McCormack: ‘Keep It a Movement’

‘I wish more CUs would explore strategic mergers.’

December 23, 2013
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Jim McCormack is a firm believer in staying true to credit union philosophy and the movement’s roots.

First and foremost, “keep it a movement, not an industry,” he says. “And ensure that young people are involved and grasp the credit union philosophy.”

The longtime Pennsylvania Credit Union Association CEO took a circuitous route to his current role in the Keystone State, deviating from his initial career goal: a buyer for a large New York City department store.

McCormack’s first exposure to the credit union movement came as a volunteer for a credit union in northeast Pennsylvania, where he became involved in the Pennsylvania Youth Involvement Board and the National Youth Involvement Board.

A job with CUNA Mutual Group in the 1970s soon followed, first in the company’s Pittsburgh office and then in Madison, Wis.

What's One Thing Colleagues Might Not Know About You?

“I really don’t have any secrets—what you see is what you get. I have a great wife and a great daughter; people may not know that.”

“I was involved in the early days of what is now called asset/liability management under Richard ‘Doc’ Heins,” McCormack recalls.

“I joined the Pennsylvania Credit Union League in 1981 as a vice president and used my experience at the national level to form companies and partnerships through its credit union service organization [CUSO], giving credit unions the tools to compete in the marketplace.”

That wasn’t an easy prospect. The national economy was approaching the darkest days of a recession, when unemployment rose to 10.8%, the federal-funds rate hit a staggering 20%, and the prime interest rate approached its eventual high of 21.5%.

Managing a league or a credit union in this environment was no easy task. But McCormack, who took over as the league’s CEO in 1992 following the retirement of Mike Judge, embraced collaboration as a way to help credit unions succeed.

“Achieving economies of scale relevant to your locale enables credit unions to remain competitive with large banks,” McCormack says.

He recalls the 1999 merger between Educational Credit Union, under CEO Lee MacMinn, and Fischer & Porter Federal Credit Union, under CEO John King, to form what’s now Freedom Credit Union.

“This strategic merger was in part due to the costs of preparing for Y2K, but more importantly to gain efficiencies of scale to better serve their members,” McCormack says. “Now, the credit union is thriving under the leadership of both men. I wish more credit unions would explore strategic mergers.”

Some other accomplishments from his storied career:

“When we began the program, only 15 credit unions offered credit card processing on their own—and this is when there were more than 1,300 credit unions in the state,” McCormack says.

McCormack will turn more of his attention to family when he retires on Dec. 31.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been described as a workaholic. I routinely came in the office on Saturdays and Sundays to ‘catch up,’ ” he says. “So in retirement, I want to relax and take better care of my health—I seriously owe that to my family.”

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