leadership approach."

Mitchell succeeded Hank Sigmon, who had been First Tech's interim president and chief executive. No word yet on whether Sigmon, who returned to his post as the credit union's chief financial officer, is a banking customer.

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