CEO Success Stories
A Sense of Where You Are
Mike Gudely has been CEO of Southeastern Federal Credit Union ($218M) since 2013 and has guided steady growth for the institution, the greater Valdosta Georgia community, their members and their team
While his style is to lead the team by being part of the team as a catalyst and coach, his approach reflects an understanding from years as a basketball player. The book A Sense of Where You Are tellsthe story of how another basketball player, Bill Bradley, took that understanding and, as a national collegiate player of the year, led his under-manned Princeton team to the national championship game, then went on to become a Rhodes Scholar, a 2-time NBA champion and a US Senator. Mike’s story has a similar trajectory. The son of a career Army Officer, he grew up in Germany and throughout the US on Army bases that are a particularly heterogeneous, yet closely woven, community. Settling in North Carolina, his wife Teresa, a nurse and public health professional, and he have raised three children to healthy young adulthood.
While maintaining balance with the help of family, working-out and basketball, Mike has also steadily built his professional knowledge through his work experiences as a Management Trainee at United Carolina Bank where he rose to be the Commercial Lending Manager. As the CEO at Carolina Bank and as the CEO of the Member Business Lending CUSO, Innovative Solutions, where in the midst of the recent financial storm not a single loan was charged-off, Mike commented, “As Ilook back on where I have been in my career, I realize I was fortunate to have the opportunity to receive a broad-based education early on. As I got the opportunity to specialize in commercial lending, I realized that focusing in as deeply as possible on the details of that one very important facet of financial services helped me grow as a leader. I would tell a young colleague with their eye on the CEO seat to go ahead and specialize in one area while doing everything possible to learn from everyone and get along well with everyone they come in contact with.”
Mike went on to say, “As much as we love Carolina, the opportunity at Southeastern to become part of and really serve a community was just too good to pass up. We’ve been a very strong credit union for a long time. I recognized when I arrived here in Georgia – and still do today – that I’m just building upon the legacy of service and profitability that others laid the foundation for.” Coming into a strong in-direct shop, Mike and his team, while staying mindful of expenses, have focused upon building even more direct member relationships, both for individuals and small businesses. “We are taking a more visible stand in the community as a credit union that has no interest in being like a bank at any level. While the mix is the same – pricing, service, member focus, financial performance and delivery – we strongly embrace a level of individual focus and personal understanding within each relationship. I am proud to say that we believe that empathy is just as powerful a force in our business as strong financial performance.” While serving all sectors of the community, the Southeastern team has focused their social mission particularly on helping those who have the greatest fundamental needs – their “Fill a Truck for Hunger” project donated over 80,000 pounds of food last year.
Looking to the future, Mike is actively engaged in finding “win-win” partnerships with other credit unions to drive down costs. “We all recognize that, after staff, the greatest expense is in technology. We will find ways to partner with like-minded credit unions there and in other ways as well.” No matter where you are in the credit union game, it makes good sense to have a clear sense of where you are.