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My hand is raised. I began my credit union career in 1980 as a teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union. Tom Sargent was the CEO. I kicked ass as a teller. Not only in the balancing area – I also had a “following.” Members who would wait for me, on their lunch hour, because I was their teller. I’m damn proud of that.

The other day I heard someone disparage their tellers. The conversation went something like this:

ME: Well, why don’t you let your tellers take care of that?

THEM: Oh, our tellers are not smart enough to figure that out?

ME: Why did you hire idiots? (okay, I didn’t actually say that but I wanted to).

I don’t know the exact number, but I would venture to say that at least 50% of our sitting CEOs started on the teller line. Like me, they moved their way up the food chain, and I believe have a better understanding of the true operations of a credit union. The ground truth, as it were.

Is it possible that our next batch of CEOs are in your lobby right now Р on their feet all day, barely making a livable wage, dealing with the most regulation in history, under the constant threat of robbery?

They say that in the next 5 years, a humungous chunk of sitting CU CEOs will retire (many were supposed to be gone already but the economy delayed departure). Too often I hear the cop-out phrase “Well I won’t be around to worry about it…” or “I retire in a year, it’s not my problem.”

My challenge to you: Mr. or Ms. CEO (formerly overworked, underpaid, bottom of the food chain teller) – we need to groom this next generation of CEOs.

Give them the same opportunity you had. It is your problem, you need to own it.

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September 2010