The Filene Research Institute is putting a new twist on credit union lending with a pilot program that could help CUs across the country bring in top talent, if only for a limited period of time.

The Filene Loaned Executive program is currently being tested in-house at the credit union “think and do” tank in the hopes that it might provide a “case study for credit unions to replicate, if successful,” said Filene CEO Mark Meyer.

The initiative works by “loaning out” executives with specialized skills to credit unions or others who need their expertise for a period of up to 24 months. The strategy is seen as a way to retain talent across the credit union industry.

“Credit unions, non-profits and many organizations today are challenged by adding needed talent while achieving operational efficiencies,” Meyer said in a statement. “For Filene, 80 percent of our revenues go directly to creating and delivering actionable research for credit unions. To add specialized talent while maintaining that ratio, we needed to innovate and try something new.”

Under the program, Filene’s business needs will be matched by executives “on loan” from a credit union or industry provider for a focused service period of up to 24 months.

“This very well could work as a model for credit unions, especially those with a focused business need or limited resources,” added Meyer.

If a credit union sponsor or local organization is willing to loan talent to a credit union that needs specific skill sets for a project or business objective, in return, the loaning organization gets to further develop its top talent, while the loaned individual deepens existing skills.

Guinea pig

CUNA Mutual Group’s Sue Racine was Filene’s first “loaned executive.” Racine most recently served as CUNA Mutual’s director of enterprise marketing and communications, and is now Filene’s head of play and experience, a brand-new position.

According to Filene, Racine started her new position on January 8 and will remain with the company for 24 months.

Sue Racine, Filene
Sue Racine, head of play & experience, Filene

Her background includes leadership roles in marketing and communications, as well as serving as chair of Great Wisconsin Credit Union and as a member of the Summit Credit Union board of directors.

“Throughout my career I’ve benefitted from Filene’s research and events” Racine told Credit Union Journal. “This is an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the smartest change agents in the credit union industry and support Filene as they take their innovation to next level.”

Linda Nedelcoff, CUNA Mutual Group SVP/Human Resources, said in a statement that “as a long-time Filene supporter, it was an easy decision for CUNA Mutual Group to participate in the loaned executive program. It’s a natural fit with our focus on developing leadership talent.”

Winning the war for talent

According to Tansley Stearns, Filene’s chief impact officer, “winning the war” for talent continues to be a challenge for many credit unions.

“We thought this solution might help infuse exceptional talent into Filene for a period of time and also help credit unions that may have limited options for exposure and growth for high-potential team members,” she said. “We think it can be a win for Filene, a win for credit unions and ultimately a win for consumers.”

Thus far, Stearns noted, “several” credit unions have expressed interest in participating in the program.

“Credit unions want to win the war for talent and those that we’ve spoken to are really enthusiastic about this idea as a new way to invest in the growth of their highest potential team members,” she added. “They are also excited about the collaboration opportunity that could make our movement stronger.”

Tansley Stearns, Filene Research Institute
Tansley Stearns, chief impact officer, Filene Research Institute

Once the pilot program is over, Stearns said Filene will assess its value and efficacy by determining whether or not an infusion of talent “helps to advance our efforts” and the participating credit unions “are able to grow and retain top talent.” Then, Filene hopes to “garner new insights about talent growth and retention that we can share with the market, and we can create a model that could be helpful for other credit union organizations.”

However, as CUs continue to evolve and need more specialized talent, Stearns said credit unions might look for expertise in digital transformation, innovation or entrepreneurial endeavors. “Business lending is another great example,” she said. “It could [even provide] a broader mindset or exposure to different business models or subject matter expertise.”

In order to avoid the possibility of a “loaned” executive staying with his or her new employer, Stearns said the program would include an agreement between the organization receiving the “loaned executive” and the organization loaning the employee.

“A best practice for this program — if it were to be replicated — would be to have that commitment outlined and clarity around the intention for the arrangement to be temporary,” she added.