Steve Hennigan: Orchestrating Meaningful Cultural Change at SACU



For the second month in a row, “Credit Union BUSINESS’s” CEO expert drinks from the fountain of Cornerstone Credit Union League’s Top 50 knowledge. This go-around, SACU’s chief shares insight on how credit unions can get back to their roots of serving real people of financially struggling and modest means.

Last month my featured CEO was Doug Fecher of WPCU in Dayton, Ohio. Doug was one of two featured speakers at the Cornerstone Credit Union League’s Top 50 meeting, and he related some of the ways his credit union is improving service to members of mode stand struggling financial health.

This month I am highlighting the other featured speaker, Steve Hennigan of SACU in San Antonio, Texas. Like Doug, Steve is concerned that many credit unions have lost focus of their congressionally mandated mission of serving people of modest means. He and I have had three fascinating discussions on this topic as well as cultural change and leadership, and I will bring the substance of those discussions to you in this article.

When I first met Steve in San Antonio he showed up in jeans, sandals and a guayabera shirt. After I expressed admiration for SACU’s dress code, he told me he had been out all day in moderate- to low-income neighborhoods talking to residents. It’s something he does periodically to stay in touch with real people and their needs.

Cultural Shift Driven by Modest Means Mandate

As we settled into our discussion at the Marriott, it didn’t take Steve long to begin describing the cultural shift he and his organization have been involved in since 2009. The nexus of this change was the financial crisis in 2009, when SACU’s leadership realized the credit union’s culture, structure and leadership approach needed to evolve.

During the ensuing cultural transformation, SACU’s board members decided in 2013 to keep their federal charter. This led to a deep examination into the purpose of federal credit unions, and that process uncovered the “people of modest means” mission. At that point, the credit union’s board wasforced to further evaluate their transformational efforts in light of Congress’s primary reason for creating credit unions.

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