LAUREL, Mont.–Janice Lehman has spent nearly 40 years in credit unions, and was recently named as Montana Credit Union Professional of the Year by Montana’s Credit Unions. The CEO of SEG FCU, Lehman has been with the CU for 38 years, overseeing growth from $300,000 in assets to more than $17 million.
More on the honor and Lehman’s achievements can be found here.
Lehman recently shared some of her insights with CUToday.info.
CUToday.info: How did you come to be involved in credit unions?
Lehman: I started at the credit union in October 1980. We were a $300,000 credit union open three afternoons a week. I distinctly remember interviewing with the board of directors, which consisted of five railroaders whom I grew to respect and admire. They truly exemplified the credit union philosophy of people helping people. I remember receiving a loan application from a member and the credit committee approving the application, but because liquidity was so limited the borrower had to wait until the next payroll deductions came into the credit union before we could fund the loan. We didn’t have computers and everything was posted on a ledger sheet and calculations were made using a calculator.
CUToday.info: What have you learned about driving and managing growth?
Lehman: Managing growth can be a challenge, especially in a prospering environment. Members want to save but also want a higher dividend rate. It’s easy to attract funds into the credit union; it’s a challenge to attract loans and investments to offset the dividend rates and maintain an adequate spread so expenses can be paid and reserves can be maintained. Every credit union wants to grow, but growth must be managed. Having a strategic plan that addresses all aspects of growth is vitally important.
CUToday.info: What have you learned about managing people during your career, and has that evolved or changed?
Lehman: I am very lucky to have a staff that has been with the credit union for several years—23 years to four years. And the four-year employee was previously employed here, left and returned. We have employed several high school students through a school to work program. They have been very enthusiastic and easy to train and motivated.
CUToday.info: If you could go back and offer some advice to yourself on your first day on the job, what advice would you share?
Lehman: My advice to me on my first day on the job would be: As an employee of the credit union, always remember that you are working for the members of the credit union. It is your ultimate responsibility to safeguard member funds. Never hesitate to ask for help and advice from other credit union officials. Our best attribute is sharing with each other.
CUToday.info: What is your view on the future of credit unions, if there is to be one?
Lehman: I think the future of credit unions is stable as long as we maintain our philosophy, tax structure and don’t try to become everything to everyone. Credit unions were originated by people who wanted to help each other. Bigger isn’t always better. (CUNA’s) ‘Open your Eyes to a Credit Union’ is a great promotional idea.