October 2, 2012
Bill Hayes, president and CEO of Verity Credit Union, is the 2012 recipient of the Northwest Credit Union Foundation’s Mark of Excellence Award, honoring outstanding credit union professionals whose careers span at least 25 years.
Hayes, whose legacy at Verity encompasses a name change, marked growth and a trip to the top of Mt. Rainier nearly 30 years ago, discussed his career and his time at Verity.
Anthem: Looking back at your credit union career so far, what are you most proud of? What, if anything, do you wish you could go back and do differently?
Bill Hayes: I am proud that the credit union has managed to bring something to our members that is different than what they can get at most other financial institutions. I feel proud that while profitability and financial safety has remained important that we have never lost that feeling that the problems of individual members are important, too.
I am proud that we have managed to navigate through the ups and downs of the American economy and come out stronger each time while feeling good about the way we did it.
I am extremely proud that I have worked along side a wonderful group of very high quality individuals, both staff and volunteers. I hope that they have been affected as positively by me as I have been by them.
If I could do anything differently, I would take action based on instinct more often instead of waiting for more and more research to make the decision for me. I have learned over the years that my instincts are pretty good. Making decisions more quickly, especially early in my CEO career, would have resulted in a better competitive posture.
Anthem: By all accounts, you have created a very positive, nurturing environment for your entire staff. How have you managed that? And how intentional have you been about creating that kind of culture at Verity?
Hayes: I believe that most people will work more effectively if they feel good about themselves and the people they work with and for. A positive upbeat view on everything helps create that feeling. Feeling good about one’s self may involve knowing that the time spent working at Verity, regardless of how long that might be, is beneficial to some other area of their life such as their next job or by developing new skills and being promoted.
While I like to think that I am responsible for all the positive elements of the work environment, in reality the greatest impact that I have had is to create a executive management team that already has this belief and is willing to act on it. So when we hire new staff, we look for people that will help sustain a positive, nurturing environment. Staff realizes that those that get promoted are just naturally upbeat, and optimistic about Verity and our future. Negativity needs to be handled in a way that includes a vision or success, not a sky is falling attitude.
Our way does not work for everyone, but it seems to work for us.
Anthem: How would you describe your management style?
Hayes: My style is probably best described as collegial. I walk around the building several times a day just to chat. I believe in the power of informal communication. I work a lot of hours, including many Saturdays, so I do not feel much time pressure during the day. I like to feel the pulse of the credit union so that I can act before I have to react to something.
I take the challenges inherent in running a credit union seriously and people know that. From the very beginning of my career at Verity, I have striven to develop a level of credibility that could not be challenged by reactions to any one issue. The trust that has been placed in me by a series of Directors and staff has kept me humble but at the same time honored.
Anthem: You were part of the group that hiked to the summit of Mt. Rainier with Washington League President Bruce Rouillard back in 1984—the same trip that gave the Summit Awards their name. Can you tell me a bit about that trip and how it has impacted your work?
Hayes: I have always lived within sight of Mt. Rainier and had been to the visitor center at Paradise and Sunrise several times with my family when I was a child. However, I had never seriously considered climbing to the top until the Washington Credit Union League in 1983 invited any interested parties to sign up to climb to the summit in August, 1984 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934.
Beginning in late 1983, I began an exercise program that I have maintained since then and has become a central part of my life. I wanted to make sure that once I started on the climb that I would finish it on the top of the mountain. The climb itself was a fabulous experience, waking up in the middle of the night after spending the night at Camp Muir and reaching the summit on a beautiful sunny morning. Incidentally, the climb coincided with the final day of the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. I remember thinking that making the summit was my personal gold medal.
The experience affected me in many ways. First, it provided a strong belief in my own ability to move outside my comfort zone and achieve success. That feeling of confidence has carried over into several areas affecting my work performance, specifically in positioning myself to become a CEO and in not being overwhelmed by any of the challenges that comes with running a financial institution. Second, preparing for the climb and the climb itself cemented the value of having a vision of success and working towards it. Third and I believe most importantly, the whole experience is a perfect illustration of the importance of not only achieving the vision but of enjoying the struggle. The memory of the climb would not be so clear in my mind today if it were not for the time, effort, and pain that it took to succeed.
It was a very worthwhile experience.
Hayes will receive his Summit Award at Thursday night's Summit Awards Dinner, the capstone event of the Northwest Credit Union Association's (NWCUA's) 2012 Convention and Annual Business Meeting. Joining Hayes in receiving a Summit Award at the event, which begins at 6:15 p.m., are Valley Credit Union's Stephen Pagenstecher, Unitus Community Credit Union's Brian Irvine, and Rogue Federal Credit Union's Jackson Jones.
Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.