In 1986, 26-year-old Larry Hayes was in the MBA program at George Washington University and working as a marketing specialist in Washington, D.C. A fellow MBA student and friend working at HUD Federal Credit Union let Hayes know the credit union was looking for a marketing director.
“I said, ‘Credit union? Isn’t that kind of like a bank? Didn’t we study credit unions for about 30 seconds in business school?” wryly noted Hayes, whose professional goal had been to get a job at a bank. “They provided lunch. I took the interview.”
He accepted the job officer for the director of marketing position, but really became a project manager for, well, everything.
“(CEO) Lee Hancock said he was going to teach me how to do everything. Lending, data processing, financials, take board minutes, planning sessions, how to load an ATM, run batch processing, produce reports…pretty much anything and everything. I did that with his leadership,” Hayes recalled fondly of his credit union mentor. “A kind, benevolent, wonderful man, whose leadership was centered in understanding that we are different from banks. That word membership was very important in our foundation.”
From that first job at what was a $25 million credit union when he started, Hayes transitioned to a President/CEO role managing a variety of Credit Union Service Organizations, with stops along the way in California (San Diego, Ridgecrest, Ventura and Redding), Hawaii, Houston and Overland Park, KS.
Earlier this summer, he left his position in Kansas as President/CEO of a credit union holding company with six CUSOs to accept the position of Chief Operating Officer of Cooperative Services, Inc., which is also the umbrella organization for Members ATM Alliance (MAA) and Members Core Alliance (MCA).
“I can’t say 20 years ago I would have been drawn to Atlanta, but, today, I believe it’s an international city,” said Hayes, who grew up in Virginia. “It’s a perfect setting for me. It puts me closer to my family, and I am partial to warm climates. This is an opportunity to utilize all of the things that I’ve done on the for-profit and not-for-profit side and leadership side. From the beginning of my career until now, I have been comfortable working outside of my comfort zone and growth has come out of that. And this is similar to that.”
Even with all the geographical location has to offer, Hayes said it’s the culture at the state league that has him most looking forward to working with Georgia credit unions.
“When you’re a veteran and you’ve been around the block, you have seen every culture ranging from ‘My way or the highway’ to leadership that was only communicated what benefited them”, noted Hayes, who officially started in his role on July 2. “What I hear consistently from Mike (Mercer) and the team is not a discussion about how much money are we going to make. But a discussion of this being about the credit unions and their members. This is about leveraging our relationships with the credit unions and with vendors to help these members who have trusted us to be stewards of their financial lives. You have to be profitable to be sustainable, but this is about helping credit unions serve members.”
It’s a return to his credit union roots, while using all the knowledge and tools he gained along the way while coming full circle.
“Every day I come in,” he said, “and I’m getting back to where I once belonged.”
Also featured in: CUInsight