Credit union CEO to help Hispanics, younger people
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Philip G. Franklin
Mathew R. Dougherty
John W. Karesh
Jose Garcia, president and CEO of Northwest Community Credit Union, has spent most of his career in finance and found his niche in credit unions, living by its philosophy of "people helping people." That's why he aims to boost awareness of how credit unions can help people, especially Hispanics. He is looking to increase membership and focus more on social media to draw in the younger generation.
"We're a diamond in the rough," Garcia said. "We need to let them all know that who we are, what we do and what we're all about. That can speak for itself."
He even aims to reach high school students so they understand their credit, how to shop for lending products and understand their finances.
"That's the piece that's missing," he said.
So etching out to Facebook and YouTube is a natural choice, including with videos on his own credit union, which services members in Morton Grove, Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Skokie, Niles, and Glenview.
Born in Brownsville, Texas, Garcia was raised in Chicago and earned his bachelor's of business administration degree in accounting at St. Xavier University in Chicago.
While attending school, he worked as a teller at the old Talman Home Bank (later acquired by ABN AMRO, the Dutch parent of LaSalle National Corp.) on the Southwest side of Chicago. He then was transferred to the accounting department and enjoyed the work. One day he saw an ad in the local newspaper for an accounting manager at a credit union.
"If felt that if I didn't apply, I would have zero chance of getting the job," Garcia said. "So I applied."
He interviewed at Baxter Credit Union in Deerfield, but was so nervous during the interview, he could barely talk. He immediately thought they wouldn't call back. But they did.
After a second interview, he was hired and on his way in the industry in the 1990s. He saw interest rates for mortgages at 16 percent and CDs at 20 percent, compared to today's 3 percent to 4 percent for mortgages and less than one-half percent for CDs.
"We saw the industry adapt," he said about how credit unions survived along with certain banks. "We need to provide services and be profitable and offer the right products at the right prices."
At age 25, he was tapped to lead a troubled credit union regain its footing.
"I took the job and it turned out to be the worst two years and yet the best two years of my life," he said.
He worked with the credit union's board and with regulators to help turn around the struggling organization and after his two-year contract was up, he became the chief financial officer at a health-care company, where he worked to take it public. The company was sold and he next moved to Illinois Finance Authority, a banking arm of the state. That became his biggest profile job, where he met and worked closely with legislators, he said.
He's also been very involved in some community efforts, including the Latin United Community Housing Association.
After three years at the state, he decided to return to the credit union industry and became CFO of Advance Financial Federal in Schereville, Ind. He stayed in Indiana for about 5 years and then was hired at Northwest Community Credit Union.
"Right now we have about 2,700 members, but the potential is endless," he said.
Bison execs get award
Chief Learning Officer Sylvia Wetzel and Customer Care Manager Christi Brazener of Bison Gear and Engineering in St. Charles received the Manufacturing Institute with the Women in Manufacturing's STEP (science, technology, engineering and production) Award. The award honors women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry, from the factory-floor to the C-suite. In 2014, there are a total of 160 women honored.
Whitley to be feted
Retiring Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Doug Whitley of Batavia will be feted by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 24 with the Distinguished Public Service Award during the chamber's annual inaugural gala at Bobak's Signature Events in Woodrige. The chamber gives this special recognition to individuals who have made significant contributions to the business community.
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