CAMAS, Wash. — Many people in the credit union movement know Sarah Canepa Bang — or at least they think they do.
The winner of the 2014 Herb Wegner Award for Individual Achievement certainly is well known in CU circles, being the face of FSCC for many years and appearing at innumerable conferences either advocating for the expansion of shared branching or appearing as an expert on the technology behind shared branching. She also is visible for her involvement in many of the foundations, charities and public-service organizations sponsored by credit unions.
But when reading the Wegner nomination letters describing Canepa Bang's seemingly never-ending list of accomplishments, committees, networking groups, television appearances and worldwide travel (a package of 19 letters that stretches out to a 50 page of PDFs), and when seeing a picture of Canepa Bang in a familiar red-and-white outfit and reading she is part of the "Tappin' Santas" group, one may wonder, how she does it all.
"People say that to me all the time," she said with a laugh when the above introduction was read to her. "But I have no kids, my husband travels and I don't like to exercise, so I just work all the time."
Indeed, the tireless Canepa Bang currently sports three titles. After FCSS merged into CO-OP Financial Services in January 2012, she became president and chief operating officer of CO-OP Shared Branching — FSCC LLC, as well as chief strategy officer for CO-OP Shared Branching.
"FSCC is an LLC within CO-OP," she explained. "We have merged as much as we possibly can, but we probably will not go to a single switch for a while because of technology. The work is still going forward and we are still adding credit unions to shared branching."
Some products have moved out of FSCC and are being managed by CO-OP, but FSCC is still providing support, she continued, adding one of the reasons for the merger is FSCC "needed more horsepower" to do everything management envisioned.
"CO-OP has been very innovative in leveraging what FSCC began, and they are going to take it to a level we never could have, and we are free to support shared branching better as a result," she declared.
"We have built 7,200 locations, 5,200 credit unions and 2,000 Vcom kiosks at 7-Eleven stores, and we did it with the right intention — to help the consumer. We got people into shared branching not because they needed it, but because it is good for the entire movement. Shared branching is great after a disaster."
And what keeps Canepa Bang motivated?
"I know that no one would have thought twice if I had not done the 7-Eleven deal, because it was so much. Today I am helping to rework a CUSO that wasn't working. During a recent meeting I found out it had a product that would be wonderful for the entire movement, but it was difficult to explain. What motivates me is finding new things to leverage for the credit union movement. My dad was a combat engineer so I have the mentality of maximizing what I have on hand."
Canepa Bang started her credit union career at CUNA in 1983, in the trade association's newly developed Internet office. In the mid-1980s, she served as education director at the Oregon CU League, moving to the Massachusetts CU League in the late 1980s as VP of human resources. In 1990, she returned to the Oregon CU League, where she worked under Tom Augustine and Gene Poitras in developing and launching a number of high-visibility programs.
As EVP of the Oregon CUL, Canepa Bang oversaw the operations of the league, its for-profit services corporation and insurance company. During her tenure at the OCUL, she also served as chief operating officer of CU Access, an ATM and shared branching network operated by the league, and Automated Item Management, at the time the largest and most successful check processing operation in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1995, she established a two-year associate degree program in credit union management through Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore., to meet the educational needs of credit union employees. She helped launch Loans Today, one of the first 24/7 lending call centers in the nation, which was created to enhance a credit union's ability to process member loan requests via telephone.
In 1999, Canepa Bang was named CEO of FSCC. She helped lead the fledgling organization into one of the most successful CUSOs in the nation. During her tenure, FSCC more than quadrupled the number of credit unions, branches and states involved in shared branching. Eventually, it expanded to all 50 states, two U.S. territories and three foreign countries.
At its peak, FSCC processed 66 million transactions per year for 12.3 million members of credit unions representing $149.4 billion in assets.
FSCC was the first network to pioneer the "outlet" concept in shared branching. The CUSO expanded the technology to include full-service kiosks, mobile banking, call centers, disaster recovery and remote deposit capture. In 2007, FSCC scored a partnership with 7-Eleven to implement shared branching services on 2,200 Vcom kiosks inside select convenience stores.
Throughout her tenure at FSCC, Canepa Bang's philosophy was to create a model in which any CU member would be able to do business at any CU branch, anywhere in the world. The dream was to not only help CU members, but to create a national cost-efficiency measure to keep branching costs down and thereby lower transaction overhead, stabilize credit union membership by allowing members to move to other states and still keep their "home" credit union account, and to enable collaboration between credit unions in a manner that had never been accomplished before.
FSCC became part of the CO-OP Network in January 2012. Canepa Bang was named president of FSCC, a division of CO-OP Financial Services, and chief strategy officer of CO-OP Shared Branching.
Roger Michaelis, president and CEO of $509 million iQ Credit Union, Vancouver, Wash., said in his nomination letter, "Sarah is always looking for the next best network, the next best opportunity to help and support credit unions. Moving and building on her skills as a communicator and educator, Sarah has become widely recognized as the face of shared branching, as well as its most well-known advocate."
Foundations & Philanthropy
During her career, Canepa Bang has supported numerous credit union foundations. In 1987, she was responsible for the formation of the Oregon Credit Union League Educational Foundation, which provided scholarships for credit union volunteers and employees.
Since 1999, she has served on the board of the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, supporting financial education efforts of credit unions in California and Nevada. She also is a director of the Applied Research Institute, which funds practical research projects for credit unions.
Canepa Bang also has been a passionate supporter of credit union philanthropy, including the Credit Unions for Kids (CU4K) program. She was one of the key founders of the CU4K program while at the Oregon League, and since the start of the program in 1986, it has raised more than $13 million in the Northwest market. She also played an instrumental part in getting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals to pick up the CU4K program and help it become a national program in 1997.
In 2006, she was named to the board of the Credit Union Miracle Day Foundation and was appointed to the Credit Unions for Kids National Advisory Board for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. She continues to co-host the major CU4K fundraisers in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Said Michaelis, "CU4K is one of the national credit union system's biggest outreach programs — a goodwill effort attributable to Sarah's early vision and leadership for the program."
International credit unions also get support from Canepa Bang through her involvement with the World Council of Credit Unions and the Defense Credit Union Council. She has twice traveled with WOCCU to China, as well as many other countries.
She has hosted Chinese delegations interested in technology's role in helping grow China's mammoth cooperative movement — she explained the role of shared branching in the U.S. In less than one year after this visit, shared branching became part of the Chinese cooperative landscape.
In 2011, WOCCU named her one of the top seven people who are making a difference in supporting the group. Canepa Bang has said the only form of democracy some people will ever know is that delivered through their credit unions, which is why she supports WOCCU.
She is an active member of the Global Women's Leadership Network, a WOCCU program that supports the professional development and networking needs of women in credit unions worldwide. She also is an active participant in the Credit Union Women's Association. She presents regularly at CUWA events and has been a recipient of multiple CUWA awards.
In addition to her many professional duties, Canepa Bang has created an "extended family" in her local community. She oversees or participates in a now 13-year-old neighborhood film festival.
Canepa Bang is also active in the "Tappin' Santas" dance group, a precision umbrella drill team that performs tap routines in parades, for retailers during the holiday season and more.
Asked to sum up her career to date, Canepa Bang said: "It is a wonderful credit union life. People can tell I am genuinely happy, and I owe a lot of that to my parents."