Politically Active CEO Counts Blessings

‘Building relationships with lawmakers is critical.’

March 01, 2012
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“Political involvement is key to any industry or movement, but especially one like the credit union movement,” he explains. “You have to build relationships.” Doing so is “not only an ongoing but a lifetime commitment and effort. You can’t be going to your representatives only when you want something, and then the rest of the time sitting back.”

Hanley maintains a personal relationship with long-time credit union supporter U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif. “I had a wonderful relationship with Ed when he was a state senator,” he says, “and that has survived now for 25 years. He understands not only our credit union and the personal relationship, but he also understands what credit unions stand for. And he’s a staunch supporter in Washington because of that level of understanding built up over the years.

“I really think it’s an obligation we have,” he adds. “Political action and building relationships is critical. As credit union CEOs, we’re in the relationship business. So we have the skills and abilities to really be effective.”

There’s nothing to be afraid of, he says, and “it’s interesting and exciting, as well as productive and beneficial.” Hanley recommends mentoring with seasoned CEOs who’ve already established political relationships.

Back to the Beginning

Revisiting one’s roots can be a difficult experience. For Rudy Hanley, president/CEO of SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Santa Ana, Calif., the first time back to his birthplace in Hungary was “very emotional.” His family fled the Soviet-occupied country in 1956.

When he returned more than three decades later, “in many ways it was very much the same,” he describes. His childhood school was “exactly the same,” the sidewalk was still dirt, and the little church hadn’t changed. The family’s house had been repainted, but otherwise unchanged.

On the return trip, family members retraced their escape route through Austria and on to the U.S. Later, Hanley returned to Hungary several times. He and his wife, Catherine, have traveled extensively, including trips to Greece, Turkey, Italy, and France.

But his feet are now firmly planted in Southern California where he’s lived most of his life. The U.S. has been good to him, he says. “I don’t feel like there’s anything special about me. I’m just a lucky recipient of a lot of good things.”

Mentoring is a big part of Hanley’s career as a CEO. SchoolsFirst Federal historically has supported smaller credit unions. It also played a significant role in developing Santa Ana’s $3 million asset Comunidad Latina Federal Credit Union, a community development credit union (CDCU) for Spanish-speaking residents.

SchoolsFirst Federal covered the CDCU’s operating expenses for the first five years. And with the participation of 14 other credit unions,
they provided $1.5 million in 0% deposits to help Comunidad Latina Federal fund loans.

The CDCU serves real needs, he says, because Spanish is the primary language in about 74% of Santa Ana’s homes. Many residents are customers of payday lenders and check cashers.

“Our philosophy is that we need to live the purpose and structure of credit unions,” he says. “These are the people credit unions were really created for. We had limited resources, but we wanted to do something to help a segment of the community not being served by other financial institutions.”

Hanley also has been active on numerous committees and organizations throughout his 32-year credit union career. He’s a founding member of the Filene Research Institute. And he has served on the boards of the National Credit Union Foundation, CUNA, CUNA Strategic Services, CUNA Mutual Group, and the Consumer Federation of America.

But he sees it all as paying it forward. “The credit union movement is such an exceptional opportunity for anybody. I believe in hard work and doing your best. That’s the least you can do to show your appreciation for everything that has been given to you and all the blessings that you receive.

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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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