The credit union movement is full of success stories. Retired GECU president and CEO Harriet May, for example, began her credit union career as a teller fresh out of high school and worked her way up to the “corner office.” Paul Trylko also started as a teller and is now CEO of Amplify CU. Kay Stewart was in high school, when she accepted a part-time job in the file room at a credit union. Today she is president of North East Texas CU. Jim Brisendine was a traveling teller and is now president and CEO of Resource One CU. These veteran credit union leaders have paved the way for upward mobile young professionals like Kimberley Aguilar.
Aguilar is a manager at Generations FCU’s San Pedro branch. She and her husband were recently profiled in the National Journal. Ashley M. Harris, AVP of corporate communications for the San Antonio-based credit union, says she asked the reporter why she reached out to a credit union for the story.
“She told me that credit unions are the backbone of our country, and if you want to find hard-working middle class America, a credit union is where you start,” recalls Harris.
Aguilar and her husband Sergio are both second-generation Americans, the grandchildren of Mexican nationals. Aguilar earned her high school diploma and has some college credits under her belt. Although she has been able to climb the ranks at Generations FCU without a college degree, Aguilar hopes to earn a business degree so that she can continue to grow personally and professionally.
Steve Schipull, president and CEO of Generations FCU believes it’s critical for credit union leaders to develop highly motivated young professionals and support teams that are committed to success.
“These will be the individuals that we pass the proverbial keys to when we retire,” he says. “Dedicated, talented and compassionate team members, like Kim, will ensure the success of credit unions both now and for many years to come.”
Aguilar joined the credit union as a part-time teller when she was just 18 years old. She stayed with the credit union for about five-and-a-half years, and then left to go work at a bank. It only took a few years for Aguilar to realize leaving the credit union may not have been the best decision.
“With my experience in the big bank world, I would absolutely say there are more opportunities at credit unions,” Aguilar says.
After returning to Generations FCU, Aguilar proved that with hard work and exceptional service to members, you can earn the respect and admiration of peers and superiors. She’s held a number of positions at the credit union, including vault teller, business development representative, retail sales coach and branch manager trainee. In February of this year, she was promoted to a branch manager.
“It’s been very motivating for me to know that all the time I have invested in Generations has paid off,” adds Aguilar. “I didn’t know it at the time, but starting at a teller position really helped me understand and empathize not only my staff members who work for me today, but really all areas of the business. And I love what I do. It really has been personally motivating that the members that knew me as a teller now know me as a branch manager and congratulate me on that accomplishment.”
As a young professional, Aguilar says credit unions are an attractive industry.
“Credit unions are really starting to grow and be a real presence within our community. But the best part is that it’s growth with a purpose… to be an advocate for our members,” she says. “We’re not here just sell them a product and be done with them.”
Aguilar has observed that a significant percentage of their members started with a bank.
“It’s very rewarding to see members talk about the service and relationship difference between banks and credit unions,” continues Aguilar.
To read the profile on Aguilar in the National Journal, please click here.
Helpful Resources: The Texas 12, a young credit union professional initiative created by the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) in 2012. The Texas 12 has launched a web site, http://www.cuyp.coop/, which strives to serve as a central repository of news and information for the upward mobile young credit union professional.