Credit union CEOs lead during era of growth
Once-small financial organizations emerge as business community leaders in the INW
Karina EliasFebruary 2nd, 2023
Leaders of Spokane Valley-based Numerica Credit Union and Liberty Lake-based STCU are helping grow and shape the influence of their respective financial institutions in the Inland Northwest.
Ezra Eckhardt, president and CEO of STCU, says that while the number of Eastern Washington-based regional banks has declined, credit unions here have grown by expanding financial services for consumers and businesses throughout the region.
Carla Cicero, president and CEO of Numerica, agrees.
“Credit unions are growing and offering the same products and services that you would find at most regional banks,” Cicero says. “That has earned Numerica and other credit unions a place in serving the business community.”
Cicero assumed her role at Numerica in 2011. The credit union’s total deposits have grown to $3 billion as of Sept. 30 from $975 million at the start of her tenure.
Numerica had total assets of $3.6 billion, including loans totaling $3 billion, as of Sept. 30, up from year-earlier totals of $3.3 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively, according to its most recent performance report filed with the National Credit Union Administration.
Eckhardt has been the president and CEO of STCU since 2018.
As of Sept. 30, STCU had total assets of $5.4 billion, including loans totaling $4.5 billion, up from year-earlier totals of $4.7 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively.
Over the years, as credit unions here have grown, they have also shouldered responsibility of investing in community assets.
STCU, for example, has made efforts in outlying communities by committing funds for the towns’ high school gymnasium scoreboards, something that is seen in high school gymnasiums all over the region, says Dan Hansen the organization’s communications strategist.
Last June, STCU also made a 10-year sponsorship to Spokane’s newest indoor sports venue, the Podium Powered by STCU.
Numerica Credit Union has also made visible long lasting investments to the region such as the Numerica Skate Ribbon at Riverfront Spokane and the Numerica Skyride at Riverfront Spokane.
One community project that credit unions have worked to address is the regional need for developing low-income housing, Eckhardt says.
As reported by the Journal in August, Inland Northwest credit unions helped the Spokane Low-Income Housing Consortium launch a land bank to help ease financial barriers to developing low-income housing in Eastern Washington. The Spokane Low Income Housing Land Bank was created with a $45,000 grant from the GoWest Foundation, an organization that works with credit unions and community organizations in six western states to expedite community impact decisions. STCU and other local credit unions brought the initiative to the GoWest Foundation for support.
The land bank will be managed by the consortium and will work with credit unions and government agencies to hold vacant land until it can be developed for housing.
In addition to leading their respective credit unions, Eckhardt and Cicero have both held positions on boards of business and community organization.
A fifth generation Spokanite, Eckhardt serves as a director on multiple boards including the boards for Spokane International Airport, the Spokane University District, and Gonzaga Preparatory School. He also is active in the Downtown Spokane Partnership and Greater Spokane Incorporated.
Cicero serves on the Greater Spokane Incorporated executive committee and Rosauers Supermarkets Inc. board of directors. She also is seated on the boards of the World Council of Credit Unions and the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions. In 2010, she was inducted to the Credit Union Executive Society Hall of Fame. In 2022, American Banker named her one of The Most Powerful Women in Credit Unions.
STCU and Numerica Credit Union both started off as small institutions serving specific member groups.
STCU was founded in 1934 by teachers and for teachers, says Eckhardt. Over time, the credit union transitioned from serving just teachers and their families to expanding membership eligibility throughout Washington state and North Idaho. Today, the financial institution serves 265,000 members in all 50 states but mostly concentrated in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Numerica Credit Union was formed here in 1937 by railroad employees. Originally named Great Northern Employees Credit Union, it served railroad workers and their families. Like STCU, Numerica has expanded its membership eligibility to include anyone who lives, works, or worships in the state of Washington or Idaho. Numerica currently has about 172,000 members.