The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 13

New NAFCU Chair Debra Schwartz knows
what it takes to grow a credit union
By Cassie Blake

T

he credit union industry started
off with small groups of concerned neighbors, co-workers
and community members trying
to help those around them achieve financial success.

vice president, at California financial
institutions. These experiences positioned Schwartz to take the helm at Mission Fed, which she acknowledges "was
having some financial and regulatory
challenges" when she joined the team.

in assets and 42 percent growth in
membership - now totaling nearly $4.5
billion and more than 259,000 members,
respectively. Its net income had more
than doubled over that same period
(before the pandemic).

Mission Federal Credit Union had a
similar start.

"A merger was discussed, our income was
negative, and our membership count was
dropping," Schwartz says. "Morale was
low, and some employees were even a bit
embarrassed about all of our issues."

Schwartz attributes the credit union's
success to its employees. "Today, our
employees have great pride in their credit
union. Our most recent employee survey,
with over 500 employees responding,
showed an overall average score that was
91.1 percent favorable," she shares. "And
99.6 percent indicated that they felt that
their work was important to the success of
the credit union; 97.9 percent agreed that
Mission Fed has an exciting future."

The credit union has served the San
Diego community for almost 60 years,
initially as Public Schools Federal Credit
Union with just 66 members. Its first
loan was for $100.
Since its name change in 1978 and field
of membership expansion to include
all San Diegans in 2003, Mission Fed
has seen tremendous growth - led by
President and CEO Debra Schwartz - as
it stuck to its roots, focusing on serving
the community first. People before profits is the credit union way, after all.
"Community has always been part of Mission Fed's DNA," says Schwartz. "It is one
of our Strategic Pillars. As a credit union
solely serving the San Diego community,
almost all of our members and employees
live and work in our community. We grow
and become stronger as our community
grows and becomes stronger."

To turn the struggling credit union around,
Schwartz focused on inspiring and motivating the Mission Fed team to realize its
potential. Part of her leadership philosophy
is hiring and retaining the right people,
"ensuring we have a talented and dedicated
team of professionals who love our community and credit union."
"From there, my role is to ensure everyone
from our board members to our mailroom staff understand and support our
strategic goals and initiatives, and that
they understand how very important each
of them is to our success," Schwartz says.
That change in mindset seems to have
worked. In the past five years alone,
Mission Fed has seen 66 percent growth

It's evident why employees are so proud
of Mission Fed when you look at the good
work the credit union does in the San
Diego community. During the coronavirus
pandemic, in addition to providing several
financial relief measures to members, the
credit union established a dollar-for-dollar
match up to $50,000 and raised more than
$418,000 to support the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. It also joined
several other efforts to provide meals to
families in need and to assist front-line
health care workers.

Schwartz joined Mission Fed in 2007
and is well-seasoned in financial services
with over 30 years of experience, starting
out as a part-time teller in the savings
and loan industry while working toward
her graduate degree.
"It took me a while to discover credit
unions, and it was love at first sight,"
Schwartz says. "I am so much happier
working for our members and the
community, rather than toward a bigger
bottom line."
Throughout her career, Schwartz has
held various operational and leadership
positions, including CFO and executive

Schwartz presenting to Congress on behalf of NAFCU during a 2017 House Financial
Services subcommittee hearing on data security.

THE NAFCU JOURNAL  SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2020

13



The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020

The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - Cover1
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - Cover2
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 1
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 2
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 3
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 4
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 5
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 6
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 7
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 8
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 9
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 10
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 11
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 12
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 13
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 14
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 15
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 16
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 17
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 18
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 19
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 20
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 21
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 22
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 23
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 24
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 25
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 26
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 27
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 28
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 29
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 30
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 31
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 32
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 33
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 34
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 35
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 36
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 37
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 38
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 39
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - 40
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - Cover3
The NAFCU Journal September-October 2020 - Cover4
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