Andy Faust says it's no coincidence he plans to retire from his job as chief executive officer of Summit Credit Union on Sept. 30, just as bow hunting season begins.
Faust heads the biggest credit union in Wisconsin, with $1.5 billion in assets, 24 locations, 390 full-time and part-time employees and nearly 110,000 members, primarily between the Madison and Milwaukee areas, and with roots dating to 1931 or earlier.
Starting as a teller at the former State Capitol Employees Credit Union in 1976, Faust quickly worked his way up to CEO, a title he has held for nearly three decades. When he was named to the job in 1982, the credit union had $14 million in assets and 14 employees.
Since then, Faust has engineered five mergers, the largest of which was with Great Wisconsin Credit Union — formerly CUNA Credit Union — in 2008. That created an organization so big it dwarfed 95 percent of the state's banks at the time, said Wisconsin Bankers Association chief executive Kurt Bauer, who also pointed out that unlike banks, it paid no corporate income taxes.
Most recently, Summit joined with State Central Credit Union, West Allis, on June 30.
Faust, 60, said when he leaves his third floor office at 4800 American Parkway, he plans to do a lot more of the hunting and fishing he learned to love as a child on outings with his dad while growing up in Kiel, a small town near Sheboygan, about 100 miles northeast of Madison.
Kim Sponem, president of Summit, will take over as chief executive on Oct. 1. Sponem was president and CEO of Great Wisconsin Credit Union before it merged with Summit.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the credit union industry in nearly 35 years?
A: When I started as a teller at State Capitol Employees Credit Union in 1976, there were no computers in the office. Things moved a little more slowly. Deposit and withdrawal slips were marked in pencil, rubber banded, and shipped to a service bureau in Racine where the information was keypunched into the system. The numbers were updated every week. Today, our members expect to have that information updated instantly, from wherever they are.
When I started, there were 25,000 credit unions in the U.S. and 700 in Wisconsin. Today there are 8,000 nationwide and fewer than 300 in Wisconsin.
There are far fewer institutions but they are far bigger, and there's a lot more emphasis on mortgage lending than there was 25 years ago, when credit unions just entered that area. We do more mortgage loans than any other financial institution in Dane County.
How did that happen?
A: We have a lot of members and over time, they get used to having us solve their financial problems. We try to help them without getting into esoteric mortgages (such as those with no money down).
Have you found that Summit Credit Union members have changed the way they manage their money as a result of the troubled economy?
A: They have been saving more since the beginning of 2010. People's propensity to save is higher now than it was two to five years ago when they tended to spend everything they had. At the end of June, our assets were up $144 million from December 2009. Less than half of that — $68 million — is from the State Central merger.
What is the best move Summit has made since you've been in charge?
A: The best thing we've done as an organization is to pay attention to what our members really need, to help them with their vision of where they want to be. A lot of people want to develop financial plans, and want to be held accountable for them. We help them determine: What do you want to do when you retire? And then we work backward from there. Our brand is dream fulfillment.
We also have a real belief that we need to be a good corporate citizen, supporting our communities so the whole economy grows.
Do you have any regrets?
A: Generally, I don't look back and say I wish we had done things differently. I ask: Are we happy where we are now? I am fairly satisfied with the strength of our organization, how we view our members and our employees. I am leaving at a good time.