This year, for the first time in a very long time, Bill Hampel was planning on staying home during the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

Hampel, who now works as a freelance credit union consultant after retiring from CUNA last year after nearly 40 years there, was intimately involved with the conference for decades and had planned to sit it out in 2018 “so that the folks who are replacing me wouldn’t have me sort of lingering around.”

A call from John Gregoire, however, changed that. The two are old friends and Gregoire is president of the selection committee for the annual Herb Wegner Memorial Awards, given out each year by the National Credit Union Foundation in conjunction with CUNA’s GAC.

Former CUNA Chief Economist and Chief Policy Officer Bill Hampel
Former CUNA Chief Economist and Chief Policy Officer Bill Hampel, a 2018 Wegner Award winner

“He called me up and I was on a plane to go to a consulting gig,” recalled Hampel. “We chitchatted for five or 10 minutes about this and that, and then he said ‘By the way, are you planning to go to GAC [in 2018]?’ I said no … and he said ‘Maybe you should reconsider and go, because you’re going to get the Wegner award.’”

The annual honors recognize individuals, institutions and programs who have had a profound impact on the credit union movement, and while Hampel said he is flattered and honored to be named a 2018 recipient, he never for a moment expected to win a Wegner.

“I had a fun career, a nice career, a long career – but it didn’t feel like a Wegner Award career,” said Hampel. “But if someone thinks it was, that’s fine by me.”

Others aren’t so quick to downplay his impact on the movement.

"I've had the honor and pleasure of working with Bill for a number of years and his dedication and integrity to the credit union movement is unparalleled," said Gregoire, who in addition to working with the Foundation is also president of The ProCon Group. "Many times, Bill has been a guiding light, challenging discussion and moving issues forward facing the credit union system. His wit and wisdom has served the movement wonderfully and he's become a great spokesperson for credit unions nationwide."

One of Hampel’s duties at CUNA was leading the agency for 96 days during the 2014 transition from former CEO Dan Mica to current President and CEO Jim Nussle.
“Over the course of his career, Bill has provided the leadership, data, and technical analysis for many examples of the credit union system coming together,” said Nussle, adding that Hampel has “trained, mentored and inspired literally thousands of CUNA colleagues throughout his long and illustrious career.”

And that’s where Hampel himself says he may have had the biggest impact on the movement.

“The speaking I did to credit unions was on a simple enough level that I think probably some of that stuck,” he said, adding that for many years he taught at both CUNA Management School and CUNA Western Management School. “I think if there’s one thing I’m most proud of, it’s that probably quite a few credit unions have slightly lower capital ratios today than they would have, had I not been around. One thing I’ve pushed for a long time is credit unions don’t need quite as much capital as they have. In financial terms, that means they could grow faster or do more for their members with lower net income in order to support a lower capital ratio. Some folks have told me they’ve done this, and if I’ve had any lasting impression on credit unions, it’s that more members in more credit unions are getting a slightly better deal than they otherwise would have because their credit unions aren’t maintaining as high a capital ratio as they would have.”

Retired, but still working
Since retiring from CUNA, Hampel has kept busy as a consultant – a move he says “gives me a little spending money and keeps me out of my wife’s hair.” And while he’s done “a little more [consulting] than I expected,” he doesn’t mind.

“I didn’t plan to start a big consulting business – I planned to retire and do a little consulting, and so far I’ve retired and done a bit more than a little,” he said. “It’s a nice problem to have. I’m not complaining, because it’s a lot of fun.”

And the fact that he’s still working puts Hampel well in line with many previous Wegner recipients.

“I look back at past recipients and quite a few of them are still working,” he said. “Most are in the twilight of a fully active career, but not all. I definitely don’t view [receiving the award] as a ‘bye bye.’”

Outside of the awards dinner, Hampel has no official role at this year’s GAC, which is fine with him. He plans to stroll through the exhibit hall, drop in on a few general sessions, see old friends and spend time with his son, an employee at a credit union in Tampa, where Hampel and his wife relocated after retirement.

And while he’s keeping plenty busy, retirement does have its perks – especially since Hampel is an avid supporter of European soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona, who often play high-profile matches on weekday afternoons.

“One of the biggest benefits of being retired is not to have to set an alarm clock at night,” he quipped, “but the other is to be able to watch football live. That’s pretty cool.”