The five finalists for the 2014 CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec Challenge have been announced, and they include United Federal Credit Union's Marketing VP Noel Sanger, based in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
A combination of public vote and a judging panel determined the Top 15 entrants in July, and all young professionals have been providing updates to their projects on the CUES website. You can view Noel Sanger's project there as well.
Noel represents Arkansas on Cornerstone's Young Professionals Advisory Group. His enthusiasm for credit unions is unmistakable and comes across in his voice. Of the Challenge, he says, "It's opened my eyes to the young professionals across North America and the talent pool we have in our movement." As a result, Noel feels inspired, and apparently, it's contagious. He says, "People are contacting me about leadership, mentorship, and advocacy."
"We are extremely proud of the hard work and dedication Noel has put into the Fort Smith and Van Buren communities and are happy that he is receiving national attention for his efforts," said UFCU President/CEO Gary Easterling. "Noel is a shining example of the type of young leaders we are excited to have at UFCU as we continue to find new ways to create positive experiences for our members and community involvement in the great state of Arkansas."
Noel's role as marketing vice president in charge of sales and service covers the credit union's three Arkansas branches, as well as the Oklahoma market. The project he developed for the CUES Challenge has to tie in to the strategic plan of the credit union, including sales and service.
He attributes the fact that he's a finalist to the influence of the relationships he's developed with credit union leaders who have mentored him either directly or indirectly along the way. At the top of his list, he points to UFCU's CEO Gary Easterling and VP National Sales and Service Stacy Fillmore, as well as Cornerstone's VP of Advocacy Jim Phelps and others.
Phelps notes that Noel is very active with the Fort Smith Chapter of Credit Unions. "Anyone who is serious about making a career in credit unions must not only have a firm understanding of the financials, but also advocacy and making our collective voice heard by lawmakers and regulatory agencies. Noel understands the vital role that political engagement plays in the credit union movement."
"We understand about moving up in CUs," Noel says, "but we don't know how to talk about advocacy. Jim Phelps has taught me how to advocate. His passion for advocacy has really helped me fall in love with the credit union movement."
Noel is proud to point out that at a special awards ceremony last week, Arkansas Business recognized UFCU as one of 2014 Best 12 Places to Work in Arkansas. That distinction includes all companies and all asset sizes in Arkansas.
If there's one important piece of advice he would give to other young professionals on being successful in the credit union movement, it's this: "When you present an idea, have a plan. Don't just go in and say something's wrong. Have reasoning for why it's wrong and multiple ways to fix it. If you can be a problem solver, you'll go a lot further in the movement."
The CUES panel will follow the progress of each finalist's project until they make their final presentations at CUES' CEO/Executive Team Network, November 2-5, 2014. There, the finalists will face off for the grand prize, a CUES educational package valued at $20,000, and the honor of being named 2014 CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec.
CUES is a Madison, Wisconsin-based, independent, not-for-profit, international membership association for credit union executives. CUES' mission is to educate and develop credit union CEOs, directors and future leaders.