“As credit union leaders, are we walking the talk?” That was Gerry Singleton’s message to Western CUNA Management School students, faculty, and alumni as they gathered this week for the Richard Myles Johnson Colloquium in Credit Union Philosophy evening at Pomona College in Claremont, CA.
Singleton — a long-time WCMS alumni and president and CEO of the state trade association Montana’s Credit Unions — spent almost 25 years as the vice president of credit union system relations at CUNA Mutual Group, working closely alongside state credit union leagues/associations, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), and other key system partners to build a thriving credit union system.
He has also served on various national boards of directors and advisory groups, including the National Credit Union Foundation, CUNA Mutual Foundation Board, CU FinHealth Fund Advisory Board, as well as being an active Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE).
Before WCMS alumni, students, and other attendees entered the auditorium, Singleton and WCMS leaders greeted them by presenting everyone with an envelope. They were told not to open their envelope, with everyone getting one of two different types.
“As leaders, we need to make sure our actions match our words,” Singleton said as he opened his discussion with a focus on walking-the-talk last Wednesday evening — a yearly event that’s become known as “Philosophy Night.” What was included in each envelope was an exercise for attendees to see things differently when “you change your perspective,” he noted.
He also used a briefcase as an example. “Suncoast Credit Union in Florida started out of a briefcase,” just like many credit unions started in 1934, Singleton said. His heartwarming address beseeched students to aid their credit unions in bridging the movement’s strength of collaboration toward new ways of thriving and leading-edge disruptions that advance and advocate for the financial wellbeing of all members and households.
Singleton said that working through today’s challenges faced by credit unions — while simultaneously constructing the next generation of solutions that opens new doors to the future — should be a leadership priority for senior managers and volunteers in credit unions everywhere.
He inspired the audience with expounding on the following principles: “YOU” (know your values and understand yourself); “THEM” (be informed, be aware, and be empathetic); and “US” (embrace cooperative principles, connect to developmental issues, and seek out and share your unique perspective).
“The eyes of our credit union members and our leaders tell the story,” Singleton said. “Stay empathetic, stay curious, see beyond, and be aware. What it takes as credit union leaders is to go deeper with our members so we can offer the best products and services they need, and to meet them where they are.”