BY JULI ANNE CALLIS
When the winds of change point the sails of credit unions into new fields of membership, it is time to prepare. Creating, protecting and sustaining a strong and trustworthy brand are the key elements of this preparation.
“To reach a port we must sail sometimes into the wind and sometimes against it but we must not drift or lie at anchor.”– Oliver Wendell Holmes
In the past decade, a multitude of credit unions have determined that it was time to change their charters, their scope of services and routinely their brand. These measures are often taken by an organization during times of distress triggered by matters beyond that organization’s control. That was the case of Meriwest Credit Union. The proud legacy of this Silicon Valley–based organization was built on the IBM success story. But as time passed, what had been the very essence of the strength became the CU’s greatest challenge. There came a time when the ship could have been sunk because IBM was no longer going to be the source of the organization’s vitality. As with so many credit unions, the founding sponsors could no longer be the wind in the sails propelling the organization forward. This drove Meriwest to seek out new opportunities that would sustain the organization.
The journey of leading Meriwest Credit Union successfully through the gales of change has demanded a skilled and steady hand at the helm.Focusing on being a treasured brand to those the CU serves has been its captain’s cornerstone.
As Julie Kirsch stepped up to the helm as CEO of her large and growing vessel, her core strengths and experiences led her to focus the organization on being a trustworthy ship.She wanted to ensure her crew and members could count on the CU as they navigated many changes simultaneously in field of membership, the economy and regulatory environment.Julie knew the credit union would experience a number of significant challenges in this transition from the IBM-centric brand. As it worked to build the future Meriwest Credit Union in one of the nation’s most diverse and demanding communities, it would certainly encounter some rough seas.