CASPAR, Wyo.-Credit union service often relies as much on the heart as it does the head. In Stormy Dean's case, chances are that if she hadn't found credit unions, they would have found her.

That's not to say that Dean, vice president of Wyo Central FCU in Casper, and winner of the NAFCU Professional of the Year award for credit unions with less than $150 million in assets, does not have a head for numbers. In fact, she joined the credit union in 2008 specifically to assist in strengthening the institution's financials and boosting its CAMEL rating.

At first glance, Dean's resume reads more like those of members who come to the credit union for help, rather than the executives who run the operation. Dean's experience traveling life's rockier roads has tempered her self-taught skills and built an appreciation for the value of sweat equity when it comes to serving members and institutions in need.

Dean was born in Michigan to parents she describes as small-time "hustlers" who traveled from town to town running bingo games and other shady enterprises. Abused by her mother, Dean was ultimately taken away from her parents by the Wyoming Department of Family Services at age 12 and placed in foster care. She grew up in a more loving household and eventually went to cosmetology school.

 

Climbing The Ladder

"No one told me I could go to college," Dean says. Despite attending numerous credit union training schools, including NAFCU's Management Development Institute in which she currently is enrolled, Dean never received a degree.

In 1995, she went to work as a teller for Western Vista Credit Union in Casper and began working her way through various positions, including those of teller supervisor, loan officer, branch manager, cash management officer and even COO. She credits significant mentoring along the way for her success, and cites her time at the loan desk as helping define credit unions as her career.

"A young woman came into my office dressed to the hilt, but I couldn't help her because she didn't need one more unsecured loan," Dean said. "Then an older man with a smoke-stained beard and few missing teeth applied for a loan and we worked something out. That's when I decided why I was here-to help everyone."

But such benevolence doesn't come without discipline. When Dean joined Wyo Central FCU in 2008 after spending two years at a local bank, the credit union had fallen under Prompt Corrective Action and she was retained to help turn the institution around. She took over lending and marketing, changing the credit union's branding and rewriting loan policies. Dean moved the data processing system from in-house to a service bureau to cut costs. She started a website, added mobile capabilities to attract younger members and began weeding out dormant accounts.

 

Adding A Few Wrinkles

"I was hated by some of the members, and I have a few wrinkles in my forehead to show for it," she says. "I shook things up for the CEO, too, but I was very blessed that she had my back."

Dean was able to help stabilize the credit union financially and improve its CAMEL rating. Part of that effort meant shrinking in assets to $29.5 million in assets at the close of Q1, down from $30.4 million in March 2008. Overall financial performance has improved.

Dean has worked to revamp lending operations, rewriting policy that tightened parameters that lead to a reduction in loan delinquencies from 3.86% to .77%. Her changes helped increase the credit union's net worth from 5.45% in 2008 to 8.92% in 2012.

And working with Janeice Lynch, Wyo Central president and CEO, she helped turn a negative 0.88% ROA in 2008 to a positive 1.24% ROA by 2012.

Beyond her adherences to procedures, Dean also can credit the sweat equity she invested both in the credit union and in her life to helping her succeed beyond anything she might have expected.

"I try to reflect on my life, not regret it," Dean said. "My moral compass is to treat people how I would want them to treat my children, my husband and my friends. That's why I work in a credit union."

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