Her Refusal to Quit Is an Inspiration

‘It took a lot of dedication to keep our founding leaders’ dreams alive.’

October 09, 2013
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When Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Federal Credit Union approached the brink, Teri Robinson helped pull it back.

And her grace under the pressure of a net-worth restoration at the Portland, Ore.-based credit union caught the attention of many in the credit union movement.

“Her credit union is thriving now and others are taking note of what she’s done—implementing her ideas and positive attitude to help their own credit unions perform better,” says Brady Howe, president/CEO of Cutting Edge Federal Credit Union, also based in Portland.

Robinson wasn’t always sure things would work out in the face of daunting financial difficulties. But she conjured up a positive attitude, put her head down, and got to work.

“I wasn’t afraid to ask for help from my vendors, staff, and board,” she says. “I told them ‘I’m in it to win it.’ So, how are you going to help me? I didn’t give them a chance to tell me ‘no.’ ”

Throughout the restoration, the plan was to hold on to shares and loans—not to bleed off assets—and to continue making loans despite past losses.

The plan worked. Now, Robinson has to worry about growing too fast after emerging from the net-worth restoration.

“It has been really hard work, and took a lot of dedication to keep our founding leaders’ dreams alive with our credit union,” she says. “Many people would have given up. Our credit union very easily could have been gone. But we have a mission to help union ironworkers. No one else would be here to help them.”

Robinson wasn’t interested in hearing “no” or “can’t” during the long days and nights it took to right the ship. And her positive leadership and “why not” attitude keep the credit union moving forward.

“I look at how we can do things instead of how we cannot,” she says.

The credit union movement is important, Robinson says—members belong for many reasons. Understanding these reasons should be a driving force for all credit union leaders.

“We are relevant and needed more now than ever,” she says. “You have to believe this as a CEO or leader in your organization or give up your spot to someone else who does.”

Robinson’s determination and success at Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Federal reaches beyond the branch walls. “She uses her experiences and expertise to motivate other leaders in the credit union industry whenever possible,” Howe says. “Her positive, can-do attitude is contagious and inspiring.”

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