Ning Duong: Creating a Culture of Empowerment at Credit Union West

“I always think about what type of environment do I want my kids in when they’re working adults? And how does that support their whole human self?”



with guest:

Ning Duong
CCO, Credit Union West

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Digital Banking Podcast, guest Ning Duong, Chief Operating Office of Credit Union West and host Josh DeTar discuss the progressive approach of Credit Union West towards empowering next-generation leadership and prioritizing employee well-being. The discussion revolves around the organization’s commitment to nurturing next-generation leaders by prioritizing empathy, flexibility, and support, moving away from traditional leadership models to create positive employee experiences. Integral to their strategy is the continuous journey of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), showcased by investments in education and certification for leadership. This dedication fosters an inclusive culture that enhances engagement and productivity. Moreover, Credit Union West emphasizes the integration of life and work to promote employee well-being, recognizing the importance of a human-centered approach to meet evolving workforce expectations. Overall, their holistic approach aims to cultivate loyalty, satisfaction, and productivity in the workplace.

The conversation also touched on the challenges and opportunities presented by digital transformation in the banking sector. Duong emphasized the role of leadership in driving change and the need for organizations to adapt to meet the changing expectations of consumers. They discussed practical examples of digital initiatives undertaken by Credit Union West and their impact on both the institution and its members.

Lastly, the podcast explored the future of digital banking, with Duong providing his perspective on emerging trends and how Credit Union West plans to leverage technology to further its mission. The discussion was informative, offering listeners valuable lessons on innovation and adaptation in the financial industry.

Key Insights

Empowering Next-Generation Leadership

Duong shared how Credit Union West is committed to nurturing the next generation of leaders by fostering a work environment that values empathy, flexibility, and support. This approach not only enhances employee loyalty but also aligns with evolving workplace expectations post-pandemic. Duong highlighted the importance of moving away from traditional command-and-control leadership models towards creating positive experiences that inspire loyalty and engagement among employees.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a Continuous Journey

The conversation delved into the significance of DEI initiatives within Credit Union West, emphasizing that true diversity and inclusion are not mere trends but integral parts of the organization’s core values. Duong illustrated this by discussing the investment in DEI education and certification for leadership, showcasing the organization’s commitment to fostering an inclusive culture that yields better engagement, productivity, and overall satisfaction.

Integrating Life and Work: A Strategy for Employee Well-being

Duong and DeTar discussed the evolving expectations of the workforce towards a more human-centered work environment. Credit Union West’s strategic plan includes focusing on employee well-being, mental health, and integrating work-life balance. This strategy is not just about creating a supportive work environment but also about acknowledging and addressing the whole human needs of their employees, thereby enhancing productivity and loyalty.

Guest At A Glance

Ning Duong


Credit Union West

Find Duong On:

With a rich history in banking and a passion for the credit union movement, Ning Duong emphasizes digital innovation and community-focused financial services at Credit Union West.

Josh DeTar: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of the Digital Banking Podcast. My guest today is Ning Duong, the Chief Operating Officer of Credit Union West. I need to apologize to our listeners. I am sorry for not bringing you this guest sooner. I’ve known Ning for years and followed much of her professional journey through staying in touch and LinkedIn.

Ning may be one of the most perfect examples of what makes this industry special that I know of. Some of you may or may not know just how much these guest intros mean to me. I usually take considerable time to get to know my guests and write up a very thoughtful intro, highlighting the incredible reasons I’ve asked them to be on the show.

It’s important to me because they are the star here, not me. And I want all of you to get an early sense of just how amazing my guest is. As Ning and I got started on this process today, I stopped her short. Oh, she was telling me the story [00:01:00] about her family upbringing and how she saw a direct correlation to how her first generation U. S. immigrant parents managed money and shared access to it and the credit union movement, I had to stop her. And I want to do something a little bit different today. I want Ning herself to tell you this story. This is the type of stuff people need to hear. This is why you get leaders like Ning, who when empowered to make an impact and leverage their strengths can do truly remarkable things.

We as an industry are truly blessed to have her. And I want you to hear her story. Ning, welcome to the podcast.

Ning Duong: Thank you, Josh. Thank you for having me. So happy to be here.


Josh: You know, I, I do, I just have to say, is, is you and I got to talking, you know, it’s interesting like we have known each other for years and you know, we’ve both worked together and followed each other’s careers just through, like I said, staying in touch and LinkedIn and all of these [00:02:00] things. And even then, I think this is what’s neat about the podcast is, is that, you know, you get an opportunity to like, just have this unscripted conversation with people.

And sometimes you learn even new facts. And as you were telling me this story, um, of just kind of your family history and how that is what like deeply rooted your passion in the credit union movement, um, it like made my heart do a few extra powders. I mean, this is, this is really beautiful stuff. So. Um, you know, I’d love to have you just kind of walk our listeners and watchers through a little bit of your story and journey.

Ning Duong: You know, I didn’t know much about credit unions until I actually worked at a credit union. And back then we didn’t have as much digital access as we do today to go and research what a credit union was. And so my, my first banking job was actually with Wells Fargo Bank and I had a great experience there.

[00:03:00] Left to go to another industry and decided, you know, I think I like banking because of my ability to help people, whether you make a lot of money or a little money, um, in your financial success and journey. And so I landed my first credit union job with safe credit union in Sacramento, California. And within the first week, just going through onboarding, meeting the CEO. Um, Henry was the CEO at that time. He sat down with me for an hour to talk about the credit union difference, and I never had the experience before with such a high senior leader sitting down with you to talk about the culture in the credit union and why it’s so important. And I had this thought of alignment to growing up and witnessing my parents operating their finances [00:04:00] and financial access in the Hmong community like a cooperative. Um, as young as I can remember, you know, my parents were very new to the country. They didn’t speak a whole lot of English. And so there was a lot of distrust in both the financial system as well as the Western. Um, medicine, right? And so we’ll stick to, um, financial, uh, access and banking. My father and his friends and relatives, whenever there was a need for funding something, whether it was a car purchase or a, um, wedding, would come together and we would cook meals, um, to eat while those discussions were happening. And I remember being a little girl. Um, being the secretary, writing down all of the information, these meetings were meant [00:05:00] for my father, the relatives, and the friends to discuss what the need was, how much money was needed, and a commitment of when it can be repaid. And so, the relatives, the friends would offer assistance and saying, I can loan you 500. I would need it back in a year. I can loan you 1, 000. I would need it back in two years. And as the little secretary, I would write those things down so that when my dad collected the money, we knew who we got it from, when to pay it back. Um, and That really resonated with me when I got into the credit union industry that both were cooperative models and both were really about people helping people.

Josh: Yeah, you know, you were telling me, um, just even how, when. know, you started to get up into, um, you know, job and career age. Um, [00:06:00] you know, your parents were like, Hey, uh, you got a few options, but they basically are like doctor, lawyer, engineer type of that, you know, traditional type of, um, You know, career track where they’re like, Hey, we, we, we just know you’ve got a decent future ahead of you where you’ll be able to provide for yourself and your family if you go this route.

And so you were going to nursing school, right? Cause you’re like, that seems like the lowest hanging fruit of the, like I can have a reasonable lifestyle and, and do nursing. and then you started working at Wells Fargo, um, and then you, when you were saying you kind of left, you were at Comcast doing like call center supervisor position and it, it’s just what I was thought was really impressive was like that emotional intelligence at that age to realize you were like, this is not necessarily fulfilling.

There was something that even working at, like you call it like Wells Fargo of all places. Like there was something really empowering about helping people to understand [00:07:00] finances, have access to capital and being able to like support them through that financial health journey. And so that’s what ultimately led you back into credit unions.

Um, but that you had made the comment that is like an all too common comment on this podcast. When I asked people about, you know, how did you get into the community financial institution space? It’s like the number one accident or answer is by accident. Um, but, but what’s really interesting and why I wanted you to kind of tell and talk about this story is, is that, you know, a lot of times it’s like, Oh, I fell into this by accident and learned that it was pretty cool.

But what I thought was really unique about your story was. Actually recognizing, Oh my goodness. Like my family had kind of created their own credit union. They just didn’t know it. Right. And so I think that has also had a huge influence on you wanting to spread the credit union mission to people. So they understand that there are tools available to them that are [00:08:00] different than just the traditional ones and zeros account.

You know, you have with a financial institution that’s cold and hard, and there’s a totally, truly cooperative movement, like what your family was creating on their own. And they would have had access to something like that through a credit union. And you even made the comment, you were like, you know, my dad would have been a credit union owner, right?

And I love that you even use that terminology instead of a member. Like, as a member, you’re an owner of the credit union. Like your dad could have had a partial ownership in this cooperative financial movement that they were doing as a credit union owner. So I just, I thought that was such an impressive, um, like I said, almost mental and emotional intelligence state to realize that when you came out into the industry and, and kind of fuel the fire that you have now.

Ning Duong: Yeah, I think, again, it’s what’s kept me in the industry and it’s what drives my passion because, you know, when you’re growing up, and you know, so I was born in the United [00:09:00] States. And I was stuck between acclimated to, you know, the American way and also coming home and having really, really traditional upbringings. So when I got into the credit union world and realized that even with those two different cultures, that we were so much alike in the cooperative model and the sense of community giving. community is very big on supporting one another. Um, some of the things you and I talked early on was their, their farmers, they farm.

And so I remember even when we didn’t have a lot, my mom was always so giving with whatever little that we had from our garden, because she and my dad also knew that, um, we were all trying to make it in this new life in the United States, and the more that we could support each other, the better [00:10:00] off we could be as a successful mom community.

Josh: You know, it’s funny, we were joking before starting recording today that like I, in retrospect, I kind of wish I’d named this podcast, something different, but I promise we’ll sum it up. Ning and I will figure it out. We’ll tie this back to digital banking by the time this

Ning Duong: We’ll figure

Josh: But, um, but the conversations that we’ve had on this podcast have been so much more.

And, you know, when we look at just some of the things that you had kind of wanted to talk about as a guest, you know, a lot of it is around, um, really empowering people and empowering diversity of thought and ideas to create, you know, a better tomorrow and just hearing you talk about kind of, um, you know, the Hmong community and, and just kind of how, you know, there’s this huge sense of, of pride around supporting each other and building each other up, you know, I’d like to think that we all humans, you strive for that, right?

Or like, at least have some of that inside of us. Um, and ultimately, like [00:11:00] we all kind of want to strive for this goal of building everybody up, seeing people around you be successful and healthy and taken care of and, um, you know, having thriving families and love abounding. Like we all kind of strive for those things, but there’s also sometimes just different ways we go about approaching it.

But I think that’s another good, just kind of call back to this industry. All kind of have a similar mission, right? Like we want to see people have better financial health and futures. It’s just maybe how we go about it as a little bit different, but the guiding light I think is the same. And I think that that spans.

Um, you know, that spans continents, that spans religions, that spans races, that spans everything is just, I think if you’re a good person, we’re trying to all pitch in, help each other out. We only get so many days on this planet. Like let’s make the most of it.

Ning Duong: Yeah, absolutely. And I think about conversations [00:12:00] around the next generation of leaders, the next generation of members, the next generation of employees. I mean, we really have to create a type of culture. You have kids now. I have kids. And as leaders, I always think about what type of environment do I want my kids in when they’re working adults? And how does that support their whole human self? And so when I think about the work that credit unions do, um, we’re very deeply rooted in our mission and our purpose. And that has gained a lot of popularity with the younger generation

because they want to be a part of something that has purpose, that has meaning, that they can be proud of the brand and of the work that they do.

So important, um, the work that we’re doing in the credit union [00:13:00] movement.

Josh: Yeah, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t touch on this, um, in your intro, which I would have if we had done it a little bit more of the, the traditional way I usually do this, but you know, one of the things that you had mentioned while we were talking and kind of prepping that was, you know, I asked you if there was something that you wanted people to know about you, what would it be?

And, you know, you made the comment around, um, You, you are very, very vocal about, you know, your professional career. And I’m sorry, like, I’m just gonna say it like you are one badass lady with a kick ass career. Um, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, follow me on, uh, LinkedIn and you’ll pick up on it real quick.

But, you know, you made the comment that a lot of times, um, you know, people just see this tough, um, career driven woman and don’t see the side of it that’s like the soft motherly side of focusing on what’s the impacts this is going to have on my family. And the comment that I’m getting to that you made was, [00:14:00] um, you know, you said you, you want your kids to be proud of you and that you want them to know that like everything you’ve done was for them.

And you were just talking about how, you know, this, this is a career where, you know, your kids can look back one day and say, you know, my mom had an impact on a movement that created a healthier generation financially of Americans that I’m a part of, right? That’s really, really beautiful.

Ning Duong: Yeah, thank you. You know, it’s, it’s You, you hear the term a lot that sometimes it’s very lonely at the top, right? And, and as a woman, there’s a lot of pressures around how do you balance being a good mother, a good wife, all of those other roles in your life, and carrying the type of career where you’re overseeing such a [00:15:00] huge part of the organization. And I. I have great supporters who have been rooting for me from day one, but I also have people who have commented like, Oh, you miss your kids field trip. Um, how, how do you think they’ll feel about that? And it. It hasn’t always been easy and I’m in a role now where there’s a lot of good work life integration and balance where I am afforded the opportunity to be a mom and

to be an executive and be a community member. Um, but because of those times where I felt really down on I’m trying to chase dreams, so I can give my kids a better life than I had. But will they? be upset later in life because I missed certain things, certain important milestones in their lives. And [00:16:00] so, I do. I hope that someday my kids will look back and that they’ll be very proud of the path. That I’ve cleared for them. Um, the hard work that I put in to hopefully bring different generational wealth to my family, something that I didn’t even know about as a kid. And, you know, growing up poor, I didn’t know I was poor until I was in certain circumstances.

And once I was in those circumstances and to be where I am today, I never wanted my kids to experience what being poor was like. And so, um, yeah, I do hope that they are proud of their mom and that, um, someday my girls can also be, um, I guess badasses in the workforce and set that tone for their own, um, children in the future. Yeah.

Josh: we’re like 17 minutes into this [00:17:00] podcast and we’re just starting to touch on the actual topics that you sent me that you wanted to talk about, but I think that’s such a good segue to it. And it’s, you know, one of the things that you had put on here. And one of the reasons why I was so excited to have you on the podcast was just, you know, starting to break some of the stigmas of the conversations that we have in the workplace, right.

And how the personal, like there is no personal and professional life. There’s just life. Um, And, you know, I just, I, I want to literally personally say thank you for bringing up this topic because, um, you know, in a little bit of like vulnerability share, that’s something I really struggle with tuning. I mean, it’s really hard to, um, you know, I have two kids now.

I have a toddler and, um, you know, a three month old as of yesterday and. I travel a lot for work and I’m really, really passionate about the impact that I have and the way that I can influence and build up people within my organization and [00:18:00] that we can do great work of supporting the financial institutions that are making an impact on American’s financial lives.

Like that’s really, really important to me. That work is important to me. And like you said, I mean. Um, it’s really important to me to put food on my kids table. It’s really important to me that, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t really have an easy shot at higher education and I want my kids to, so I’m saving for their college and that costs money and I have to work to make that money and you know, all these things add up.

But at the same time, I remember as you know, a little kid, um, you know, I came from a broken home and you know, my parents missed a lot of things unfortunately, and, you know. I kind of always made the comment, like, I don’t want to be the dad that my son looks back on and goes, he never showed up to my t ball games.

And so between trying to accomplish what I accomplish at work, trying to set a good example for them, trying to put food on the table for them and give them, you know, [00:19:00] the freedom that money buys, um, Um, while being there, it’s a really hard thing. And if you’ve ever been on calls with me, I’m sure, you know, you can see my office doors behind me.

And, um, I don’t know, my son Jack comes up and knocks on the doors while they’re closed. There’s not many calls that are important enough that I’m not going to be like, you know what, hang on just a minute. I’ll be right back because little dude needs a hug and that’s just more important. But at the same time, like there’s times where, you know, I’ll be at GAC in a couple of weeks and I’ll be gone for like six days.

Um, It’s a really hard balance, and I think sometimes we just don’t talk about those conversations, so I appreciate that leaders like yourself are having those conversations in your organization and just talking about how, you know, that old ideology, and I’m going to take the words out of your mouth, but to set you up for this is, you that old ideology of like, leave your personal problems at the door, um, it needs to change.

We need to be able to have [00:20:00] conversations about life. So, um, yeah, no, I, I just, I want to say thank you for bringing these conversations up. Love

Ning Duong: It’s something I’m extremely passionate about and you know, I remember working for managers like that, but it was the norm. And so when you hear leave your personal issues at the door, it, you, you bought into that. It was okay today. I’m not having the greatest day. I’m about to enter the doors.

I’m going to leave it here. And if I would like to pick it back up on the way out, I’ll grab it. I mean, you had to really hype yourself to believe in that philosophy that was going on in the workplace. And so I’m really excited to be working for a credit union with leaders that. are just so supportive of, again, the whole human that [00:21:00] we have on our teams, right? Um, I work for an amazing, um, CEO who has an abundance of experience in multiple areas, but one of the things that I love about her is Her background is very strong in HR. So coming into this organization, I had already had a little bit of taste of what she would be like a leader, the type of culture that she wants for this organization, and the opportunities that I had to work with her in bringing things like servant leadership. Mental health in the workplace and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. And so we’ve been able to take that journey, um, with our team. And just last year, we incorporated into our strategic plan for the next. [00:22:00] We have three buckets that we focus on. It’s business, membership and employees. Employees is a part of our strategy every single year, every single day.

And we always invest in making sure that as part of our strategic efforts, employees are included. And one of those elements that we included last year was integrating work in life. And also ensuring that, um, mental health was something that we paid attention to, we educated on, and hopefully we make less taboo in the credit union industry and in any industry overall.

Josh: Yeah, you know, this is a really big topic, right? And I think I, I like that, um, you kind of called out that your CEO has a little bit of an HR background and that’s why you, you know, you see a lot of those types of, um, quote unquote policies being put in place at [00:23:00] your organization is, I think it’s a really tough line to walk, right?

Like if, um, know, if we’re being honest, we give people 100 percent leeway and they don’t have to work at all. Like, you know, yeah, maybe you’re most motivated if people will always show up and do a good job, but like there has to be some guardrails around making sure that people understand like, Hey, when you are at work, like there is an expectation that there is a job that needs to be accomplished.

But at the same time, to your point, like if you’re just not having a good day and, you know, use a, you know, a harsh example of, you know, there’s something really terrible happening, um, maybe for the health of a family member or, you know, there’s a really big scenario going on at home. You’re not going to be a hundred percent at work that day.

You can say that the policy is you got to leave it at home. That’s great. It ain’t staying at home, right? Like that person is going to struggle to give it their all. Whereas if we had stepped up as an [00:24:00] organization and said, Hey, you know what? We, we support you as a person. And that includes every aspect of your life.

We want you to be successful here and to be successful here, you need to be successful everywhere. So within our powers, like we want to give you the opportunity to do that. But I, it’s, it’s a hard line, right? Like, and how much do you actually step into people’s personal lives and help and influence and ask questions?

Like these are not easy conversations.

Ning Duong: They’re not easy conversations, um, but I think what we talked about here at Credit Union West is we have to start somewhere. Right. And we understand that when people are going through challenges, if they don’t have the support they need, whether it’s in a supervisor or a peer or someone else at the organization, it’s likely that we’re going to see a negative impact in their work [00:25:00] production, their engagement, and also in absences.

And that’s no good for, um, the person experiencing what they’re experiencing or the organization or even the members that we’re serving. And so we know it’s a big conversation. We know that it’s, it’s, it’s a journey. It’s not something you can just start and check off a list that we did training and now we’re good. It’s an ongoing journey that we have to be committed to as an executive team and organization. Um, before I got here to Credit Union West, I can’t remember any time that an executive brought up mental health in the

workplace. Or had open conversations to ensure that team members knew that this was serious for us. And we want to provide a space where they’re safe. Um, but [00:26:00] we’ve also talked a lot about that fine line, right? That at the end of the day, there is still accountability and expectation. But our role as leaders is to ensure that our team members know that we value whole health. We value our employees and we want them to be able to access us, access their supervisor, access our people and culture department. If they’re going through something, we’re also focused on training our leaders to be able to know how to have those conversations or even be able to identify those situations. Because when it comes to mental health and struggles, you’re Normal person is not going to share that with their supervisor. The supervisor is often not the first person that they’re going to bring that information to. And so our hope is that [00:27:00] through training, through conversations, and through just being a supportive organization, that people will feel more comfortable having these conversations so that it doesn’t escalate in their mental health. Concerns. Mm

Josh: know, um, I, uh, this has been a really big growth area for me too. And I, I really owe a lot of this in thanks to Siva and Prabhakar, um, two of the three founders here at Tyfone and just the mentorship that they’ve given me, you know, Siva uses that exact, um, terminology that you’re using earlier about the freedom with, um, um.

Sorry, I lost my total train of thought, um, freedom with, uh, oh my gosh, what was the word that you used, Ning? Um, not expectations, um, Accountability. There we go. I’d get it eventually. So it’s, it’s freedom, but with [00:28:00] accountability, right? And so it is kind of how you balance that and with the right environment where that is both demonstrated and lived and given to people.

Then you also have the ability to filter out the right and wrong people, right? The people that are just going to abuse a system because it’s in place to give them those freedoms and lack the accountability. But as long as you have the accountability piece, the freedom piece becomes a lot easier. And, um, you know, I will be the first to admit that, you know, prior to Tyfone, I was a lot of that type of manager that was like, you gotta leave your personal stuff at the door when you’re at work, you’re at work.

Get over it, get back to work. And, uh, if you need to take the day off, take a day of PTO, give me enough heads up, right? I mean, it was just terrible in all reality. Right. And, and I always struggled to build really high performing long term teams. And, and then when I came to Tyfone and kind of [00:29:00] started to learn a different style of that, um, I want to be respectful of, Um, you know, not sharing details, but you know, uh, I will say, uh, hit this person cause he can yell at me later and I know he won’t cause I love him, but, um, you know, Kevin, my marketing director. and I have become really good friends and amazing colleagues over the years. Like this guy is just one of the most impressive people I’ve ever worked with.

Um, he’s an absolute rockstar performer and I can always count on him. And I remembered when he first started some opportunities where, you know, maybe he had something going on. He had a young daughter at the time when he first started. And this was before I was even a parent and knew what that meant. Um.

And, and I took some learnings from Siva and Prabhakar and it was like, you know, dude, just take the day off. It’s fine. Just work. We’ll be here tomorrow. It’s no big deal. And, you know, consequently, he’s become this absolute rock star that I can count [00:30:00] on no matter what. And I don’t know how much time I’ve ever given him off, but I can tell you what, he’s worked a heck of a lot more than he’s ever been required to.

Um, but actually the coolest thing was, um, you know, not too long ago, he had an opportunity to kind of pass that same thing down to someone on his team. And just watching how that interaction happened, I think that was the coolest part of all of it was, you know, he had the opportunity to, like you said, you have to be aware of it and just looking and, you know, one of the team members on his team, he was like, you know what, you just need the day.

Don’t you? And they were like, yeah, I’ll be back tomorrow. It’s Friday. And he’s like, no, no, no. Then you need tomorrow. Just take, just take the weekend, come back on Monday. And I’m like, that, that’s the kind of organization I want to build. I want build that kind of organization.

Ning Duong: absolutely. And, you know, we’ve talked about, um, building the next generation of leaders. And I, I often think about, [00:31:00] you know, sometimes we’ve, we’ve all experienced command and control right at some point in our lives. And a lot of times I feel really bad for those leaders because I think about maybe that’s all they knew. Maybe that’s all. They were groomed to do. And so how do we do better so that we can create new leaders that, um, that the example that you gave that are recreating those positive experiences and creating loyalty. I mean, I, I’ve had a mix of experiences where I’ve even been in those situations like you are where I’m like, well. I really need you at work, right? We’re short staffed and, and I’m just thinking about the business part, but the work environment is evolving and I think we all went through the [00:32:00] pandemic together, but experienced it differently. Whether we had losses in our families, whether we had losses in job, it all played with our mental health.

And so I think. Our new employees and employees that are looking for new work, they’re looking for the type of environment you and I are describing today.

Josh: It has been really fascinating to watch how organizations have kind of come out of the pandemic, what things stuck, what things didn’t, um, what things were a fad, right. And, um, you know, what’s also really interesting around that time period is while we were all going through and experiencing that. I feel like there was, um, there was also a big push in the DEI space, right?

And I, these two things are one in [00:33:00] the same. We want to build really great organizations that people want to work in. And People, meaning all of them, and we want to bring in all sorts of different people with different ideas, perspectives, um, and unique takes on life and, and then give them the opportunity to participate as anyone else.

Um, and I know that’s been a really big part of just kind of your journey too, of trying to, you know, bring up this next generation of leaders. Who build this type of organization, but also, you know, build up this idea of diversity, inclusion, right? Uh, and equality. So how has that kind of played into, uh, your overall thought process of like building out high performing teams?

Ning Duong: Well, I think it’s been proven over and over again that when you have diverse teams and you allow for [00:34:00] inclusion and safe spaces and people feel like they belong to your organization and culture that you have better results, better production, better numbers, and better satisfaction and engagement and so We talk a lot about, um, DEI and I, I always just, you know, when I do education sessions, I always do the basic introduction of, you know, diversity is really about representation. Who do you have at the table? And inclusion is really about organizations creating a culture that makes people feel like they can have a seat at the table. And that their psychological safety for them to bring up concerns or ideas and then belonging is really about how people feel because you can include people and they could still not feel like they belong. In the organization [00:35:00] or in the group, and so I’m really proud of the work that we’re doing here at Credit Union West, similar to what you and I talked about with mental health. It’s a journey. It’s not a checkbox, and so it’s, it’s a lot of effort and a lot of passion that has to go into it, and we’re more at the early stages of our DEI journey here at the credit union, but I’m really proud of the steps that we’ve taken. Last year we invested in all of our assistant managers and above and we paid for a college course in certification through the University of South Florida

so that we can all be certified in diversity and inclusion in the workplace. So

That’s kind of the foundation. And then we will build on that as we go into 2024.

Josh: That’s super cool. Cause again, that’s, [00:36:00] that’s building a foundation that’s going to last. Right. And I think that’s what I was kind of talking about with the pandemic is it’s going to be interesting to see what types of organizations really keep up with this. Right. Like was DEI just the fad thing that we had to say so that we could make sure we check mark the box, or do you actually really believe it?

Do you actually like put it into practice in your organization? Um, you know, I think I’ve used this example before, but a really, really good close friend of mine was hired for a big company that you would know their name if I said it, and I won’t, um, to lead their DEI during that whole, like, really big in the news type of timeframe and he quit not terribly long after, you know why?

Cause they didn’t mean it. And they didn’t give him the tools or the resources. They just wanted to have him as a figurehead to say that they had checkmarked the box. And like, that’s the kind of crap that quite frankly, like shouldn’t stick around. But what I also find so [00:37:00] fascinating is, and I’d love to get your thoughts on this is, is even if you’re the CEO of some company, And you’re like, I’m not really into this.

I don’t want to do this. I’m just care about my business. Like we can conclusively show objectively that it actually provides better benefits, better revenues. Like you all of a sudden have this diverse thought process. Somebody might bring something to the table that no offense, you were never going to think of.

And it’s the best idea that’s ever going to hit your company. And you stifled that by just saying, I want to do things the way I’ve always done it. And I want a bunch of people just like me.

Ning Duong: Yeah, that’s a hard one. I mean, we’ve been reading a lot of articles and seeing a lot of things in the news of what you just talked about, which is, you know, is DEI a fad? And we’ve seen some organizations lay off their diversity teams because, you know, They feel like they’ve done what they could based on what [00:38:00] was expected during that time. And the reason why we’re very intentional here about calling it at a journey is it’s a journey. We know that we can’t tackle everything at once, but we also as an executive team. here at Credit Union West truly believe that diversity, equity and inclusion is important to our business. And we’ve been very intentional about building a roadmap of, um, bite sizes, right?

Things that we know we can commit to, um, milestones that we know we can Achieve this year and what’s for next year and the year after, but as far as Credit Union West goes, we’re not stopping. It’s not something that we see as a fad. We’ve seen it in our own organization. I mean, we have a great executive team, but if you look across our executive team, we have a [00:39:00] lot of women in executive seats, including my CEO. Women of color in executive seats. We even have employees when we do new hire orientation, the executive teams, we go down and visit with the new hires and talk about our role, what we do here at the credit union. And so many times I get an email back from a new hire employee, whether it be a teller or back office representative, just saying, I’ve never seen anyone that looked like you. At that level, and you gave me hope today that I may have a seat at the table one day and that feels so good to know that we are bringing hope again to the next generation of leaders about how diversity and inclusion and having at the having a seat at the table makes a difference for thriving [00:40:00] organizations.

Josh: I love that name, you know, and I think it’s also important to say, like, conversely, could you imagine how that would feel if you’re on the other side of that and saying, I actually don’t see a path forward for me because of how I look or how I talk or whatever it may be like, how demoralizing is that?

And you’ll may never know what amazing things that person was capable of contributing. Simply because of that, right? It’s just, it’s so crazy to me that we miss out on these opportunities and we treat people like that for such silly reasons. But I mean, amazingly in 2024, this is still a world we live in.

So apparently we

Ning Duong: Yeah, it is

Josh: like, yeah, I mean, it’s just, it’s really cool to see that people are saying those types of things, but it’s sad that it even needs to be said in the first place, I guess is my point is like, people should just feel like. I have potential if I apply myself, period, no matter what.

Ning Duong: [00:41:00] right. But, you know, think about credit unions and the communities that we serve, and really just looking at the makeup of our memberships and the employees that work for credit unions. I mean, just that data alone shows that diversity is changing, and so we need to take the steps in order to support more people, more diversity, more inclusion, because It’s going to happen.

We continuously see numbers changing in people of color and, um, our Hispanic communities and even in our Asian communities, um, banking with the credit union system along with working for the credit union movement. And so we have to be prepared to show this next generation of leaders that we mean well, we value them, and we will provide them [00:42:00] opportunities to lead.

Josh: Um, you know, this, uh, this really does actually bring us kind of to what we were joking about at the beginning of, um, like, we’ll tie this back to digital somehow, but, you know, we made the comment earlier that this really is the differentiating superpower of community financial institutions as a whole, right, is this sense of community and really looking out for people and like the story of your parents is such a perfect example of that, right?

It was a group of people. Yeah. Who got together to support each other. And that’s all a credit union really is just on a much larger scale. Um, and so it has more resources and more reach and more ability to do that. But even in the case of your parents, right. A lot of this is just about education and marketing and getting in front of them and showing them that this exists and it’s an option.

And here’s our differentiator. But you know, the point that you made, um, before we started recording was like. If we [00:43:00] lose that, if we lose people as our superpower, what do we really have? Some decent rates and some crummy tech a lot of times compared to the big banks. Sorry, not sorry, just calling it out.

Um, and what do you have left to really tell a story? And, you know, you also mentioned that this next generation. Um, I’ve talked about it before. I really think there is kind of a resurgence to like, we want to shop at thrift shops. We want to shop at local. We want to, you know, buy something that was handmade.

Um, why do you think Etsy is such an incredible success, right? It’s because people want to be able to get something from another human that like made that and I’m supporting them and I’m able to do small and local, but on a big scale. And again, that’s kind of credit unions, right? I want to do something small and local and have an impact.

On my communities, but I want to do it at a larger scale. So if we start to lose the people side of things, then what do we have to [00:44:00] differentiate ourselves on? So this has to be a part of kind of our core DNA.

Ning Duong: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, you, I kind of giggled inside when you were talking about, um, uh, that message because I see my daughter now, my youngest is 14 and every day I check her outfit before we drop her off and I’m like, you look exactly like me in the nineties. It’s coming back. And so this whole thing of, you The young ones going thrift shopping and, uh, you know, bringing fashion back from our days.

Yes, my little one looks exactly how I did in the 90s. So we’re pretty cool and we’re coming back.

Josh: We’re coming back.

Ning Duong: yeah, but you know, in response to your question, people are such a big piece to. single puzzle that we are trying to solve in the credit union movement. And when I think about the [00:45:00] loyalty of memberships and our members, I think that we don’t have to spend as much money as the big banks do because we have such a loyalty from Our members and our members help us through word of mouth in the next generation.

I mean, we have some members here that, you know, they’re great grandparents banked with us and then their grandparents and their parents and now them and their kids. So we’re pretty fortunate that because of our mission and how well we serve our members, we create that loyalty. But in the work environment, we also consistently have to look for ways that we create that loyalty for our employees and the next generation of leaders and employees. Um, you talked about Etsy, you know, our, our, our, um, [00:46:00] VP of people and culture. She talks about that a lot here that this new generation is very business minded. You know, they’re, they’re, they’re not like how we were, um, aiming for that nine to five and that great career. They’re really focused on how I can make a difference.

I, I like to have my own schedule. I like to be my own boss. And so we always think about how are we creating space here at Credit Union West for when they’re here that they feel like they are contributing at that level. And that they are loyal to our brand and our mission and they, they have some, some alignment to what we’re doing so that it piques their interest in coming to work for us and staying with us for as long as we can have them.

Josh: That’s a great point because, um, you know, you think about just the shift in a lot of the gig economy, right? And now it’s really easy for me to get a job as an [00:47:00] Uber driver or, um, you know, all these different ways where I can kind of control my own destiny. Um, and I can set my own hours. I have a lot of flexibility.

I can, you know, if I need a little bit more, I work a little bit more. And so there is this change in just the expectation of the work environment and what that looks like. And like you were saying, I mean, if we’re going to be a rigid nine to five, that’s like, Hey, leave your personal issues at the door and all of these different like stigmas that we’ve held onto from the past.

Um, sure that may work, but if you ask me, it’s going to start to fizzle out. Right. As we go generation after generation of other alternatives to making a living being available. Like being able to say, Hey, you know what? I know I’ll never miss a kid’s t ball game because I’ll just drive Uber and I just won’t drive when he’s playing.

Like, so if I want to work somewhere else, are they going to provide me that same level of flexibility and say, Hey, you know what, Josh, no big deal. If he’s [00:48:00] got, you know, Tuesday at 3pm t ball, like check out at 3pm on Tuesday, go enjoy his t ball. You know, cause we know you are dedicated and, you know, because we are reciprocating each other’s, you know, um, kind of extension of grace in the workplace probably means that I’ll be on my laptop at 10 o’clock that night catching up on the emails I missed after three, right.

But, um, but kind of creating that flexible environment, like we were saying with some guardrails around it to make sure, you know, everybody’s being taken care of from even just the objective sense, but the subjective stuff is just as important.

Ning Duong: You know, I talked to so my two older kids are adult kids. I have a 24 year old and a 22 year old and they both work for the same organization. And, you know, we often talk about how great it is that they are finishing college and going straight into a professional [00:49:00] workforce. That has built this new model of what employees want, right?

Flexible work schedules, um, where there’s still opportunities to meet with the team members and have in person conversations, but, um, you can choose to work hybrid or remote or go in the office and still get your work done. You know, the organization that they work for is highly appreciative of their work and find ways to recognize talent, and I just tell them all the time.

It’s so wonderful that, you know, your first professional career job, you’re not experiencing what we have experienced in the past where you have to pick and choose between your, your mental health, your physical health and it. Making sure that you get your job done. You’re able to balance all [00:50:00] three of those.

And really, to your point earlier, Josh, it’s life, right? It’s, it’s, at the end of the day, it’s life. And so, I’m really happy for my kids who are able to experience such great, uh, work environment, uh, so early in their careers.

Josh: Um, you’ll get a chuckle out of this. I was at, um, uh, a neighborhood like kids birthday party. And I was talking to one of my neighbors that is newer to our neighborhood. We haven’t had a lot of conversations and, um, you know, just kind of bantering back and forth and he didn’t know that I work in kind of tech for financial institutions.

I don’t even remember what the context was or how we got on it, but he made some comments about banker’s hours. Hmm. And how great it would be to just have nine to five bankers hours, you know, Monday through Friday. And he was like, yeah, you know, but the only bummer would be like when you have the three o’clock tea ball and stuff like that.

But he’s like, Oh, it’d be so nice to have these bankers [00:51:00] hours. And I was like, actually, you know, what’s funny is is that like bankers hours is not really a thing in our industry anymore. I was like, you should talk to some of my credit union people. Like these people are on 24 seven three 65 because they’re always working to support members in one way or another.

I was like, but they also have had a lot more flexibility. Um, you know, I was just talking to, uh, one of the senior leaders at one of our customers recently, and, you know, she was, uh, like text me back, but it was like, Hey, sorry, we’re, you know, doing this family thing. It was the middle of our work day. And then later on, I got a response to her from an email, you know, that night.

And I was like. You know, this is, this is just a, a show of like this industry is really changing and evolving both from the standpoint of, you know, consumers and members want to be able to interact with their finances 24, 7, 365. And how do we support that? And how do we build a culture around supporting that?

And instead of saying, Oh, it’s five Oh one, you know, branch is closed. You have no access to [00:52:00] us or your funds in anything other than the standard stuff. You can do it in ATM or, uh, you know, maybe a simple digital banking solution, but also how do we give our people the leeway to, like you said, have competitive packages of employment, like what you’re seeing outside of our industry.

Ning Duong: Yeah, it’s it’s evolved so much on both sides of the house. Um, here at Credit Union West last year, we did a, um, big initiative on total compensation. We reviewed every job description. We looked at, um, You know, pay grades. We looked at benefits, PTO, all of that. And we made an intentional decision as a executive team that we want to be top of market.

And we want to be not only a great place to work, but a place that’s providing our employees with a [00:53:00] good wage and good living. And so that. will be a continuous effort for us, but we’ve been able to increase PTO. We have within the last couple of years included in an anniversary day off.

You know, we looked at how do we best recognize and tell people that we appreciate you being here.

Happy anniversary outside of just the card and the kudos from the executive team. So now our employees get to take a day off in recognition of. their, their anniversary every single year. And, you know, we just did a whole benefits, um, review and was able to lower our costs for families and, um, individuals with spouses so that it’s more affordable. So we’re definitely looking at the overall package of how do we keep our employees happy? In the work that they [00:54:00] do and also pay because pay is important to to to everyone. Um, when it comes to the digital space. Um, you know, we always have to evolve. We always have to look at, uh, to your point. We would love to be able to staff and open 24 seven with our own employees, but that’s not doable. And so we look to technology, we look to, um, digital solutions to say what could we be offering our members so that they can always have access to their money. And so we’re doing a lot of cool things here at Credit Union West and I’m excited about. 2024 and where we will end in 2024 with some of the digital strategies that we have lined up for the year.

Josh: You know, I, um. I worked for a, um, a CEO once and we used to butt heads on this all the time [00:55:00] and we just, we had a terrible overall benefits plan. He liked to pay really, really low. Um, and, um, and like time off was just not a question. Um, and our turnover rate was insane. I mean, just a revolving door. And I was like, man, you know, much money we lose every time we have to start this process over, we lose business because, you know, the customer developed a relationship with this person and now they’re gone and all of these things add up and I was like, man, if we just pay a little bit more, have a little bit better benefits package, we give people some time off, like people would stick around longer and our cost of attrition would be significantly lower.

Um, so I, I mean, it’s. Again, this goes back to, it’s kind of interesting to see how different organizations tackle these things because, you know, there is both the. [00:56:00] Direct ROI side of just taking care of people. And there’s the, you’re just being a good human if you’re taking care of people. And it’s like, they are not mutually exclusive, like taking care people usually leads to a really profitable, successful business because people are passionate, they’re, you know, ingrained in the organization.

Um, they’re committed to seeing the successes, uh, makes a difference.

Ning Duong: It sure does. And, you know, I’ll share something too is we are adding 36 new positions to the organization in 2024. And the reason why we’re able to do that is how successful the credit union has been in the last few years with our membership growth, our loan growth, and just being a financially solid organization. We couldn’t do those things without our amazing [00:57:00] employees and our amazing employees probably would not be as productive if we didn’t provide That type of space, right? A environment where they can be recognized for the work that they do. They feel included. They feel that they belong and competitively pay them a base salary with great benefits and perks. Last year we, um, earned, um, being one of the top companies to work for in Arizona for the 11th consecutive year, and I don’t think that we could achieve those type of results without being very intentional about everything that we do, including everything we’ve talked about today, which is just humanizing people and giving them a space to do Great work in a great industry.

Josh: Yeah. If you don’t [00:58:00] believe us, just go look at Ning’s LinkedIn and I think they’re going to run out of like awards and recognition to give you just over the last couple of years of like what you have pulled off. But that does, it stems from creating an organization that really builds people up. Gives them the freedom and gives them the tools to really use their skill sets, um, to align to where they’re successful.

Right? And then you get folks like you who are just, I mean, it’s pretty obvious you love what you do, right? And the impact comes out of that love for what you do.

Ning Duong: Yeah. And, you know, I, I always say to my team, I know it’s not always rainbows and unicorns, right? We have our opportunities just like many credit unions do. Um, but I, again, I’m very proud of the work that we do and I see how the intentions contribute to the results [00:59:00] that we’re having. And we’re able to promote adding more staff, adding more initiatives, and doing more cool things for the organization and for our employees and members, because we have employees that are very committed to our mission and what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Josh: I love that. Well, thank you so much for coming and being a guest and just sharing these experiences and your personal story with us. Like I said, I think these are the kinds of stories that people need to hear because, um, it is true, right? Like everything that we do, even the technology that we deploy, like digital banking, it’s got humans behind it.

And so how we think about the human element of this equation is as if not more important than anything else that we do. And it’s going to have a ripple effect. So I appreciate that there are people like you that are, you know, taking up that torch and leadership in credit unions to carry on for the [01:00:00] next generation of leaders.

And, and thank you for just coming and sharing this with us.

Ning Duong: Thank you for having me, John. It was such a pleasure to see you again and to talk to you. It’s been a few years and a lot has changed, but you know, I, I have followed your journey as well and really happy and proud of you and everything

that you’ve done for the credit union movement and also the digital space.

So thank you for having me.

Josh: Well, if people, um, want to learn a little bit more about how you stay informed about what’s happening in our industry and. Uh, if they want maybe some of the cool resources that you’ve been using to get some insight into, you know, how you can be thinking about better serving the people of your organization.

Um, any recommendations for some resources that you like?

Ning Duong: Wow. I mean, there’s so many, right? We, we, we are in a world where we’re bombarded with great information every single day. And I, I guess my favorites are, um, I, I [01:01:00] follow and read a lot from the financial brand and, uh, Filene, but I’m also very fortunate to have great friends and network. That’s a networks that. Is in the industry, whether it be digital banking, tech, or the credit union, and just even following them on LinkedIn and seeing what they have to share and post is so educational as well.

Josh: Um, and then if people want to connect with you or learn more about your credit union and the work that you’re doing, how can they do that? Um,

Ning Duong: you can find me on LinkedIn, Ming Duong, not very many of me, so type that in and you should be able to find me. And then Credit Union West, our website is cus. org.

Josh: I will say Ning is one of my top fives on LinkedIn. Like this is a

Ning Duong: Oh,

Josh: follow for sure. I mean, you put out just some of the most like real authentic content. [01:02:00] That’s like feel good. Um, I feel like there’s so many people that put out content on LinkedIn that’s like, here’s this video of me, you know, unsuspectingly helping a grandma across the street with her groceries.

And this wasn’t staged at all. And like, no, this is totally staged, but yours is just so incredibly authentic. You do such a great job of just, um, highlighting other folks in the industry, the work that’s happening. And how you guys are doing things there at the credit union. So, um, absolutely conclusively can say Ning is in my top five of like people you should be following on LinkedIn.

So, um, Ning again, just you so much for being a guest on the podcast today.

Ning Duong: Oh, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me and keep up all the great work that you are doing, Josh.

Josh: Thanks Ning.

Ning Duong: Alrighty.

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