NACUSO Spotlight on Linda Bodie, Chief + Innovator – Element Federal Credit Union

Each month we highlight at least one NACUSO member by interviewing one of their top executives. It’s an opportunity to tell their story in a casual and fun way. This month we sat down with CUSO “power user” Linda Bodie, Chief + Innovator of $31 million Element Federal Credit Union in West Virginia serving 4,643 members.

PART ONE: Life Story and Experiences

WarriorWhere did you grow up and what was it like living there? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. It was the 70’s and 80’s so it was fun times. You just can’t go wrong with disco and big hair. Yes, I owned parachute pants, and I wore them.

It was a small town of 30,000. It’s located at the confluence of the Ohio River and Little Kanawha River. It’s also a very historic place…lots of Civil War activities. Parkersburg was also pivotal in the birth of the oil and gas industry.

I attended Parkersburg South High School, then went on to Glenville State College where I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. And it only took me 4 years even though I changed my major. I also worked 2 part time jobs at one point and paid for my college education on my own. I’m a bit stubborn about things. If I want to do something, I just do it.

I was an athlete, musician, geek and also a very quiet/shy/something person. I was always active and doing something.

I played basketball in junior high and high school. I can’t remember the year, but we transitioned from the bigger “boy ball” to the smaller “girl ball.”

My first computer class was 12th grade (that’s actually when they put computers in our school). I learned BASIC and Pascal programming languages. I was extremely talented at creating infinite loops.

I loved calculus, chemistry, physics, art, music, sports and hated English.

After I graduated college, I moved to Charleston, West Virginia where I have lived since that time.

I want to hear the story of how you came to work with credit unions. What attracted you to work for Element Federal CU?

The year was 1998. I lost my job when I was 30. The company I was working for shut down their operations and moved out of state. I was in corporate accounting at the time. I received a lead that a small credit union needed a manager. They were 2.3 million in assets and had 3 employees…a manager, a part time loan officer and a teller. I was familiar with credit unions (I’ve been a member since I was an infant) but I had never imagined working for one or being a “banker”. I basically said ‘What the hell? I’ll try anything.” And I continued to look for my dream job while working in the credit union. I never planned to stay.

I’ve always loved a challenge. Always! So I’m in a strange environment and learning the ropes of what it means to really be a credit union and manage one. I had help from my league field rep and my NCUA examiner. I’ll never forget either of them for taking the time and interest in helping me do the things I needed to do and give me access to education and resources to do the best that I could. The credit union was coming out of some bad times, so I had to continue the transition to the better times. I think that happened.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

Being aligned with who I am as a person and what I do for a living is key. Also creating my own future, the future of the credit union, processes, products, whatever. Basically just making up stuff and doing it.

I love to “learn and do.” I’m a good listener. I don’t talk a lot. I’m an introverted thinker. I have to consume information (lots of information) then find a path, or create a path, to the solution.

Helping people. Using the stuff I’m good at (numbers, compassion, empathy, equality, justice, fun, humor) to make a difference in the lives of our members.

I like building things and creating things. I rarely read instructions. I like to explore and learn on my own.

Who were your mentors along the way? People who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Tell us about them.

Outside of my family, teachers and coaches were key. When others believe in you, it’s easier to believe in yourself. When someone shows you compassion and care, it’s easy to show compassion and care to others.

PART TWO: The CUSO Connection

Which CUSO services do you use and why?

The list is long!

There might be more…

I now have the power and knowledge of countless experts. I don’t have to do it on my own. I don’t have to create everything. The sharing goes both ways…get resources and give resources to make the CUSOs better. If you’re a Star Trek fan, it’s like The Borg….a collective….but in good way.

I can offer a lot more products, services and solutions even though I’m small. There’s no reason to sit back and not do something because of your size. Size doesn’t matter…not when you have the power of a cooperative system.

What other CUSO services are you considering utilizing?

Wow, tough one. Give me a menu and I’ll let you know.

How did you decide which CUSO services to use?

Recommendations from others. CU Answers was my first CUSO. That’s when my eyes were really opened to a whole new world. Having a CUSO core processor is simply amazing. We can own it and build it and make it so much better for all credit unions involved in the coop. When I joined CU Answers, I learned about the CUAsterisk network CUSO partners. I also learned from other credit unions in the network. Everyone was so helpful in providing information and expertise.

How might other small credit unions utilize CUSOs to survive and not merge?

There’s a CUSO for everything you need. Have a strategy. Identify your plan, things you need to do and what you want to do. Execute. Collaborate and build new ways of doing things.

PART THREE: Reflections and Lessons

Many believe there is not much of a future for a small credit union, why are they wrong?

BalloonThis is the perfect time to be a small credit union and the future is so bright. Said no one ever. Said me.

You can do anything you want to do. In fact, I think it’s easier to operate a small credit union … easier than ever in the history of credit unions. Open source, wealth of technology solutions, wealth of cooperative partners. It’s easy to say there is no future if you’re looking through the lens of how things have always been done and when you try to do everything on your own. Yes, there’s so much more regulation. Yes, there are so many other obstacles to navigate. Get the right tools, the right partners and resources and you can do anything. If you want to survive and thrive, you can. If you think you will die and there’s no way to survive, you will die.

Change the business model. Do things differently. It’s already happening and could be happening a lot more. You can’t look at running a credit union like it’s 1980. Small credit unions could kick some serious butt with a new model. Consolidate all the back office, compliance and other standard business functions. Allow a centralized management team to oversee multiple credit unions. You’ll have the expertise, the uniqueness, the pooling of resources, the fun and everything you need to serve your members and to serve them in a very custom way. Today, there is no reason for any credit union to merge if they don’t want to merge.

Not much of a future because you’re small? That’s like saying all our small businesses should just give up because Walmart and Amazon do everything and make the small, local merchant obsolete. We’ve been there before? Did it happen? I don’t think so.

Small credit unions have so much more fun.

When you think of the future, what gives you hope and what makes you concerned?

Technology advancements, artificial intelligence, smart data. Total automation and systems that know, predict and suggest your behaviors and actions. The relevance of current established industry versus the “start up, potential business destroying” solutions (Uber) Old industries will die faster than they used to. Inability of government to keep up with these changes and technologies. Creating new rules and regulations without removing old rules and regulations that are obsolete. Does government even know what’s going on? Do they understand the revolution? It’s a brand new world that’s being recreated every nanosecond.

Finally can you share something interesting about you that would surprise our readers? It can be anything, a hobby, an adventure, sports, the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you, something fun.

I locked myself in the credit union vault/storage room. I got out with a paperclip and scissors.

I have our credit union logo tattooed on my left upper arm. Yes, it’s real.