CEO Success Stories
Aware and Involved Leading By Example
Joe Kregul, the CEO of HealthCare Associates Credit Union ($250 million in assets and 35,900 members), based in Naperville, just outside of Chicago, is a native son who reflects the work ethic of a city known for its “Broad Shoulders.”
Joe’s professional and personal journey led from his childhood in the city to an accounting and business administration degree from nearby Lewis University. After putting his education to work in banking, he moved to the Resolution Trust Corporation, then to the FDIC, then back to community banking.
When he came to HealthCare Associates as Vice President and CFO 15 years ago, “I was able to apply all facets of my prior experience to the nuts and bolts of our work at the credit union. And like all of us who are converted to the credit union experience, I was pleasantly surprised at the collaboration and good will, both inside and outside the industry,” Joe says. He was particularly fortunate to be mentored by his predecessor as CEO, Jane Brannon. “She helped all of us grow and learn as a team. She was particularly helpful when the time came for me to take the next step. When I succeeded her earlier this year, I was prepared. There were no surprises that a ‘green’ CEO might encounter, either.”
As prepared as Joe was and is to lead this highly successful credit union (almost 13% net worth), HealthCare Associates faces the common challenges ofrazor-thin margins, intense competition and consumer caution. “While we are fortunate to serve a growing field of membership – the healthcare industry – we are not immune to the challenges.”
Joe and his team have chosen to focus on growth, believing this is a time when credit unions can grow significantly by reaching out to potential members. “Over 75% of our members are women. So we try to address the realities they face— balancing their personal lives, families and work. We can deliver on service, accuracy and trust,” he says.
While he credits the long-standing team at the credit union for driving the institution’s growth, Joe has also hired some strong new players from both inside and outside the industry. Along with the strong financial and technical knowledge Joe brings to the credit union, he also understands that member satisfaction is an extension of the alignment and energy within his team. “As we look at our members‘ financial needs, I like to remind our team to be aware and to be involved. I try to lead by example on that and show the staff I’m involved with them and their challenges. I roll up my sleeves and pitch in whenever and wherever the situation demands. We support each other in word and action while we learn from one another.”
For the future, Joe sees the slower economy as the new norm. His aim, accordingly, is to save members time and money in the credit union’s service mix and delivery. As part of its strategy, HealthCare Associates will soon be offering a new approach in eDelivery at all levels that links seamlessly with the personal focus in the branches and on the phone. “We are also sticklers when it comes to execution and performance,” says Joe.
The keys to his success? “I try to learn at the feet of masters. I learn from everyone and try to reflect the best of what I know.” Clearly, we all have something to learn about openness and results from Joe and the aligned HealthCare Associates team.