GILLETTE, Wyo.-For someone who says she does not care for attention, Linda Hennings certainly does a lot to attract it.
Hennings is well-known in this northeastern Wyoming city as the "face" of $70-million Campco Federal Credit Union, thanks to her nearly three-decade career. She is VP of lending and VP of technology, and also oversees collections. She has a reputation for helping others with their finances on her own time, while attending a local event or dining at a local restaurant.
For these accomplishments and more, NAFCU named Hennings its 2012 Professional of the Year for CUs with less than $150 million in assets.
Kurt Thelen, Campco's CEO, told Credit Union Journal Hennings is more than deserving of the honor.
"We were so excited when we heard she was selected," he said. "Linda has been with us almost 28 years now, and she knows just about everyone in the community. She is well-liked and well respected by everyone. As both our VP of lending and VP of technology, she has a couple of very difficult hats to wear."
According to Thelen, Hennings also serves as a de facto business development officer for Campco FCU, simply due to her reputation.
"A lot of people search her out because she has been in the community so long," he said. "We are a big consumer lender, doing indirect lending in six counties. Linda goes to dealers, and goes to some local business meetings. She is out and about all the time."
Hennings learned of the award when Thelen gathered a number of Campco employees in her office, then made the announcement. She said her first response was disbelief.
"When Kurt called people in and told me in front of everybody I said, 'You are kidding, right?' " she recalled. "The award was a big shock because I did not know I had been nominated. It was very nice to be recognized, but usually I stay in the background and do my thing so that was intimidating. But on the other hand, it was nice to be appreciated.
"There are a lot of credit union employees that deserve the award because so many of us wear multiple hats and go the extra steps to get the job done," she added.
Hennings began her credit union career as many do, as a teller. She said she knew what a credit union was because there was a large CU in the town where she used to live. At the time Campco was known as Campbell County School Employees FCU.
"I had previously worked with the lady who was the manager at the time and she asked me to work for her," she recalled. "Back then we had two full-time employees and one part-time employee, while today we have 25 employees, so it has grown quite a bit."
The CU went through a merger, Hennings continued, and in getting bigger was able to offer many more services. Asked what the biggest difference has been over the years she said regulations and compliance "have evolved to the point we have a lot more to deal with. It is harder to serve members sometimes because of regulations."
CEO Thelen noted he arrived at Campco just three years ago, "but I learned about her very quickly."
"She has been everything from a teller to new accounts to collections to running a branch," he said. "She has been here for 28 of the 40 years the credit union has been around, so she has seen it grow and been a big part of that growth. Just bringing in deposits is not enough, we have to bring in loans, also. In the last 24 months we have had loan growth every month but one, with no foreclosures and delinquencies under 1%, most months under 0.5%. To have loan growth with low charge-offs is the best combination, and it is a huge plus for us to have Linda as VP of lending."
Of course, lending operations and technology both are time-consuming gigs, and Thelen expressed admiration for the tireless manner in which Hennings does both jobs. He said she handles quarterly IT updating, takes care of all of the CU's equipment, and is spearheading an effort to move Campco to completely paperless lending.
"If someone can't find a report on the system, we know to go ask Linda," he said. "She is really good at what she does. She has good instincts on both sides-what lending products will do well and with technology."
Hennings said many small credit union employees have to wear several hats, noting she already was handling lending and happened to be the one who knew the most about computers.
"I was not afraid of jumping in there, so I started overseeing technology as well," she said. "When you do a good job with something people start to defer to you."
The Value of Good Instincts
As for Thelen's praise of her instincts, Hennings said experience counts.
"I have been doing lending for 15 to 20 years, and from experience you get to know the products, the members and how they are going to react," she explained. "You know what works for them and you have to rely on that gut feeling. The first feeling is usually the best one, so I just go with that. I'm a techie geek, and I always have to have the newest and the latest and greatest, so that transferred over well to work."
Hennings, who in her spare times loves riding her Harley-Davidson motorcycle and crocheting quilts, said Thelen is "fun to work for" and "keeps everybody on their toes." Not surprisingly, Thelen had compliments for Hennings, as well.
"We were so excited to see her win because she does so much for us," he said. "We are not a large credit union, so everybody has to wear a couple of hats and she wears a couple of big ones."