Management

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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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 (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) 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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