Human Resources

Leadership Q&A: Brandon Michaels

Professional development, networking are the best ways to keep pushing forward.

September 03, 2014
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Credit Union Magazine recently spoke with former CUNA CFO Council Executive Committee member Brandon Michaels about the importance of professional development in the wake of the CUNA Councils’ 6,000 member milestone.

Michaels is president/CEO of $488 million asset Mazuma Credit Union Kansas City, Mo.

CU Mag: What’s the best career advice you’ve received, and who did it come from?

Michaels: The best career advice I ever received was from a former CEO: “Don’t follow—lead.”

I found this advice very useful in the financial services industry. The industry is wrought with the status quo. In order to be successful in the future, someone has to lead and do something that shakes us out of our comfort zone.

Many leaders try to do this, but when complaints start happening, they tend to slowly migrate back to what’s comfortable. Or, the changes they make are just variations of what already exists in the industry.

CU Mag: Membership at the CUNA Councils has reached 6,000. What are the implications for the CU movement?

Michaels: It is a testament to the value each council brings to their respective members, but also the degree to which professionals are willing to share war stories and be a sounding board for their colleagues.

Achieving such a feat wouldn’t be possible without the remarkable people at CUNA and all they do for each and every council. The implications of this growth are numerous.

First, a strong council network increases credit union professionals’ standing within the industry. State leagues and associations, as well as CUNA, provide resources for learning and growth, but there is nothing like sending an email to a council of 1,500 experienced professionals within your same position/field and getting 100 answers back within a matter of minutes.

That is a phenomenal resource to have in our industry. It raises all boats and helps put credit unions on a level playing field.

Second, as I indirectly addressed it in the first point, an expansive council offers huge networking opportunities.

Finally, the size creates phenomenal growth opportunities for each professional who chooses to leverage it. When I was actively involved in the CUNA CFO Council, for example, as both a member and executive committee member, I leveraged the resources to the fullest and made my CEO and board aware of the opportunities it offers.

As such, the CFO Council became a respected voice in my credit union and, in my opinion, played a key role in my development and also my rise to the CEO position.

CU Mag: How has professional development helped your career?

Michaels: I would not be where I am today without the help of the CFO Council. Learning from dynamic CFOs such as MJ Coon, Steve Smith, David D’Annunzio, Peg Lamb, Pam Finch, Mary Torsney, Kevin Durrance, Jason Peach, Jason Scott, and Erin Mendez—I could go on and on. They helped shape my personal perspective on critical financial matters.

More importantly—and this is oftentimes overlooked—the leadership opportunities and lessons I learned from this council have truly made a difference in my career. I was a very young CFO and am currently a CEO that is younger than the national average.

I am humbled by the time and effort many members of the CFO Council gave me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of their help.

Running a credit union’s balance sheet in today’s economic, political, and regulatory environment is not easy. Continued professional development and ongoing networking is the only way I know how to continue pushing forward in a meaningful way.

The CUNA Councils are celebrating their 6,000 member milestone with contests, prizes, and more. Learn more at

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