CEO Success Stories
As a young CEO at Shoreline Credit Union ($93M) in the greater Green Bay, Wisconsin area, Scott Willmott has not forgotten what matters most.
“I appreciate being the CEO at Shoreline very much, but, at the foundation, it is my family that matters most. I believe that’s the way it is for all people. We try to serve our members with a line of sight on what matters most to them; financial security for the benefit of themselves and their families.” The focus on serving members is achieved at Shoreline by focusing just as much on the well-being and growth of the team. “We call it ‘Happy Passion’. The fact is we often spend more time at work than we do with our families. Happiness at work translates into happiness at home and vice versa.”
Growing up by the Great Lakes in Port Huron, Michigan Scott excelled as a long-distance runner while also finding time to serve in student government. He followed those skills to a focus in academics, receiving his degree at Michigan State University in Finance. “Frankly, I knew early on that I would like to earn the opportunity to be a CEO,” Scott says. “Serving on a Mission for my church helped me understand people. I also had the good fortune to work with General Electric and was slotted in their management trainee program.” The early years at GE brought learning but also travel. Scott moved into community banking as an Analyst at the $1.5B Citizens First Bank. While his financial and balance sheet education sophisticated, he realized he was lookingfor more professional growth. An unlikely turn of events in Traverse City, Michigan led him to credit unions. “I was the finalist for the Controller job at a community bank there and came in second. The woman who won the job was leaving the local credit union. A colleague living in Traverse City told me about the vacancy at the credit union and I was hired shortly after!”
Shoreline was suffering from a problematic business-lending portfolio when Scott came to interview for the CEO position. “The other candidates were Business Lending experts and I represented another kind of leadership style as a people person who is deeply rooted in financial fundamentals. An interim CEO prior to me had done a great job cleaning things up but there was still a lot to do. At the first team meeting, I acknowledged the successes to the staff, but stressed that there was still much to accomplish. While this change drove some attrition, a number of excellent people stayed. From that core we have been able to build an extraordinarily committed and supportive team.” The early focus was on training and operational efficiency along with earning asset integrity. “We really are in a great spot financially, but as a comparatively small credit union, we must find ways to compete. We are not interested in merging into a larger credit union, but we do believe that there are many opportunities for collaboration which will help us thrive.”
Looking to the future, Scott sees that “If smaller credit unions don’t find a way to remain viable, our industry will continue to trend toward a small group of large credit unions that might not represent the community roots we have historically been built upon. Large credit unions do a good job at many things and are leading our industry forward in a multitude of ways, but there is a place for those of us who have the agility, teams and ability to serve our communities more personally. We can provide personal understanding and service that bigger institutions can’t touch. Our size and our team is our advantage. Happy Passion connects us all and is getting our members where they want to go!”