ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-When Terry Laudick ponders the nature of leadership, he considers the words of retired Gen. Colin Powell: "Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible."

It's a credo he tries to live as president and CEO of New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union (NMEFCU) in Albuquerque.

But there's more to defining a credit union's mission, according to Laudick, winner of the NAFCU CEO of the Year Award for credit unions with assets of more than $751 million. The former credit union marketer and league employee also draws on his experience as a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) when his efforts need to align with his philosophical core.

"Make certain that what you're delivering matches your values system," Laudick advises.

The self-directive Laudick brought with him to the credit union when he became president and CEO in 2000 has driven the institution's success.

 

Indoctrination In Cooperation

Growing up in Dodge City, Kan., Laudick was bitten by the credit union bug in his high school consumer finance class. His teacher also served on a local credit union supervisory committee and indoctrinated his students with the cooperative philosophy.

Laudick's first job as marketing director for Golden Plains Credit Union in Garden City, Kan., taught him the operational ropes, and his participation in the National Credit Union Foundation's Development Education (DE) program brought the seeds of the credit union philosophy to full flower.

"If you don't have the credit union fever after DE school, then you're never going to get it," Laudick says.

Laudick went on to work at the Credit Union Association of New York, then moved back west to serve as marketing head at Weokie Credit Union in Oklahoma City. When he reached New Mexico Educators, he was excited by the possibilities, but also by the challenges.

 

Biting Off Too Much

NMEFCU had an extensive delivery system that was branch-heavy and positioned on the cutting edge, but the credit union had bitten off more than it could chew. Financially, NMEFCU wasn't performing well, and member service and satisfaction also suffered.

"Conditions demanded a more myopic view on customer service and managed growth for more appropriate return," Laudick says. "We started working together to do good for our members and community and create a collaborative and cause-based organization built around the seven cooperative principles."

In 2001, Laudick also instituted a program called the "Five Bold Steps" designed to 1) communicate the NMEFCU's new philosophy to the community; 2) improve operations; 3) educate its employees; 4) improve financial performance by achieving a 9% net worth ratio by December 2012; and 5) provide financial education to members.

Each of the initiatives worked in helping NMEFCU address the challenges it faced, and also helped jump-start the credit union's community partnership program. Since Laudick arrived, NMEFCU grew from $483 million in assets and 70,000 members in 2000 to nearly $1.3 billion in assets and 130,000 members in 2012. Net capital rose from 6.7% in 1999 to the current 10.5%, at one time even topping 12.3%.

 

Paying Back

Most impressive is the number of underserved groups that have benefitted as being part of NMEFCU's membership. The credit union's Community Rewards debit card program, which makes charitable contributions tied to member transactions, has since 2006 given $7 million to local groups. Over the past eight years, NMEFCU has returned more than $14.6 million to our members in community grants and member bonus dividends.

Such success aligns with NMEFCU's new mission, something that can be attributed to Laudick's DE training and his commitment to the credit union movement.

"We're committed to finding ways to make New Mexico a better place to live," he said. "Many would say that's not our responsibility, but I believe it helps define our area of service."

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