Tell Members Their Money Is Safe

In the heat of the banking crisis, this CEO was a voice of reassurance.

September 27, 2011
KEYWORDS board , news , safe
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Through the years, Robertson also has been an active volunteer within the credit union movement and in the community. He served on and participated in:

  • CUNA’s board of directors and various committees, including the examination and supervision subcommittee;
  • CUNA’s regulatory and insurance structure commission;
  • The Washington Credit Union League’s board, including a term as chair and on various committees; and
  • The league’s “Hike the Hill” events.

John Annaloro, president/CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association, says Robertson is a true CU Hero, and a “good, respected leader.” And the league’s announcement of Robertson’s retirement describes him as an advocate for credit unions on Capitol Hill.

“I never liked politics,” admits Robertson. “I still don’t. But it was necessary.” Robertson was the youngest member of the league board when he was elected in 1981 and the only one who wasn’t a CEO at the time. He was re-elected four times.

His enthusiasm for credit unions and their mission spills over into his involvement in state and local community activities. Robertson still lives in Shelton with Peggy, his wife of 36 years.

Shelton is a logging community of about 8,000 residents, mostly blue-collar. Robertson says it’s “the perfect setting for a credit union.” Our Community originally was chartered to serve employees of Simpson Logging Co., but expanded several times to its current state charter.

Robertson’s community involvement was one of the main reasons Cheryl Stewart, Our Community’s vice president of policy and regulatory compliance, nominated him to be a CU Hero. A few of the community activities he’s spearheaded include:

  • A junior golf tournament, organized 20 years ago, for kids ages 8 to 17;
  • Two $1,000 annual college scholarships for local high-school graduates; and
  • A recent effort to save a local community skate park. Robertson attended city park commission meetings and helped save the park.

His letters to community members during the economic crisis were especially impressive to Stewart. “When the economy was falling apart and everyone was fearful that all they had worked so hard to save would be lost, Joe reassured them that their money was safe and their credit union was solid, and gave them a brief explanation of the crisis.

“The letter was honest and upfront,” Stewart adds, “and even today members comment about how needed those letters were. When the only news delivered on TV was doom and gloom, the only reassurance they received was from the CEO of their credit union. It was a brave and right thing to do.”

An Approachable Leader

Joe Robertson, who recently retired from Our Community Credit Union in Shelton, Wash., had an open-door policy with all employees. “If you do this consistently, word gets around that you’re approachable.”

The credit union’s basic core values echo this theme:

  • Provide personal, professional, caring treatment to every member, every time;
  • Give members choices;
  • Be accurate; and
  • Find solutions to members’ financial needs.

“Life is difficult; people struggle,” he says. “We want members to walk out the door feeling like the credit union cares.”

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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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