NACUSO Spotlight on Seth Brickman, CEO of QCash Financial CUSO

PART ONE: Life Story and Experiences

Whats your current position, and can you give us a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?

I am the CEO of QCash Financial, a CUSO of Washington State Employees Credit Union in Olympia, WA.

My number one job as a leader is to make sure the people that I work with are successful. As I see it, I have two core functions. Function number one is to make sure every member of the QCash staff is able to meet their career goals and loves coming into work every day. The second goal is quite similar: I like to say I am the Chief Evangelist Officer — making sure that our partners and our future partners know how amazing QCash is, how amazing the people who work for QCash are, and how amazing our product is so that we can help them fulfill their mission of helping their members. At the end of the day, if I accomplish those things I’m doing my job well.

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

Every day I can look at our loan numbers and see how many QCash life event loans members are taking out. Every time a member takes out a QCash life event loan, that means they had a need. Our platform was able to help them meet that need and get them out of a financial destruction cycle and back into their credit union and on to a path to financial wellness. So every morning when I wake up I’m excited to go to work because I know literally thousands of peoples’ lives are changed every day because of the work that QCash is doing.

We want to hear the story of how you came to work with credit unions. What attracted you to work for QCash Financial?

Honestly, I was reached out to by an executive recruiter who was hired to find a new CEO for QCash. It sounded interesting, but it wasn’t until I really dug into the vision and mission of the CUSO that I saw how it aligned with my personal values of helping people. Soon afterwards I had a conversation with Gary Swindler, Chairman of the Board of QCash, and witnessed his passion and vision of helping credit unions help their members. Knowing that the work we are doing is changing peoples’ lives, it resonated strongly with me and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Once I understood it, it became like a magnet that just pulled me in.

Now if we can go even further back, where did you grow up and what was it like living there? Where did you go to school?

I was actually born in New York but lived there for less than a year of my life. I did most of my growing up in New Jersey. I lived in Sayerville, the hometown of Jon Bon Jovi, and graduated from Piscataway High School. It was a great time to live there because we also had the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, and he would play at the Jersey Shore. He would just randomly show up and play a gig. I was able to easily take the train to Manhattan and go to Madison Square Garden to see the NY Rangers play. I’m a big, big hockey fan. The US Navy let me experience moving every several years and so I got to see some interesting places.  Microsoft brought me to the Pacific Northwest and I currently live in Bellevue, Washington.

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

My first mentor was when I was in the Navy and his name was Rodney Wade. He taught me that good work produces good results. What I mean by that is if you do good work, others will notice and you will get credit for that work. You don’t need to be your own bullhorn; the quality of the work speaks for itself. That has really stuck with me in my career. Success is not the accolades, it’s the results and doing the work that matters. I love to come into work every day and do the best job that I can. Another mentor named Ray helped me understand that I can learn something from everyone I meet since they had different life experiences than I did.  And my task in meeting new people was to see what I could learn from them by listening to their story.  To this day, I love to hear peoples stories over coffee or food and grow as a person.

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 thats ever happened to you

 The most unique thing is that I started my adult life as a nuclear engineer in the US Navy and had the privilege of building a nuclear submarine, the USS Maine (SSBN-741). I actually put the nuclear reactor on the submarine with the team at Electric Boat.

PART TWO: The Business Story

Tell us the story of how your CUSO/company was created – the early days. Tell me about some of the memorable characters in its history, some that brought your story color, drama, comedy, conflict?

I think the best part of our story is that it started with a teller asking the CEO of WSECU a simple question, “Why are so many non-members coming in to cash our members’ checks?” He didn’t have an answer. So he pulled on that thread of curiosity and discovered many of their members were using payday lenders. That’s how QCash began. Fast forward to today and we are a CUSO of WSECU serving credit unions all across the US.

What have been the greatest successes, in your opinion?

The evolution of our technology. We have gone from a pretty manual process to a completely digital and frictionless platform. A credit union  member can use their credit union’s web experience or mobile banking app to login, then in just six clicks and 60 seconds their loan is approved and funds are deposited in their account. We are there for members when it matters the most: When life happens.

PART THREE: Reflections and Lessons

If you could start your CUSO/company all over again, would you do anything differently? Why and what would you do?

Number one if we could start it over again we would want to start it in partnership with other credit unions so that we could have grown faster. I feel like when multiple credit unions have ownership you can grow a lot faster.

We also originally positioned ourselves as a payday alternative loan. We no longer see ourselves as that. We don’t want to be that. Our mission is to empower financial institutions in their quest to improve the financial well-being of their communities. If a member only has to use our solution once, in an emergency, we’ve done our job to keep them out of that predatory lending cycle.

Finally, when you think of the future for credit unions, what gives you hope and what makes you concerned?

 What gives me hope is that the credit unions don’t view each other as competitors for the most part, but are very collaborative. The CUSO model is proof of that.

What makes me concerned is the slow pace of adopting innovation and technology in credit unions. The pandemic accelerated a lot of that but credit unions, for the most part, are now where they should have been five years ago.

I’m also concerned about the average age of a credit union member, which nationally is still around 47. QCash is  an innovation engine for credit unions to bring in younger members.