SUMNER, WA — When Teri Robinson took the reins as CEO of Pacific Northwest Ironworkers FCU in mid-2010, the Great Recession was punching Oregon—and her credit union—in the gut. The then $7.9 million asset sized credit union’s Net Worth Ratio was an unhealthy 4.8 percent. NCUA gave the new leader only a few months to prepare a Net Worth Restoration Plan.
“We were definitely on life support,” Robinson said.
Did she melt down and look for a merger partner? You bet not. Instead, this iron-willed leader “forged” ahead.
“I announced at the Annual Meeting, that someday, we would become Ironworkers USA Credit Union.”
If you don’t know Robinson, her credit union, or her proud Ironworkers Union members, that dream may seem counter intuitive. To Robinson, it made perfect sense.
“We were already serving Ironworkers in five states. When I looked at our members, I could see that some of them came to the Northwest to work and then went home,” she said. “I knew with technology that we could keep serving those members.”
Only two other credit unions in the nation were serving Ironworkers at that time, and one of them has since merged out. The case for Ironworkers USA was made.
While Robinson, her board, and her hard-working staff stayed focused on the dream, the first priority was to strengthen the credit union’s financial position. Following the recession and thanks to focused leadership, Pacific Northwest Ironworkers FCU experienced record growth. It was time, Robinson, thought, to put her dream in writing, right there in her business plan.
That took nerves of steel.
A regulatory examiner who read the business plan for a national charter said to Robinson, “I’d take that out of there if I were you.”
Such buzzkill might have snuffed out the dream for many, but Robinson knew she had to keep working to make her plan—well–ironclad.
While leading the credit union from under $8 million in assets and an unacceptable Net Worth Ratio, to over $31 million in assets and an impressive 10.3 percent Net Worth Ratio in seven years, Robinson never lost hope for her vision.
When she got stuck in the process of applying for an expanded charter, she reached out to the Northwest Credit Union Association’s AVP of Regulatory Advocacy, John Trull. That was a magic moment.
“If John hadn’t had the knowledge and the relationships at NCUA, I’d still be sitting her floundering, trying to figure it out,” Robinson said. “He got me to the right person who would listen.”
Trull convened a call between Robinson and NCUA’s Annette Moore, who not only listened, but believed in the possibilities, and advised Robinson to apply for an Associational Common Bond Charter.
“That really is what we are here to do for our member credit unions, as their Association,” said Trull. “We work with them, and with regulators, to find the solutions that ultimately will help them do even more innovative things to serve their members on Main Street. “
Robinson said Scott Butterfield and Alison Carr from Your Credit Union Partner were instrumental in bringing her charter application across the finish line.
On May 9, Robinson got good news from NCUA. The Charter for Ironworkers USA Federal Credit Union is approved, and membership is open to 90,300 Ironworkers, their families, and related businesses nationwide.
Robinson and the credit union’s Board of Directors see a three-year strategic plan to fully transition their expanded charter, but they can immediately help any Ironworkers who reach out to be part of “their very own credit union.”
It’s been a long journey, and now the next chapter begins. Said Robinson, “I thought of every reason we could do this, instead of any reason we couldn’t.”
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