Profile: Dan Desmond

Leadership, innovation allow his CU to push forward in a struggling economy.

August 22, 2011
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In June, the Arizona Credit Union League (now part of the Mountain West Credit Union Association) recognized Dan Desmond as its 2011 “Very Outstanding Credit Union Person,” going above and beyond to serve the credit union movement.

Desmond, CEO of TruWest Credit Union, Scottsdale, Ariz., shares with Credit Union Magazine how he and his credit union became leaders in a struggling economy.

CU Mag: What’s it like being named the 2011 Very Outstanding CU Person?

Desmond: It was a very humbling experience for me. There are a lot of previous designees that I really look up to. It was a tremendous honor for me to have my name considered along with theirs.

I have been with my credit union for 30 years, and it was very rewarding to be recognized for my contributions to the Arizona Credit Union movement.

CU Mag: What are the most important traits for a CU leader to possess?

Desmond: Honesty and integrity, along with the ability to perceive that in others. To be considered a good leader and to be able to inspire others, people have to trust you.

People trust you when you have unquestioned integrity and you lead by example.

I believe in the saying “it takes one to know one,” and when you can perceive honesty and integrity in others, you can build a great team. Honesty is the foundation for straight-forward and open communication.

Honesty and self-awareness have taught me that I can’t do everything, and I don’t have all the answers. But I can hire the right people and surround myself with those who can.

CU Mag: What’s one innovative thing your CU is doing?

Desmond: In the absence of a large marketing budget, we are using Web-based technologies like Google “Ad Words” and paid searches to promote our credit union brand and our services.

We’ve come a long way since when I first started in credit unions.

CU Mag: How does your CU serve the newly credit impaired?

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineDesmond: Recognizing that Arizona has been one of the states hardest hit by the Great Recession, many of our current and potential members have had significant nicks to their credit scores.

We recently revamped our loan underwriting guidelines and pricing to increase approvals for borrowers in lower credit tiers and make loans more affordable.

In addition, we recently developed a program to help our members repair and improve their credit scores.

CU Mag: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

Desmond: I graduated from college in 1975 with a degree in finance. I couldn’t find a job in my field and worked for a construction company in the Chicago area digging ditches and pouring concrete. It paid pretty well, but it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

I learned that a guy with a college degree should be able to find an easier way to make a buck, and that there are warmer and prettier places in this country than Chicago.

CU Mag: What should people know about Arizona?

Desmond: It’s even hotter than Chicago in the summer, but it’s one of the most scenic places most people will ever visit.

It is a great place to live and raise a family. It’s also the place to be if you like the outdoors.

It has, by far, one of the most cooperative and collaborative credit union environments in the country.

Arizona was one of the first states to be hit hardest by the recession, but I am confident it will be one of the first to successfully emerge from it.

LIBBY VERTZ is an intern in CUNA’s publications department. Contact her at 608-231-4096.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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