Bill Kennedy: Personal Connections in the Digital Era

“There’s nothing like adding fuel to the fire of engagement to make a difference when someone demonstrates their gratitude five years after the fact that, hey, you really made a difference in my journey. That’s just more encouragement to keep doing it.”

EPISODE:

86

with guest:

Bill Kennedy
Controller

Episode Summary

In this insightful episode of The Digital Banking Podcast, host Josh DeTar welcomed Bill Kennedy, an experienced credit union executive currently at 4Front Credit Union. Kennedy, with over 35 years in the credit union sector, shared his unique journey in the industry. Starting out as a talented golfer hired by a bank to win tournaments, he accidentally discovered his path in credit unions.

The discussion went beyond Kennedy’s career trajectory. He delved into the importance of networking and personal connections in the evolving landscape of digital in banking. His approach emphasizes that while technology is transforming the industry, the value of human relationships remains paramount.

This episode also highlights Kennedy’s dedication to mentorship. Having mentored over 200 individuals, he stressed the significance of nurturing the next generation of leaders. His experiences, from golfing connections to leadership roles, offer a profound perspective on the banking industry’s dynamic nature and the enduring impact of personal mentorship.

Key Insights

The Power of Personal Networking in the Digital Age

Kennedy emphasized the enduring importance of personal networking in the rapidly evolving digital banking landscape. Despite the rise of online platforms like LinkedIn, he advocates for the value of in-person connections, underscoring their irreplaceable role in building professional relationships. He stated that while digital tools can initiate connections, the depth and authenticity of personal interactions are crucial for meaningful networking. His perspective offered a blend of traditional and modern approaches, suggesting that personal touch remains vital in the digital era of banking and finance.

Kennedy’s Unique Journey from Golfer to Credit Union Leader

Kennedy shared his unconventional path into the banking sector, beginning as a skilled golfer hired by a bank to win tournaments. This interesting start led him to a distinguished career in credit unions spanning more than 35 years. His story reflects the serendipitous nature of career development, showing how initial unrelated opportunities can open doors to significant roles. Kennedy’s experience as NAFCU CEO of the Year and CUNA CFO of the Year further underlines his success in the industry. His journey is a testament to the unpredictable paths to leadership and the potential of embracing unexpected opportunities.

Embracing Technology and New Talents in Credit Unions

This episode shed light on the shifting dynamics within credit unions due to technological advancements. Kennedy discussed how these institutions are adapting to integrate more tech-focused strategies and roles. This transformation includes attracting tech-savvy personnel proficient in data analysis and API management. Kennedy pointed out the need for a new breed of professionals who can navigate the complexities of digital banking. Additionally, he stressed the importance of mentoring the next generation of leaders to ensure a smooth transition in this evolving sector. His insights reveal the balancing act between embracing new technologies and maintaining the core values of credit unions.

Guest At A Glance

William (Bill) Kennedy

Controller

4Front CU

Find Bill On:
LinkedIn

More than 35 years in credit union leadership, golf enthusiast. 2019 Credit Union Rockstar from CU Magazine and Fiserv.

Bill Kennedy: [00:00:00] Networking is about connection in-person connection. It’s not necessarily LinkedIn or Facebook. That can be one partial way to get there. But that should never be the encompassing, all encompassing. It needs to be a personal connectivity. So. Don’t totally count on LinkedIn to get you where you want to go. Um, it needs to be personal.

[00:01:00]

Josh DeTar: [00:02:00] Welcome to another episode of the Digital Banking Podcast. My guest today is Bill Kennedy, the Controller for 4Front Credit Union. Through today’s episode, you’ll quickly see why I was so motivated to convince Bill to be a guest on the podcast. The authentic and deep rooted desire to make an impact is so blatantly apparent in Bill, it’s something to behold.

I’ve had the fortune to meet a few people in life that make me think there might be a possibility reincarnation is a real thing. There’s just no other explanation for how much life some people have lived and how much they’ve seen done accomplished and been a part of Bill is one of those people Bill has been a credit union executive for over 35 years, 18 years as a CEO and 17 years as a CFO.

He was named NAFCU CEO of the year and CUNY CFO of the year. [00:03:00] Now Bill’s first job out of college was actually at a bank and they hired him simply because they wanted to win two golf tournaments. And he was a pretty darn good golfer. He later fell into credit unions by total mistake. Uh, as he mentions, most credit union leaders do.

He was working for the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation. He, and more importantly, his wife, didn’t love all the travel that came with the role. So his wife sent his resume to a credit union. Later, he got a call from the Department of Justice Federal Credit Union saying they wanted to talk.

And he had no idea he’d even applied. He said his sign that this was a good move though, his boss at the time said you would be a great addition to the credit union community. Why? Because Bill believes his purpose in life is to be a shining light to others like his mentors were to him. Along the way, his mentors taught him the power and criticality of certain things and a big one was giving back and paying it forward.

This is why he fits in well in the credit union space. It’s about [00:04:00] people helping people. Bill says the biggest thing his time in the industry brought him was the abundance of wonderful people into his life and those mentor relationships he built for himself. He extended to others. He’s mentored over 200 people and even spent 10 years as an adjunct faculty, though, uh, through this, he has been able to bring even some of his greatest mentors like Dr.

Ben Carson to mentor once a quarter to his interns and management trainees at the credit union. It’s about people. Do the right things, set out to make a difference, not to win an award. He says networking is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. And Bill believes golf is one of the best ways you can do it.

He says golf is his passion, although he didn’t get to play as much last year as he would have liked. He says, there’s no better way to connect on a deep level with someone than spending four and a half hours with them playing golf. Bill has five children and they all play golf. And one of his daughters has even golfed with former [00:05:00] president Barack Obama.

Name others that have been able to spend three plus hours with the president with their dedicated undivided attention. That’s pretty cool. So without further ado, I can’t wait to talk to Bill and have him share his experiences and his learnings with us. So Bill, welcome to the podcast. Thank you for being a guest today.

Bill Kennedy: Thank you, Josh. I’m excited to share with you the knowledge and experience that I have. I will focus on my experiences directly. I’ll try to mainly discuss that because there’s so much to talk about. I don’t want to talk about a lot of things that I personally haven’t experienced.

Josh DeTar: Well, and two, I mean, you know, we, we’re going to have to, you know, eat dinner and get some sleep at some point. I think without that I could probably talk to you all day. So, um, no. And I do want to be cognizant of there was one statement that you wanted to make just about the, um, uh, the representation that you have today is that of yours personally and may not be those of 4Front credit union.

So I just want to make sure that that’s on record.

Bill Kennedy: Thank you.

Josh DeTar: Yeah, of course. Well, so let’s jump [00:06:00] in and, you know, as I talked to you and, and, and as, you know, folks heard in kind of the introduction to you as a guest. Yeah. It’s really apparent to me that one of the things that you are the most passionate about, um, is, is really mentoring people to kind of be the best versions of themself.

Uh, do you mind just explaining a little bit of like, what was the genesis of kind of that thought process and how did, how did you evolve into being somebody that was so mindful and thoughtful about the mentorship?

Bill Kennedy: Well, I was very, very fortunate to, at a relatively young age, I learned very quickly some very important lessons. Uh, I shared with you that I’m a golfer. I also played some tennis. I was a member of a country club at 24. And I learned something that is, I didn’t know. Is that great leaders are always looking to create leadership disciples, if I may use that word. And so I was playing in [00:07:00] the champion finals of the championship of golf. And I was playing in the finals of doubles tennis. And I had an injury when I played high school football to my, uh, Achilles. Um, that kind of put me back a little bit. But, um, I found out that leaders at the country club were watching me in these events. And even though I didn’t win the final of the golf or the final of the doubles, they said, and they knew I was hampered by my injury. They said that my competitiveness and my, the way I comported myself, and they had done some research on me.

I didn’t know. This is the chairman of the board of the country club, and he said, we want you to be part of our team here on the, and I was 24 years old,

and they said to me, and I’ve had coaches, I played sports pretty much all my life, but I’ve never really had what you would distinguish as a mentor, mentor, if it coaches.[00:08:00] Uh, who taught you how to be good at a different sport, but they didn’t really put a lot into your personal development. Well, they put me in touch with a gentleman named Hassell Bell, who was 82 years old. Now, I don’t tell you Hassell didn’t know anything about technology, okay? But boy, was he so wise! He taught me some of the most important things that I pass on to my, uh, my mentees. That they are the CEO of their own personal services corporation. They own their journey.

Josh DeTar: Hmm.

Bill Kennedy: To surround yourself with a board of advisors, whether it’s, you know, you consider it a board, whether you consider it mentors, whatever. Surround yourself and be strategic about it. Who you pick to be, uh, in your life. And because, again, as I shared with you, great leaders understand one of the three core principles of being a leader is to pay it back and to become a mentor to future leaders. That was the first thing that I learned. And then he taught me that the two things as a [00:09:00] CEO of your own personal services corporation are you need to be a value creator.

You must create value where you’re planted. And after you’ve been developing, creating value and you must understand what value you’re creating. Because that’s a tremendous exercise. If you can go through that process, it’s not easy to determine what value you create for your credit union. Okay, it really helps you in your performance evaluations, trust me. And then, to be a growth stock. You must be a value creator first, and then a growth stock later. Being better today, than you were a year ago. And being better a year from now. And looking back. Because it’s one of the most motivational things, as long as you have a plan to get where you’re going. To look back, and say, look how far I have come. So I learned that from Hassel. He taught me some, you know, incredible things. And so I also had a mentor at the Department of Justice, Jim Hogan. He was the number two guy at [00:10:00] FBI. And he, and he was my mentor, not because I was on parole,

or I was 

Josh DeTar: huh, that’s what they all say.

Bill Kennedy: yeah. So, Jim Hogan was the treasurer. He was phenomenal.

He taught so many things, too. He taught me the criticality of paying it back. He was obviously a treasurer on the, uh, uh, creating board. Um, being involved, he taught me about teaching. Making sure you go out and teach. That’s when I taught for 10 years part time as a business faculty. But the giving back, the credit union model is about people helping people.

And giving back. And collaboration. I will tell you that in my opinion, the number one competitive advantage of credit unions, outside of people helping people, is collaboration. And in order to collaborate both internally and externally. Is, is, is the strength of credit unions. Because you never have to be a lone wolf. You never have to recreate the wheel. I have met so many wonderful people. So many wonderful people. that I can reach out to them. [00:11:00] If I need something that I can put out there. And most of the time I’ll get some, if they’re, if they’re experiencing that. They’ll give me some shared wisdom. So. But taking that into consideration, I’ve never had to be alone wolf or never had to make a decision that was totally not, uh, that I didn’t feel some comfort level in.

So I have believed, that has been my purpose in life, to help people. And being 10 years as an adjunct faculty, business faculty, I learned the criticality of having internships, uh, and then, which segwayed into management training programs. Um, which led to things like meeting Dr. Ben Carson, so, uh, because he’s all about bringing up young people and giving them a chance, uh, to learn and make a difference.

So that’s really the bottom line of who I am.

Josh DeTar: You know, you’ve said a couple of things that really fascinate me, Bill, because I feel like this is something that even I’m on a continual journey personally in [00:12:00] is, you know, what type of leader do I want to be? And, you know, as I’ve kind of gone through different evolutions of myself over the years, and I think one of the bigger ones was, you know, becoming a parent.

Um, and just that relationship that that creates and the mindset shift that happens in that is. Um, uh, so prescribes to your methodology here of, I think the greatest thing that I can do when I’m, you know, laying my head on my pillow for the very last time is look back and say, you know, I had a positive impact on other people and I was a part of helping them see their best versions of themselves.

And, um, you know, you, you kind of started by talking about this whole, you’d had coaches. But there’s a very big difference between a coach and a mentor. And, you know, as I’ve kind of gone through this personal evaluation of just, you know, my own leadership style over the years and how I approach different situations, um, You know, I’ve looked back at my previous leaders and what things worked well, and what things did I resonate well with?

And, um, what I find really interesting and what I’d [00:13:00] love to get your perspective on is, you know, even in today’s day and age, where we have basically unlimited information at our fingertips, right? Um, the ability to network with people is greater than it’s ever been. It’s incredible to me to see so many different styles of quote unquote boss these days, right?

And you still see a lot of the people that just, you know, want to crack the whip from behind the cart. And then you see a lot of people that are recognizing, you know, servant leadership is a different approach that actually empowers people. And, um, so, you know, as you’ve kind of gone through your journey and as you’ve mentored people through this journey, you know, One, maybe start by just talking through the differentiation between a coach and a mentor, and then how have you applied some of those philosophies to help kind of raise up the next generation of leaders based on that thought process?

Bill Kennedy: I would say a coach is mainly focused on your performance in the specific event that they are over, you know, involved with you, okay? So [00:14:00] I played football, I played baseball, I played golf, I played basketball. Um And it was about the game, frankly. Um, but when you have a mentor, they are more about who you are and developing you personally, and helping you navigate your, your journey forward. you know, not every, that’s why it’s important, frankly. They have good things to share, but not everybody can share the same things. That’s why it’s important for you to surround yourself with a number of people. and strategically do it. So, if I could say, so, you have to do some research, and you have to be strategic about it. And you have to research, like I shared with you, leaders, if they’re true leaders, understand that their responsibility is to develop new people. It’s one of their top three things. So they’re always on the lookout. So, but you have to position yourself to be on their radar, in some way, shape, or form. So, many times, and I’ll use the, uh, the credit union example, if I may, [00:15:00] is that credit unions, frankly, many of them are your retired, uh, folks, um, if you will, on the board.

And they don’t have a lot of programs to bring up younger people. But those that are smart do. So my advice to younger people is to get in those type of situations where you can surround yourself with seven, nine leaders. And just by being on their radar, will migrate down to you that you can learn so much.

For example, okay, so, I share golf. I mean, I mean, it is what it is. I often position myself to play golf. If I could, with leaders. Uh, I will tell you that I met Ken Robinson, who I think the world of. He was the CEO of NAFCU, uh, years ago. Uh, he was also a dedicated military person. Um, I believe he was a colonel, general maybe.

Um, to spend [00:16:00] four and a half hours on the golf course with Ken Robinson. He became one of my mentors. Just because I positioned myself to play golf with him. And Uh, you can do that any, you know, find out if your, a leader does food, food, uh, banks or does, whatever they do, figure out what they do and then position yourself to be, not to be aggressive, too aggressive, but to position yourself so that they can see who you are. And that could lead, and so, so my advice to, to, to the people that I’ve, uh, been fortunate to, uh, mentor is to try to surround yourself with five people to start. Two people in your current arena to help you become good at what you do. Two people that are steps above you, that, um, maybe be in the same industry, that can help you have a vision to where you’re going. And then one person from totally outside of your industry, uh, that is just a phenomenal person, if you can get on their radar, to be on your board of advisors. And there’s five people. And as you get better, as you, as you grow, Then you [00:17:00] can add to that arsenal, but don’t start off too, too big with too many people, but that’s critical. Position yourself to be on the radar of leaders. And you have to strategically do it. You know, and a good way to do it is sometimes going to conferences and being, uh, being out there and making sure you’re, you’re connecting with people to get into the, to see who you are. Um, it’s wonderful. It’s absolutely wonderful

wonderful way to do it and I just encourage people to, to network. I do wanna make one comment, if I may.

Josh DeTar: hmm. Of course.

Bill Kennedy: Networking is about connection in-person connection. It’s not necessarily LinkedIn or Facebook. That can be one partial way to get there. But that should never be the encompassing, all encompassing. It needs to be a personal connectivity. So. Don’t totally count on LinkedIn to get you where you want to go. Um, it needs to be personal. That’s,

Josh DeTar: As you were [00:18:00] talking about that, it had me thinking this really needs to be a symbiotic relationship, right? The mentor needs to want to be a mentor and have developed the skill set to be an effective mentor. And the more they mentor, the more they’re going to hone those skills at being an effective mentor.

But the mentee also has to have, uh, you know, a willingness to listen, open ears and, and be able to take that advice and understand how to apply it to their own situation or their own life. Um, And that takes, that takes practice and like you were saying, kind of start small, uh, develop these relationships, understand how to, you know, find the right mentors for you and then how to actually, you know, extract value out of that relationship.

But at the same time, you know, how do you give, give back, right? I mean, what’s really interesting is you were talking about it is, is really funny to think about, you know, how much you see that on LinkedIn, right? A lot of times there’s a lot of, you know, connections that happen on LinkedIn. And the only reason I’m connecting with you is because I’m trying to sell [00:19:00] you something right.

Um, but there’s also a lot of real genuine connection that can come out of that. Um, you know, I can use myself as an example. I mean, I can tell you, I have people that have become very close humans in my life that I care genuinely about because of a LinkedIn connection, but also through, you know, other in person connections.

But you have to kind of start with the willingness and the, the actual authentic desire for that to happen. Um, kind of like what you were talking about earlier with even just awards and things like If that’s the end goal. The end goal is just, I need to connect with Bill because at some point I got to sell Bill something.

That’s very different than just, you know, I’ve had this really incredible opportunity to have Bill brought into my life, and I see him as somebody that I could really enjoy having a relationship with, having conversations with, and there’s a wealth of knowledge that I could learn to draw from. Who knows what the world holds after that, but when you start with that, then we both develop a genuine [00:20:00] relationship where we care about seeing each other succeed.

And I think that’s a very different mindset that a lot of times, especially with some of these, you know, new digital tools for being able to, you know, quote unquote network and collaborate and connect. It becomes very transactional versus very relational.

Bill Kennedy: that’s the key. And when I start off every mentorship, I, I go through the CEO, you’re the personal, you’re the ownership of your own personal services journey. Talk about value. Because I want to demonstrate that I care about them. Okay? I don’t start off, I’ll teach you how to do a 5300, or I’ll teach, you know, No, that’s not what, It could migrate maybe to have some little part of it, but it’s all about you and how I can help you and I have to learn about you, and you have to be willing to share with me in open, open, trusting relationships about what you’re, what you perceive you need strengths in and weaknesses in.

And I can help you. So [00:21:00] it’s about a personal relationship and that’s what it’s about when you put your head to the pillow, like you said, or when it’s time, you know, when your time is up, what impact have you made on others? And it’s, it’s huge. I believe it’s huge.

Josh DeTar: Yeah, I agree. I don’t know. I think I’ve talked about it quite a few times on this podcast. I remember being a kid and my dad, um, I mean, to this day, his email address is still Brian positively. And like, he’s the most positive guy I’ve ever met. And it used to drive me nuts, Bill. He would just try so hard to like make the day of the person at the checkout line at the grocery store.

And I was like, good grief old man. Like we just buy our groceries and get out of here, you know? And the older I become, the more I realize, man. You don’t realize the impact you have on people in just every interaction. And you know what? That person who’s, you know, ringing up your groceries at the grocery store, you know, I [00:22:00] don’t know, but give it some ridiculous scenario.

They just lost a parent or something and they’re having a really bad day. And just one person taking the time to go, Hey, I see you as another human. And I just, I’d love to see you smile. know what? You don’t realize just the impact that that can actually have on people.

Bill Kennedy: I think that’s so true. And you might not even know

made the impact, but they will always know,

right? Uh, they will always know that somebody tried to make a connection with me and to be positive. And that is so true. So kudos to your dad for doing that because it’s not easy. It’s not easy. A lot of people look at you.

Come on. I’m in line. Hurry up. You know, but doing that is really cool. So

Josh DeTar: Yeah, I don’t know. Yeah, it is really interesting. The perspectives you have. And like I said, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting to see my perspectives change, especially becoming a father myself as well and watching that transformation. Is again, you know, we were always just in such a race in [00:23:00] life to get to the next thing to do the next thing.

And, um, and are we just racing to the day where we rest our head on the pillow for the last time and go, I kind of really didn’t do anything except race through this thing or say, you know what? I stopped to smell the roses. I stopped to make someone’s day. I stopped to make an impact. Um, those are the things that definitely, uh, a new, a new lease on life as you start to get older and have quality mentors that, you know, help to highlight the things that are really important and that will also bring you joy, right?

I mean, I see this in you and I think this is why I was so excited to have you as a guest on the podcast, Bill, and why, you know, in your intro, I said. You can tell this is so authentic in you because I can tell how excited you get when you talk about the impacts you’ve had for others. So you’re doing something for someone else, but it’s also doing something for you.

I mean, I can see physically see the joy that it brings you to know that you’ve had even one small positive impact on one person out of 200 that that would bring you joy. So there’s value in that all around.

Bill Kennedy: [00:24:00] there’s nothing I will tell you that there’s nothing like adding fuel to the fire. of the, uh, engagement to make a difference when someone demonstrates their gratitude five years after the fact that, hey, you really made a difference in my journey. Thank you. Uh, that’s just more encouragement to keep doing it.

Josh DeTar: You know, the credit union industry in specific. Um. Especially the more that I’ve been involved in it over the last decade is a really interesting one. One of the things that I love so much about the credit union industry is how much there is a desire to really internally live that ethos of people helping people.

And you see that represented through a lot of mentorship and a lot of opportunities to grow people through the credit union. Um, but we’re also, you know, credit unions are going through their own kind of transformation right now, if you ask me, and we’re starting to see, you know, this huge move from kind of the traditional way that we thought about banking [00:25:00] and relationships and banking and brick and mortar and we’re moving.

to adding so much more in terms of technology. And so at the same time, you’re seeing a shift in kind of the strategies, the approaches of credit unions, but you’re also having to see an influx of new types of personalities. Um, you know, all of a sudden now you need the total tech geek. Uh, you need the person that really understands, you know, deep levels of, um, You know, data dissection or API connections.

And so we’re starting to have to attract new roles, new personalities, new types of people. We’re also trying to find ways to, you know, nurture and mentor up the next generation of leadership. Within the credit union at the same time. So how do you kind of reconcile all of these changes that are happening in the credit union industry and what kind of impact that has for, you know, how you look at just hiring and attracting the right types of talent and then, you know, nurturing and mentoring them within the institution.

Bill Kennedy: Well, [00:26:00] I, I will say that when you meet, uh, lot of people of my generation and a little bit after. Totally fell into credit unions, right? So there needs to be a actual collaborative focus on attracting people to the credit union movement. And one of the ways you can do that is to show them, and this is a fact, that there’s going to be a boatload of retirements in the credit union movement, leadership retirements, in the next five to ten years.

There’s going to be a boatload. So, for someone who has vision, and can see the future and they can get positive mentors to get them there, do the right things. They can establish a game plan to become a leader in the credit union movement. There’s not a lot of industries that you can do that, right? So you can, as long as you have an [00:27:00] entrepreneurial mindset that you can, you know, I’m gonna Keep learning and you have to have a continuous learning, um, emphasis, um, and you can really make it, make a career out of the Credit Union Movement because we need you. It’s not, I mean it’s a fact, there’s going to be a lot of retirements, right? And the Credit Union Movement needs to have a game plan to attract people. It can’t rely on people falling in. And that partly is mentorship. But I want to, again, I want to establish a couple things that I believe are the criticality of the competitive advantage of credit games. There’s some things I’ll discuss that are not. Collaboration is not, I believe, one of the most important. People, people, we are willing to collaborate. Internally and externally. And to develop a continuous learning environment. Um, That, when you talk about technology, okay, so I will [00:28:00] say technology is going to always be increasing and changing. So you must have a culture of continuous learning. But that doesn’t mean that you have to jump in head first with technology. You have to look at your culture. Your strategy. Now, one of the negative things about a lot of credit unions is their risk averseness. They just don’t want to take any risk. They don’t want to do anything unless Joe down the street’s done it already. And, uh, you know, and there is some validity to that because credit unions are frankly in a mature stage of their existence. So when you’re

in the mature stage of your existence, you need to You have game plans to change that rigidity, that risk averseness. Again, it doesn’t mean jumping in. It means, perhaps, looking at your culture, [00:29:00] looking at who you are, and implementing small technology projects, maybe three month projects, uh, that you can succeed in, be willing to take that risk.

It might not work out. You learn from it. You create your wisdom learning matrix. Three things I did right, three things I could have done different. Um, three things I, you know, uh, that I wish I knew about if I had known about it, I could have made a difference. The things I didn’t know, um. And as you develop that wisdom learning matrix, you become, and you journalize it, whatever, internally, both, uh, creating in mind and individually, you become a, uh, a learning, uh, Uh, person. And it gives you a lot more confidence to take a little bit more risk each time because you have developed that. And then you also know that, uh, I don’t see, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. So, and I’ve been in credit unions, as I shared with you, a long time. Always that collaboration between other credit unions has been there.

And so I can always reach out and [00:30:00] share it with people that have already done things. And they can share, most of them will share the wisdom matrix, what they learned. Um, And again, it’s about sharing. I think, uh, I can safely say that when you’re in banking and you go to a conference, those, the bankers aren’t sharing anything with each other, really. Credit unions share, okay? So, uh, it, it makes our, our movement really solid. But we need to take a little bit, be willing to take a little bit more risk. And we, and I’m not saying again, throw the whole ball of wax out,

you know, I mean, certainly with the taxi medallion stuff, you’re, you’re, cretinians get in trouble by jumping, jumping too far into the deep end. So the taxi medallion thing just sunk a handful of credit unions. Um. You know, certainly putting a bunch of three and a quarter, three and a half percent, 30 year mortgages on your portfolio, uh, that in credit unions, we’re not about that. We’re supposed to be balanced, uh, not taking a deep dive into a lot of things.

So, uh, I really believe in terms of technology, [00:31:00] technology is not your strategy. Technology should be the, uh, a partial solution to where you’re going. And you mentioned young people. I will say that, um, certainly the younger folks have, um, been brought up with more technology. But that in and of itself doesn’t make them more valuable than, than a leader because in my opinion someone who has been through the ropes who has developed a wisdom matrix as a leader, it’s easier to train them on digital Uh, proficiency, uh, than it is to take a data scientist and make them a leader. I really believe that. Okay? So, become a leader first. Become that, indoctrinated into that. And, and then you can pivot as need be because technology is going to change all the time. And you have to know that the technology of eight years ago was not the technology of today. So you have to be a continuous learner.

And you have to indoctrinate that in yourself that [00:32:00] those skill set is going to be obsolete. And so, being a leader in wisdom and learning will enhance that and will give you the confidence to do that. Um, and I, again, I believe that credit unions need to, uh, take a look at and implement technology that is to their advantage. Okay? To create a budget, uh, within reason. To do mini projects. You don’t want to risk the whole, uh, ball of wax. And, and to have successes. Develop a learning matrix, collaboration matrix amongst your teammates. And the more successful projects that you have and you can learn from, the next projects will go better. And it’s just a, it’s just a continuing success cycle. Um, so, uh, Again, the organization, the credit union, I believe that, uh, the leadership needs to be continuously, uh, relearning. Um, don’t be [00:33:00] stuck in the old, uh, the old way of doing things. You must adopt and adapt new technology. Um, and to your purposes. Um, and I believe it’ll be a wonderful, it’ll help as long as the credit unions continue to maintain their people helping people philosophy. Okay, we implement that all the time. The CEO of our, our, our credit union, he’s all about helping people, okay? Uh, I, I shared with you, I don’t want to get too deep into it, that there were 60 credit unions that were affected by a, uh, hack, uh, small credit unions.

And, uh, our CEO reached out to one of the small credit unions in this, uh, area. How can we help you? Right? Isn’t that what it’s about? Um, we, our CEO, uh, invests in, uh, 13 Credit Union CUSOs, um, that help to be involved. Our Credit Union CEO is very involved in helping the movement. And, uh, it’s kind of gratifying to work for somebody like that. It filters down. And, uh, so, I want to be that kind of person too. Uh, [00:34:00] to, uh, to make a difference to help the entire Credit Union community. And I will say that, uh, Some of the things that the creating a community promotes, like there’s a lot of, um, mergers going on. Uh, I have personally asked, um, Q’s, Filene, um, the leagues, schools to create opportunities for, for example, uh, in colleges, uh, in your executive MBA and MBA program. They have a requirement, a capstone requirement that you have to go do a volunteer project, um, for a not for profit. Why can’t the credit unions be the recipient, even if the person’s not a credit union person? They’re a, if you’re not in an executive MBA program, unless you’re a pretty, uh, sharp person, um, they can add value. Why can’t FlyLean create, their i3 program’s wonderful, okay? Why can’t they create a program that, upcoming leaders could virtually, if they can, go out and help create [00:35:00] smaller credit unions, right? Everybody agrees that smaller credit unions, if you will, are, are what the larger credit unions need to, to, um, fight the battles against taxation, right?

It’s the small credit unions, when the congressmen want to talk to people, they don’t want to talk to the billion dollar shops, they want to talk to the 50 million dollar shops. Right? And if we keep having 50 million shops going south to merge, that, that taxation issue could be diluted. So I can’t defy liens and the queues and, uh, the leaves. Uh, there’s other ways to do it too. So many, so, again, I should, as you know, as you get older, you, you’ve got this people helping people philosophy in you. So whether you’re being paid for your credit, maybe you’re retired. Okay. I will tell you the Maryland DC creating association has. Uh, uh, Roycroft.

They’re called Roycroft. There’s like eight retired, uh, credit union, uh, personnel that go out and help. Uh, so, why can’t that be nationwide? Why can’t that be all over the place?[00:36:00] Uh, why can’t these 60 credit unions that have been sucker punched, why can’t they, uh, have a arsenal that people can come and help them, right? Cause they need it. They’re, it’s just, it’s a, You know, being down two weeks really can really hurt your reputation with your members and if you had shared, if it’s okay with me to share this, you were involved with one too. And you were able to get the resources and yourself and go out and help this credit union within four days get back online, not two weeks. So, you yourself espoused that, that helping. Why can’t that be all over the place? I believe if that’s out there, uh, getting the younger people involved. I mean, what, what better way to, to learn about leadership than to go out and help a creating that needs your leadership. And I’m not talking about from a job standpoint, I’m talking about from a volunteer standpoint, whether it’s, it’s going to help them or whether it’s getting on their board. [00:37:00] Right. Um, so, uh, Uh, I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but uh, the collaborative nature and continuous learning and making people, helping people is the creating indifference. And I’d like to see more. Certainly, CUNY has a wonderful, um, you know, the Crashers program. It’s a wonderful program.

Um,

absolutely wonderful program.

And, And, uh, that’s only people. So,

70 people.

Josh DeTar: um, before, before we get too far, I want to just make sure on the record, I, I make sure one thing is correct, so. Um, in that scenario where you’re talking about, we were able to support one of the credit unions that was, that was down by getting them back up. I was not one of the folks that was on site and I want to give a massive, massive shout out to Shelly Williams, um, who, as soon as she heard the news, literally bought the first flight, packed her bags and was out the door.

Um, so I was not one of the ones that was personally involved in that. That was a, that was a team thing and that was, uh, one of the things that was led by an amazing, amazing individual, Shelly Williams. So I just want to give her that shout out and credit. But, um, you know, as you were talking, Bill, first off, I was thinking you’re one of my favorite [00:38:00] and least favorite types of guests all at the same time, because you, you give me so many incredible things to talk about.

You make my mind race a million miles a minute, uh, and anybody who knows me well enough to know. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast and I don’t even eat breakfast. So remembering all the things that you just gave me as incredible nuggets and being able to draw back on them, it really tests me. So I love it.

And it kills me at the same time. But you know, one of the common themes that I was thinking about as you were talking is You know, you kind of talked about you get into a place of stagnation, right? You get into a place where you’re comfortable and comfortable is actually a very dangerous place to be because when you’re comfortable is one of the places that you’re most ripe for disruption.

And so you need to have kind of that culture of continuous learning and looking out for the potential risks of things like disruption. And, and this is not just from a business model standpoint, [00:39:00] this is even just from your own personal growth. And, um, you know, you can kind of apply this across a multitude of areas, but you know, when you’re kind of stale and you feel like I’m good, we’re good, I don’t need to do anything more is

probably when you need to raise the red flag of this is probably actually the most important time for me to be doing that and you know, I’d never actually heard somebody kind of put it that way. Bill of talking about, you know, if you look at just credit unions kind of existence as a whole, they’ve kind of in the last decade or so been in a pretty good, comfortable spot, right?

Um, Now, we can argue some of the semantics and we’ve seen a lot of, as you, uh, you know, highlighted a lot of mergers, the, the overall number of credit unions over the last decade has declined significantly, but in relative terms, like credit unions have been in a pretty comfortable spot. We keep doing kind of what we’re doing.

We’ve been able to weather some of the storms, um, but that’s probably a really good indicator that we as an industry need to start thinking about. Kind of the next generation, um, and what happens next and [00:40:00] what comes next and how do we continue to provide value in this kind of parlays into what you were talking about, about raising up the next generation of credit union leadership.

Um, because we really need folks that are kind of thinking in that terms, right? Um, at the same time as we have kind of a leadership, uh, attrition coming, we have a membership one coming too, right? Um, you look at the average age of credit union members across the country, and again, we can all, uh, you know, get down to, to brass tacks and some granular details.

And I know it’s not this bleak, but for all intents and purposes, we’ve got an aging out membership base. And, you know, I had a previous guest talk about just having a member succession plan, just as much as a CEO succession plan. Like, what are you going to do as your members start to age out? So we’re looking at how are we bringing in the next generation of You know, credit union leaders and people to be passionate about this.

We’re going through this change of kind of the physical, you know, butting heads with [00:41:00] digital. We’ve got competition like we’ve never had before from, uh, you know, the competitors we know in the big banks to the competitors that we don’t know in some of the fintechs and big tech and, um, And at the same time, you’re trying to figure out navigating this new world, bringing in new members, bringing in new leadership, um, and trying not to be stale in that process while the most important part of that whole thing is what you alluded to is not losing sight of that shining light.

of what has made credit unions different and it is that people helping people, and I think, you know, you’re the right type of guest to kind of talk about this with, and it’s that, that, I know, I know it sounds like a wonderful kumbaya making s’mores around the fireplace kind of thing, but it, but it’s a real thing.

It, it’s a real thing that’s very tangible and I think when you’ll notice it the most is when it’s not there. Right? And there’s lots of studies and reports that show what happens to a community when a [00:42:00] community financial institution closes in that community, right? There are devastating impacts that happened to real human beings.

There are real ripple effects that come out of this. And so it is important for us to think about. Hey, as we kind of grow, evolve, meet new, uh, challenges and opportunities, how do we keep that core guiding light of it’s people helping people? That’s our differentiator. So even as we move into more of a technology based relationship with maybe some of these younger generations.

If all we do is say we’re going to go tit for tat with the big banks and the fintechs in terms of features and tech, and that’s how we’re going to compete, I think we’re missing something. We’re actually missing the most important secret ingredient to our secret sauce, which is the, if we’re not building a relationship all the way back to the very first thing you started with, right?

Like building genuine, real relationships with people, where it’s not just transactional, it’s, I want to have a positive impact on your life. If we’re not having that [00:43:00] ideology in this move to technology, then we’ve missed something.

Bill Kennedy: Absolutely. It’s happening. I think it again boils down to risk, okay? Uh, we have, the credit union movement waves the flag of the volunteer board members. And I can, I will speak specifically to my experiences. I think they could be extrapolated pretty well, but a lot of the board members are not business people, okay? And they don’t understand making, for you making an investment. in a technology company, right? There’s a chance you could lose that. You know, you could lose that investment. Are you willing to lose that investment? I will share with you that, uh, my previous CEO at SecurityPlus, Brett Knoll, took a great step out, and kudos to him.

He invested 250, 000 in Posh. Um, that was new to that organization. That was huge. Okay, now Posh is doing quite great. Right? So, that was a very smart move on his part. [00:44:00] Because he wanted to be in that. But, you can make investments in things that are not going to pay off immediately. And so, a lot of the board members, and how they manage their CEOs, They don’t look at the, necessarily, at the future.

They want to know what your financial station is today. And if you, you know, investments take time to pay off. That’s why, I believe, it’s not going to change overnight. That’s why you make incremental. investments in technology. You don’t bet the house. You, you make incremental things to improve. And over time, that’ll pay off.

Um, and if they don’t you make an investment, it doesn’t pay off it’s okay, good, we learn from it and the next time we make a better one. Uh, I think another thing if, if, cause I have worked a lot with the younger folks. Um, I think one of the things that younger folks desire, and they bring the technology. Acumen to the table. But they desire to be heard, [00:45:00] okay? You know, sometimes leaders think, well, you don’t have the wisdom I do, you have a lot of experience I do, and they kind of shut them off. That’s not, that’s not what younger, that younger people want to be heard. Conversely, and I teach the young people this as well, you may have an opinion, okay, but how, is that really, is it just an opinion? Is there any? So when you voiced your opinion on something, do you have anything to back it up? Do you have any wisdom to, or, to share why you came up with that, you know, opinion? Um, a lot of people, a lot of young people just have been taught that they can say whatever they want to hear, but they don’t, you know, they don’t have that background to back it up.

And so when I let my team know. My involve was, I want to hear what you have to say, but make sure that you have, for lack of a better word, justification for your opinion. ’cause I want to hear what you have to say [00:46:00] and I will listen to you. Um, but just don’t shoot from that.

Josh DeTar: You know, I love that you brought that up, though. I think, um, not to, uh, not to talk too much about my own outfit, but you know, that’s, I’ve been, I’ve been with this organization now for seven years. And I can absolutely tell you from the bottom of my heart, it’s one of the biggest reasons why my tenure is so long for a technology company and why, um, I’ll be there till the day I’m dead and gone, um, is because it comes down to a culture of that.

And I think that’s a very difficult culture, especially in today’s day and age to cultivate. Um, I would give a lot of credit to our three founders, Siva Prabhakar and Tom. Um, Siva and Prabhakar were former Intel, uh, employees back in the Andy Grove days. Um, I don’t know if you, you probably actually are the type of person that would have studied and looked at Andy Grove’s, uh, kind of style and how he ran Intel and, uh, you know, was touted as one of the most successful CEOs in history and, and a lot of it had to do with this challenge culture that was developed, right?

And so that challenge culture has been really embodied, um, [00:47:00] embodied here. And that’s exactly how it works, right? Anyone can challenge anyone at any time on anything, but you better come prepared. You’ve got to have some justification for it. You can’t just want to pick a fight for the sake of picking a fight.

And then you have to be prepared for the reverse challenge. So if they challenge you back, you don’t get to get defensive about You challenge them, they’re challenging you back, they want to see why. But ultimately that leads to a really healthy culture if done right. Of continuing to evolve, give people a voice.

And what it really means is that you get to draw on people’s unique experiences, perspectives, and ideas, right? Um, you know, I, again, not to use myself as the example too much, but I talk about that a lot with my team, right? When I’m hiring for my team, the absolute last thing I want is another Josh. I want somebody that’s the opposite of me.

I want somebody that’s going to bring new ideas and challenge me and, um, and, you know, want to see [00:48:00] us have, uh, you know, these, these data driven challenge arguments that are productive. Um, and I think, you know, kind of like what you were saying, it’s just. Just bringing that culture in, uh, to an organization really helps it to kind of evolve and move and not just like you’re saying, kind of get stuck in the mud of saying, well, we’re just going to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them, or we’re going to do what the other people down the street are doing.

And at the same time, that’s a, it’s a, it’s a very. daunting task to manage appropriately taking those risks as a financial institution, right? Uh, I think we talk about a lot on this podcast. We would love to be able to take a lot more risks. You know, Elon Musk can sit back and go, ha, oh, we learned from that when the rocket blows up.

But like if you blow up your credit union and all your members lose your money, like that’s kind of a big deal, right?

Bill Kennedy: have to incre, that’s why you have to do incrementally. But you hit Josh, you hit a beautiful point, right? Um. when you, if as a leader, you [00:49:00] don’t want everybody to, to, to, to agree on everything, you want people to challenge. So you don’t want to go into it. Everybody has to agree. If we, we, if we don’t agree a hundred percent, we’re gonna table whatever we’re doing, right? No. You need, it seems like you have five people. Uh, two people need to be willing to share, to take a step out. They have to understand, okay, the environment needs to be, the culture needs to be that they can be heard and they can make their case. But they also have to understand that a leader is put into a position that they have to make the decision. So, you know, they’re going to be held accountable. So just because, I learned this earlier, a long, early time, you know. As a CFO, you know, they used to call me constantly finding objections, right? Um, so, but no, I just was, wanted to discuss things. And a lot of [00:50:00] times, the CEO would say, Appreciate your input, I’ve considered it, we’re going to go in this direction, not that direction. Good, you accept that. You look yourself in the mirror and go, Okay, what could I have done better to position? What I had thought, obviously it didn’t go, or maybe sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. But you need to understand that that type of culture needs to exist in leaders. Uh, and younger people, they expect that. Um, they expect to be heard. Um, and again it goes back to whether they have the background to do it. But, um, 

Josh DeTar: Yeah.

Bill Kennedy: important. Because change is inevitable. Technology is changing so rapidly that we have no choice. Now one of the most difficult things, and I will tell you, you mentioned it already, Smaller credit unions have a very difficult time operating with different channels of delivery. Okay, so they may have, again, maybe 50 percent of their members [00:51:00] are over 50, You know, 25 or 40 to 50, and they only have maybe 10 percent under 25. Okay, so they’ve got to attract the younger folks, but they can’t ignore the older folks who don’t care about necessarily, they don’t care about that. So when you have multi faceted channels of delivery, it gets pretty expensive. And, so that’s one of the challenges for small credit unions. Large credit unions can afford, do they have the scale to protect the kind of Um, have multiple channels, but the smaller credit unions, that’s really tough for them. And so, somehow, that’s where collaboration comes in. I mean, the collaboration with, uh, you know, uh, George Washington University reaching out to helping, uh, to people, helping them trying to get started, um, in their endeavor. Um, that collaboration helps them get started offering, from the get go, reasonable technology. And so let’s just hope that that works out.

Josh DeTar: Yeah, you know, that kind of leads me [00:52:00] back to what you were talking about earlier, and I’d love to get your perspectives as, you know, somebody who’s been in a CEO and CFO role for so many years and just draw back on all the changes that you’ve seen. You know, I mean, when you first started in the credit union industry as an executive, I mean, what was the percentage of your allocation of budget to tech versus what it is today?

Right? I’d rather, or I’d gather that it’s probably a pretty significant change between those two.

Bill Kennedy: Um, yes, there’s no question about it that the dollars, uh, towards that are much greater. Um, but there’s no choice.

I’m sorry, there’s, I mean, you don’t have a choice. Um, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be smart with your

dollars. Yeah. Right? I mean, you, again, it’s about incremental successes and incremental Uh, one of, one of the things that this organization Portfront’s done, and I think it’s wonderful, is that they’ve created a team, a project management team, so that that wisdom learned from each project management, that learning matrix, carries [00:53:00] forward to every project. And there’s a certain level of confidence. So they have their plates full, okay, there’s a lot of projects going on, but they’re collaborating. So again, it’s about credit union collaboration. They’re getting folks involved. It makes a difference in the success of the organization.

Josh DeTar: Um, you know, kind of going back to talking about. the, the balance of the spend of budget and things like technology. I think that also speaks to what you were referring to earlier about, you know, investments take time. Um, you know, I think, uh, analogy that comes to mind is, you know, planning for your retirement.

Um, if you start planning for retirement and you get to retirement. You’re like, great, I planned for retirement. Um, it’s when you don’t plan for retirement and all of a sudden you get to retirement, you go, Oh, crud. And now it’s impossible to make up that gap, right? There’s just not enough time. And I think probably a similar analogy to, you know, technology for credit unions is if you’re not investing in [00:54:00] technology.

The time that you’re going to probably realize it is probably when it’s too late. It’s when that membership has aged out. You’ve not been able to clearly articulate your value proposition through technology to your point as a conduit of how we actually help people make a difference in their lives, build relationships.

If you’ve not used technology as a conduit to continue that, it’s going to be really hard to sell the next generation of banking consumers. On your value proposition when they don’t know it in the first place and you don’t have the technology that they’ve come to expect as table stakes. So it’s a really difficult thing to say, you know, at the same time, we have to be, you know, uh, fiduciaries that are responsible for maintaining the stability of the credit union.

It’s got to have its members best interest in heart when you’re spending their money. But at the same time, we’ve got to invest in the future to make sure that, you know, we’re able to carry on the beautiful legacy that credit unions have [00:55:00] created.

Bill Kennedy: Josh, really a lot of things. Technology to me needs to be like duct tape. Okay? That there’s many different uses for duct tape. Right? So your technology needs to have many different uses. And the more uses that it has, the more, the better off it is. Okay. So, um, I did, again, technology is critical to moving forward.

You don’t have a choice. Um, so you have to allocate the resources to do it, but you have to do it smart. You have to do it strategically. Um, and you have to fail fast. What do they say? Fail fast doesn’t work? Uh, um, fail forward, but fail fast or whatever. Um, and learn from your, your mistakes in that arena.

Um, I just think the credit unions have to do something. We cannot continue the same old, same old. Where we will get what we don’t want. Okay? Do we want 250 credit unions or whatever it is going away every year? Is that what we want? I don’t think so. [00:56:00] There’s ways to address that. Um, but I think it’s necessary.

But we are one of the constraints that we are under. And because of the risk factor is the regulatory environment, right? Um, CFPB and CUA, whatever we’re talking about. We sit by and we watch this stuff going on and you shake your heads. You need a strong, uh, representative, uh, group, right? Uh, that’s out there with the reg, uh, with the, uh, responding and doing what they can. Um, but we have to be very I’m cognizant of that because our regulator is risk-averse, pretty much. And I know that pretty much first hand because I’ve been trying to help George Washington University get a charter for six years. Um, smartest kid, I’ll tell ya. When I think about these 21 year old kids and I look back at me and I go, Woah. Now obviously George Washington is a cream. Folks, but just surrounding yourself [00:57:00] with these, these, you know, I’ll call them kids, they’re kids. Uh, they’re so smart. And so, they’re trying to start a credit union. And two years ago, the NCAA came out with the pronouncement that they want to help start new credit unions. Well, George Washington University with the smartest kids, one of the best boards. You can’t, you’re not going to find a better board of advisors. for a credit union than George Washington University has. Chip Filson, uh, so many different people. They’re top notch people. I love being on that board. Just surrounding myself with those people.

And the young people. Oh my gosh, it’s awesome. But for six years we met on this. And so, NCUA came out with a pronouncement that they were going to create a pre charter status. Uh, where, because one of the reasons that the credit union did not, has not gotten its charter was frankly capital raising. So, NCUA has come out with a, with an ability to become a status that you can actually go out and raise capital. [00:58:00] Sadly, my understanding is that they did a beta, and they didn’t, uh, four credit unions to help do this raising, and they didn’t include GW. Now how that’s possible after six years of this process is very disappointing. But, um, you know, you try to make a difference. Sometimes You just gotta say, you battle yourself, bang your head against the wall, and, and, and try to figure it out.

Because sometimes you don’t have control over how NCOA is going to come respond. Obviously, NCOA is really, really hot on this liquidity issue now. That a lot of credit unions have gone out and done short term fundraising, uh, to cover, to cover, like, um, uh, you know, the potential for CDs to be maturing in 2024. And a lot of it is going to be maturing. Uh, how are we going to address that? That’s a valid concern. Um, and it’s going to be universal. But the thing again, I think it all boils down to how boards, and it’s boards, reward their [00:59:00] CEO for how much risk they’re willing to take.

Josh DeTar: I think that’s a really good point. Um, I think I’ve said it multiple times here. I, I, I don’t necessarily envy, community financial institution leadership sometimes because they, they definitely have a rock and a hard place. All right. I, on one hand, I absolutely understand and appreciate.

Uh, you know, the difficult regulations that are passed down from some of these different entities because we don’t need every single credit union in the U. S. going through a Silicon Valley type of incident, right? Um, we need to make sure that they are viable. We need to make sure that they’re making smart decisions for longevity.

But at the same time, we have to find ways to allow them to and reward them for taking the right type of risk. And that’s a really tall order to get right. And to your point, like we, with guardrails, we have to be open to failure as an option, but at the same time, there have to be guardrails in place so that.

There’s not catastrophic failures. Um, [01:00:00] like you were saying, I mean, being down completely for two weeks, um, you know, all of a sudden having a massive liquidity issue. These are things that are not okay. They’re not okay failures, right? Uh, there’s a difference between a failure that’s a learning and a failure that has, know, irreversible catastrophic impacts.

And so there is a really tough balance between those things. And like you were saying, I mean, tech is kind of this new world of navigating that, right? And so credit unions are supposed to be, you know, pushing into this world of technology. And sometimes they’re limited and constrained by things like budget.

Um, or maybe from, you know, legacy technology that they’re tied to. And all of a sudden, now your reputation risk as an institution is directly tied to of these technology vendors that you may be reliant on, right? And so how do you make smart decisions? How do you allocate budget? And I really wanted to come back to something that you’ve talked about many, many times through this episode, Bill, which is just that, you know, kind [01:01:00] of credit union superpower is the collaboration element.

And I’ve had a handful of guests and the one that just always comes to mind for me when, when this topic comes up is Tracy Miller from Pioneer Credit Union. Um, They’re, I think about a 700 million asset credit union, uh, kind of out of the mountain home Boise, Idaho area. And Tracy, like I will just say it bluntly.

She’s a freaking rock star. She’s brilliant. She’s brilliant because she’s really, really good at looking around at the market and saying what kind of things will bring meaningful benefit and value and impact to my membership. And then she looks at how can I access that or get them access to that. And one of her strengths is she’s done a really good job of collaborating with other credit unions to pool things like collective buying power.

And so she’ll go to this, you know, uh, technology company and be like, Hey, look, you only service 5 billion credit unions and above. I’m not that, but I have [01:02:00] 10, 500 million credit unions and we’ll all sign up with you if you’ll cut us a deal. Or she’s done a phenomenal job of looking at, you know, kind of new to market people that have to prove use cases, uh, that need pilot customers that need reference customers.

And she’s built herself a really brilliant little sandbox incubator to test some of these things out while lowering the risk of if it fails, what’s the impact to my membership. But she’s been able to say, Hey, your new cool product, I’ll be the first one on it, but I want a 75 percent discount or whatever.

Right. And she does a great job of it. And then all of a sudden she’s on this platform that big credit unions are like scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they can get in their budget. And Tracy’s over here. Like I’ve had it for their year. Right. Um, so 

Bill Kennedy: you You hit the nail on the head, and again Credit Unions collaborate, so Tracy goes out there, is willing to take a step out because [01:03:00] obviously her board allows her to do that. Okay, they understand there’s this investment in things, but having Tracy succeed using this product will lead to other Credit Unions participating in this product because Credit Unions collaborate. They look for that. I will tell you that our Chairman of the Board of the 4Front Credit Union at our recent, uh, last week, uh, And you’ll get together stood up in front of everybody said, 4Front credit union made a lot of investments last year. Okay. It’s going to take time for them to pay off. So it may not look great in 2023 for bottom line stuff, but we have made the willing to be make these investments step out for the future because we believe it’ll pay off. That’s, that’s the kind of leadership I believe the credit unions need, 

because it gives the CEO comfort that they don’t always have to worry about what today’s, [01:04:00] I mean, you have to have a decent bottom line. I mean, I’m not saying negative, but, um, it gives the, the CEO comfort that, that, oh my gosh, we didn’t have a really great year compared to the past two years, but we’re moving in the right direction.

Josh DeTar: I, that is brilliant leadership if you ask me, because it is, it’s so important to set proper expectations, right? mean, you look at this with any organization, Hey, this was a building year, and so I need you to trust me. That we’ve made some calculated risks and some decisions that we may not see the direct R.

  1. I. Two for some time. This may take some time, but setting that expectation. Is really, really important in making sure that you get people aligned to, to your point, to be willing to do that the next time, right? And to give the team, the leadership team, the board, the confidence, and not even just that. I mean, like you said, I mean, everything trickles down, right?

That gives your entire [01:05:00] organization the confidence to be able to say, Hey, you know what? I can think about how, how can I take some calculated risks to set us up for success for the future, right? Be mindful of today, but be looking towards tomorrow. 

Bill Kennedy: in today’s busy, busy, busy, busy world. Too many people move from project to project, and they do not take the time to create the wisdom learning matrix. And that, it takes time. You need to sit down and say, Okay, what worked, what didn’t? It’s called debriefing, or whatever you want to call it. And so, that is the key to building confidence. And it just goes back, it’s just a circle. And, you know, once you debrief, And you have indeed created this Wisdom Learning Matrix. You’re setting yourself up for great future. But so many people don’t take the time. They don’t document. They don’t, they just move to the next project. [01:06:00] And, because we are busy, right? Everybody’s, everybody’s to do list is overwhelming. But you need to do that. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of people do it.

Josh DeTar: that is a really, really hard skill to develop. And I will fall on that sword and say, I’m very guilty of that. Sometimes you do, you, you’re just constantly trying to move from fire to fire. Um, And it’s really hard to admit in the moment that taking that 10 minutes that you don’t have save you 20 minutes later, but you have to find the 10 minutes now.

And, um, uh, you know, I, I’ll share a funny, silly, uh, example that I, I just, I, I’ve worked very hard to try and proliferate through other areas of my life with varying degrees of success. Mind you, I will admit to, but I use my Christmas lights as my example for this bill. So I live in Portland, Oregon, and December is pretty much a guarantee.

It’s going to be about 40 degrees and just wet, raining, [01:07:00] slick, damp, moist. It’s not wonderful. that’s when I’m putting up my, taking down my Christmas lights, right? And every single year when I go to take down my Christmas lights, the end of December, early January, inevitably the weather is terrible and I do not want to be outside on a ladder, on my roof, hunting through my bushes, trying to get all my Christmas lights down.

I just want to rip them all out, throw them in a bin and be done as fast as possible. And every year I remind myself. What will I think of myself next year with the work that I do today? And that reminds me that no, I want to take these down. I want to wrap them up neatly. I want to label them. This is for this Bush.

This is for this Bush. And it takes a year for that to pay off bill. But next year, when I opened my bin for my Christmas lights and I go, ah, this goes to Bush one, I’m like, good on you, Josh. Good on you [01:08:00] last year, Josh. I’m proud of you, dude. Right. But it’s hard. Cause in the moment, I just want to rip those suckers down, throw them in the box, put it up in the attic, call it a day.

Bill Kennedy: Again, it’s a continuous learning process, a wisdom matrix, and as you go through your career in life and you learn, again, I happen to believe one of the most motivating things is to have goals and then a year from, you know, a year from now, take a look back, step back and visually look where you’ve gone and where you’ve come from. In most cases, it’s like, wow, it’s like the ice, it’s like an iceberg, right? Most of the iceberg is underneath the water, you know. So you just, you just keep, and then it gives you the motivation to have another future. Because you know you can do it, 

and it’s just exciting. I will say, one thing I do want to mention, you know, maybe it doesn’t fit in, [01:09:00] but one of the things that I have experienced with younger folks is that they have the need, they feel they have the need to jump jobs every two years. I want to caution them about that. Sometimes, and sadly, in order to make more money, they have to jump jobs. But they also lose on any type of retirement. You mentioned retirement. So, when you’re jumping jobs every two years, you’re not collecting retirement. You’re not building up something. And before you know it, if you’ve done it a bunch of times, and like you said, you look and go, Oh my gosh, I’ve been working 15 years and I’ve already collected, I have anything, I have already anything by the way. You know, I just encourage those to really, as a CEO of their own personal service corporation, really make an assessment while they’re jumping jobs every two years. That seems to be the methodology today. For an extra dollar an hour or whatever it is, it’s really worth it.

Josh DeTar: You know, Bill, one of my favorite events every single year is put on by the Pacific [01:10:00] Northwest’s Young Credit Union Professionals Group. Um, and they do a CEO round table and they have anywhere from like eight to 15 credit union CEOs that each sit at a table with 10 to 15 chairs around it. And. They start the event, everybody sits down at tables and then they speed date the CEOs and every 15 minutes of the CEO gets up and goes to a different table until you’ve talked to all the CEOs and they just give all these young credit union professionals the opportunity to ask questions of the CEOs and I will never forget this.

Um, I remember sitting at, um, at one of those tables and someone asked one of the CEOs. And actually, you know, a lot of people had been asking very similar questions. This was just kind of more bluntly directed. She asked the CEO, she said, um, how do I get to where you are? Like, what’s the path that I need to take?

What job do I need to get to? And he stopped for a minute and he gave probably one of the [01:11:00] best pieces of advice I think I’d heard that whole night. And he said. You want to get to where I am, stop thinking like that. He said, I know it’s really hard because sometimes this bites it in the ass. And he said, just be really good at what you’re doing now.

Perfect it, hone it like you were talking about earlier. Like find out how you provide value in that and then maximize it. And then if you’re in the right type of organization that will get noticed. Now, if it doesn’t get noticed and the, it bites you in the ass scenario comes up, then that’s a good indicator.

You shouldn’t be in that organization, right? But if you’re doing the right things, the right leaders will recognize that. And they’ll look for this person has demonstrated value in these core competencies. How can I maximize that? How can I give them more opportunity to do even more with what they’ve been given?

And that’s how you get to where I am. [01:12:00] He said, but if you’re chasing it, kind of like what you said, even in your intro, right? Like if you’re chasing the award, it’s very different than just doing the work and getting recognized for the award. And I just, I thought that was such sage advice of, you know, sometimes we’re just, we’re so focused on the next thing that’s right in front of us.

And, and unfortunately, you know, sometimes you do have to, you know, one step forward, two steps back, one foot forward, two steps back. But, um, but as long as you’re really putting in the effort to maximize your value contribution, you’re probably doing some of the right things. I

Bill Kennedy: my terminology, that’s called blooming and blossoming where you’re planted. Um, because so many people have their eyes on something else in there. They’re just, but again, if you’re focused on creating value, and as you, the CEO of your own personal services corporation, you own this, you own this journey.

So you can always, always, in some form or fashion, control what you, your wisdom and learning matrix. Okay, what you get [01:13:00] involved in. Again, you can’t, if you’re not blooming and blossoming what you’re doing now, your leader’s probably not going to put you in something else. Until you do, do that. So that, they have to, you have to understand that. Again, create value, once, before you create, as you create your value, then you can start worrying about being green and growing. Um, and uh, you know, grow stock, so.

Josh DeTar: like that. Um, so Bill, as you look back just kind of on your wealth of experience and knowledge and, um, and kind of what you talked about in terms of just, uh, you know, thinking about kind of documenting your learnings over the years. Um, what do you think the future holds for credit unions? Um, any predictions on things that are going to be kind of top of mind or that we need to be thinking about or paying attention to?

And, um, what do you see on the horizon?

Bill Kennedy: I’m hoping that, uh, again I love Phylene, I love Q’s. Um, I am, I’m hoping that they continue, Kuna, okay, um, uh, I’m hoping that they continue to develop the young folks. One of the most, uh, okay, I did a unofficial,[01:14:00]  you know, survey, I guess you’d call it, um, for the crashers. I looked back, uh, I, I kept a listing of, and I used LinkedIn. And I will tell you that, going back five years, um, I don’t remember when I did this, I’m going to say I did it in 2017, 2018, something like that. That, I look back at the crashers over that period, and within, about over 50 percent of the crashers had left the movement.

Josh DeTar: Oh, 

Bill Kennedy: Okay. They quit before, in my opinion, they quit before the blessings. Um, because as I shared with you over the last five years, and I perceive this is going to happen over the next five or seven or eight years, retirements in the credit union community are going to be significant. There’s going to be opportunity. You have to do the right things. You have to build your foundation, okay? Um, you have to position yourself in some way, shape, or form. It might be to sit on a board, okay? It might be giving up watching TV, uh, you know, once a week or something [01:15:00] so you can sit in a board meeting. I don’t know what that means, but it might mean that you have to give that up to do that. And a lot of people are not willing to do that, but, uh, it’s competitive out there.

And if you can do that, and you’re willing to do that, people, good leaders will notice, as you said. It’ll position yourself, yourself for, uh, Great opportunity.

Josh DeTar: You know, that, that also makes me think one of the things that I think was a hard thing for me to even come to a realization, right? Is what types of things attract you to a certain type of job or industry or role? And you know, you look at especially technology companies, right? Um, there’s a big emphasis on these kind of.

Uh, flashy cultures, uh, and really surface level perks to get people excited. And now along with that sometimes includes some pretty significant compensation packages too, [01:16:00] which you can’t deny is going to be very attractive to anybody. Um, But I think one of the lessons, you know, learned kind of later in life is, is that, uh, yes, don’t get me wrong,

i, money buys freedom, right? And I want to provide freedom to my family. So it is important for me to make a living where I can provide. Stability and freedom to my family, make sure they’re taken care of. Their needs are met. Their futures are looked out for, but there’s also a really big part of my soul that needs to be fed that can’t be fed with just what I’m paid.

And I think a lot of times we look at, you know, some of the organizations that have to be super flashy, have to offer these really high compensation packages. It’s because actually being there is very unfulfilling or, um, or, or toxic. And what you find is you find a lot of these folks that, you know, are only in those outfits for one or two years.

And then you’re just trying to chase, well, these guys paid me an exorbitant amount of money. I got to find the next place it’ll pay me an exorbitant amount of money. And that’s a pretty crappy place to work. So now I got to find the new place [01:17:00] that’s also going to pay me an exorbitant amount of money.

And it becomes a really interesting rat race where, you know, if there’s something fundamentally foundationally. Yeah. Anchoring about, you know, the values and the mission of the organization. And I think that’s where you start to see a lot more of the tenure. And I think that is why, in my humble opinion, why you see a lot of people like yourself where I go, you know, how long have you been in credit unions?

And they’re like, Oh, I’m the young pup. I’ve only been here 25 years, you know? Um, it’s because that people helping people mission and that motto is, is really evident. And, and those are the types of things where you lay your head on your pillow at night and you go, you know what, I, I, I may not have directly seen it, but what I’m doing is having an impact and.

If you ask me, look, I’m not an HR, I’m not a hiring manager for a credit union, but I think that’s a really big differentiator of looking for as, as young people come up and are looking for a place to find purpose and to find value. And like you said, to be able to provide input, the credit unions are the.

Perfect, like Petri [01:18:00] dish for that. So we need to shine the light on that. And we need to use that to attract top tier talent that is going to continue to challenge and push this industry to maintain relevancy, to be able to provide the value that they provide through that people helping people mission.

Bill Kennedy: I agree. again, I think it all circles back to the year the CEO of your own personal services corporation. Your journey is yours. You own it. How you navigate that. If you think money is the issue, then you do that. Um, if not, you know, if purpose trumpets money, uh, there’s a balance. Obviously, I mean, you can’t You gotta live, but um, and so, um, it is what it is.

So, if you own it, if you own your journey, then you look in the mirror and you say, decisions I make are mine, and I will do that, do what I need to do. I gotta figure out what the lights are going at.

Josh DeTar: Yeah, that’s the office telling you it’s time to wrap up this podcast. That’s hilarious.

Bill Kennedy: Yep.[01:19:00] 

Josh DeTar: well Bill, in all seriousness, actually, that is a great stopping point. And I just want to thank you so incredibly much for taking time out of your day. I know that this is something that you yourself are very passionate about, but I still just want you to know how much I appreciate you taking, um, you know, the better part of a couple of hours of your day to spend with me, to be able to impart some of this wisdom to our listeners.

But before I go, I do have two final questions for you. first question is, is the most important thing that you where do you go to stay up to date on what’s happening in our industry? And what are maybe some of the resources that you could encourage others to, uh, to use as well?

Bill Kennedy: well, I did again, how critical it is to develop a true network. Um, you know, Harvey McKay was, wasn’t the first one that I read about, about develop, you know, way back when, when I was young about developing networks and, and, and truly making a difference. Uh, my network, the people I know are just phenomenal people.

I mean, uh, so, you know, I belong to Qs, I belong to Kuna. Uh, finance [01:20:00] counsel. Uh, I’ve developed relationships, uh, throughout my career on purpose and not to just have somebody, not just to have somebody connected to me, but to have a relationship. Uh, so I do a lot of re I love to read. Um, and I’m one of those people that I like to hear contrary, uh, opinions to what As long as there’s basis behind it.

I think that’s, that’s awesome. Uh, I do a lot of reading about that. Um, is, is not everybody agrees with me. And I, I don’t want them to agree with me. Um, cause consensus is the absence of leadership. So, um, you know, I, that’s what I do. I, I, I, I’m very fortunate that the folks that I’ve been involved with and here at 4Front, they allow me to belong to these organizations. Um, And, uh, as I shared with you, I sit on the board of GW University, uh, Credit Union Initiative. I also sit on the board of MACUMA, uh, where I get to the Metropolitan Area, uh, Managers Association, it’s called. I get to network with, uh, just [01:21:00] great people. And, uh, are they all the same? And the good thing is, no. They’re all different.

Um, I play golf when I can. Last year I didn’t play as much golf, but this year I’m going to play a little more. 

Uh, I, look for, and I strategically look for positioning myself. And that’s my advice to young people. Find out who you really would like to have on your radar. Figure out what they like to do. And if they like to golf, maybe you could get lucky. Maybe you could go and go to the charity event. You might have to take a personal day off. Okay? You know, maybe your credit union won’t allow you to go to play to a charity event. But, you know, you might have to, everybody should have a budget of their own personal development, whether it’s education, it could be education, but it also could be other things. And they should have, so, you know, if you have to pay 100 out of your pocket, sometimes if you ask them and say, you know, like the GW students did when they, uh, went to the Macuma golf outing, [01:22:00] hey, you know, We’re students. And so, they reached out to Allied. Allied paid their freight, right? So,

Josh DeTar: All 

Bill Kennedy: right?

You know? So, they got to play. I think one of them got to play with John Bratsakis. Uh, I mean, they get to be with leaders on a golf

course. So, you know, learn golf. It’s not that hard to just, I mean, it’s hard to get good.

Josh DeTar: whole takeaway of this whole podcast is Bill saying play more golf.

Bill Kennedy: learn. If you want to network with people and connect leaders, play golf. And I’ll tell you one of the things that credit unions do, they have charity golf events. They’re charity golf events for Children’s Miracle Network, whatever it is. There’s the charity. And if you can’t, if you don’t want to play golf, go out and run the putting contest. Or, or do something to volunteer. If you want to meet people and fund, I always [01:23:00] Go run a putt, they have putting contests, right? Everybody goes through the putting contest. And as, even if you don’t know nothing about golf, you can watch the first couple people play, you can watch how the ball breaks, and you can say, Hey, you know, the ball breaks two feet to go to the cup. And they’ll think, Oh, wow, thanks for the information. Now I have a little bit of, you know, that kind of stuff. And they get to meet people. So look for avenues. To connect with people. It doesn’t have to be golf. It could be the cherry blossom race. I used to volunteer for the cherry blossom race in D. C. Um, you know, there’s so many volunteer opportunities, um, that I will tell you 4Front Rewards volunteer. They expect, they actually expect you to volunteer in the

community. We, uh, we take one of the days, like, um, forgive me if it’s The wrong name, but it used to be Columbus Day. Um, we, uh, it’s a volunteer day,

uh, here. So, um, so we go volunteer. The, the whole organization goes and [01:24:00] volunteers. Does something. Um, which is wonderful in the community.

Um, so, my advice to young people is to volunteer. If you can.

Strategically. Strategically. Find out who’s doing it. Find out if you can network with them. Because again, leaders, good leaders, are looking for people. to help along the way.

Josh DeTar: I love that. Well, if people want to connect with you or if they want to learn more about 4Front Credit Union, how can they do that, Bill?

Bill Kennedy: They can reach out to me if they don’t mind on LinkedIn. That’s okay with me. I would kind of prefer that.

I frankly, honestly, I get 125 emails a day. Um, it’s tough enough to keep through

to keep through, you know, so I prefer you not email me at work. I eat. LinkedIn is quick and easy. And then once that has been established, um, You know, reach out to me.

If you’re a young person, now I do Do a lot of my mentorship through CUNA. I

do, you know, through the Finance Council. I’ll do one internship Through the African American Credit Union [01:25:00] Coalition.

I may do two internships Mentorships a year. I’m willing to do up to five Because I gain gain something from them as

well Um, so if there’s, uh, and you don’t have to be 25. As a matter of fact, one of my mentees last, uh, last semester was 60 years old.

Josh DeTar: Oh, cool.

Bill Kennedy: so, you know, age means nothing. Uh, they just want to connect because they understand that connectivity and that importance. And again, I can only share my, my wisdom and my journey. There’s a lot of, that’s why it’s important to have more than one. Because there’s a lot of people that have diversity of experience. Um, I share what I know, and hopefully that’s of value. Um, but there are other, there are many other wonderful people that are willing to mentor. Um, you just have to take a little bit of, uh, step out. You have to reach out to them, because they can’t know, uh, everybody.

And as long as you’re committed to it, uh, make it happen.

Josh DeTar: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And if people want to learn about the credit union, just [01:26:00] 4Front.

Bill Kennedy: they can just reach out to me on LinkedIn and then just, you know, say, I’d like to, to learn more about 4Front or what they’re doing.

Um, You know, just send me a, hook up with me, send me a message, and then I’ll take a look at it, and if it’s something that I can be of value to you, you can send me an email at work. And, you know, I’ll see what I can do. I, I want to be very upfront. I, before I share, I don’t want to, I’m not going to share any competitive, you know, strategies or anything like that. Unless it’s okay with the, uh, the leadership here. They’re pretty open in, in many aspects. Um, as I shared with you, our CEO is all about collaboration. Uh, in the credit union community. Um, but I, I also have to be careful about that.

Josh DeTar: Of course. Well, Bill, I, again, I just, I want to thank you so much for taking the time and I just want to say thank you for coming and being a guest on the Digital Banking Podcast.

Bill Kennedy: Yeah, Yeah, I, I’m very honored to be here. I’m here as a, as [01:27:00] a result of one of my mentees who reached out to Josh.

Josh DeTar: Chris Trummer.

Bill Kennedy: Yeah, so, so, in, in

Josh DeTar: I know, you know, actually built real quick while you’re on that. I have to say, I’m glad you said it too. Um, I mean this with all due respect. I thought the same thing when I met the group at the George Washington University credit union initiative. When I met that group of kids, I was like, goodness gracious, I feel like an idiot.

They’re so intelligent. I was an idiot at that age. Like, oh my gosh, this is such an incredible, like talented group of folks. Um, we met Chris Tremmer through that initiative when he graduated, he actually ended up getting hired at one of our company’s spin out companies. And the work that he has done is, I mean, mind blowing is an understatement.

It’s so cool. 

Bill Kennedy: it’s So cool at that young age. Yeah, you know, shout out to these, okay, you have to [01:28:00] be of certain ilk to get into GW, right? But most of these kids, despite their just awesomeness, are pretty humble,

you know? They, they’re, they’re They have to, they understand because, because they have been mentored. Hey guys, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t be going around being, you know, you know, I’m, I’m the best thing. I graduated from GW and I, I did this. I was the CEO of, I mean the, uh, chairman of the board of GW University credit union initiative, but you know, that kind of stuff. 

Um, they are receptive. They understand that, uh, getting, no one, no one gets anywhere in life without somebody pushing them, pulling them, or reaching down and lifting them up.

Okay? They need, people need people in their lives to make that difference. I would be shocked if there’s very many leaders that have not, [01:29:00] uh, had people helping them throughout their life. And, and that’s what leaders lay their head on their pillow at night saying, Hey, um, thanks for reaching out. I’d be more than happy to help you in your journey to the degree that I can and it gives us purpose in life.

Josh DeTar: Yeah. I love that. Well, again, Bill, thanks for joining me today. I really appreciate it. appreciate all the insight and, uh, thanks for being a guest.

Bill Kennedy: My pleasure. Have a great one.

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