Looking Forward & Looking Back

Linda Bourgeois, President/CEO UFirst Federal Credit Union

What is a credit union’s greatest asset?
The mantra of credit unions is “People Helping People.” Our greatest asset is our people. This encompasses our employees, volunteer board of directors and committee members, our member- owners and everyone who lives in the communities that we have the ability to interact with and impact. We refer to ourselves as a credit union family — a large and extended family!

With the “membership” economy booming, how does this advantage credit unions?
Membership economy is a mindset in which organizations are working to build long-term formal relationships with their customers/members. Most often, the relationship ends when a transaction is complete but for credit unions that is when the real work starts. We focus on providing our members lifetime value through all stages of their lives.

How have changes in technology and consumer expectations impacted your industry?
Technology has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last twenty to twenty-five years and even more in the last ten years. I can remember having the audio-response system. Our members would call the telephone number and when prompted enter their information on the phone pin-pad, get balances or make transfers and, back in the day, we thought that was quite advanced. Now, the expectation of our members, as it relates to technology, is that they want to be able to access services wherever and whenever they want, as well as on whatever device they want to use at that time. UFirst FCU is dedicated to meeting the needs of our membership.

What do you view as your greatest challenge/opportunity going forward?
Some of the challenges we face are Amazon, Walmart, Apple, and Google entering the financial marketplace both directly and indirectly along with Fintechs. Fintech companies process a substantial volume of transactions involving consumer financial products and services but are not subject to direct supervision by a Federal Financial Regulator. It is a changing landscape. We have expanded our charter now providing us with the opportunity to serve Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties in New York, along with Grand Isle and Franklin Counties in Vermont. We must remain focused on aligning our products and services with the needs of our members and to further deepen our relationships with the communities we serve, getting up every day, going to work and doing the right thing for our internal family, our employees, volunteers and members as well as our external partners at large.

Professionally, what is on your radar screen?
In June I will have been employed with UFirst FCU for 32 years, and I am now looking at and planning for my eventual retirement and the next chapter of my life. I am a huge proponent of promotion from within whenever possible and I am focused on our C-suite level positions and the professional development required to ensure the team is ready to move the credit union forward into the future. I believe we have an amazing team of leaders at UFirst at all levels who know more than I do about their respective departments. I agree with Netflix Co-CEO, Reed Hastings in that he measures success as a leader by the number of decisions he doesn’t have to make. I believe in the old adage of always surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you. Our team must have a combination of professional knowledge and a tremendous amount of empathy. At the end of the day not only are we in the financial business, but we are in the people business. I am extremely proud and honored to serve as the CEO of UFirst FCU and all that we have accomplished together.

October 1, 2021 will mark the 50th Anniversary of UFirst Federal Credit Union which began as the SUNY Plattsburgh Federal Credit Union. Over the years, through mergers with numerous employee groups and other credit unions its assets have grown to $95 million and it now has four branch locations. An expansion of its charter in 2020 allows it to serve Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties in New York as well as Grand Isle and Franklin Counties in Vermont. Beginning with 39 members, UFirst ended last year with 8,974. Along with additional branches, it now offers a full menu of eServices allowing members to access their accounts wherever they go.

UFirst Federal Credit Union
Headquarters: 274 Rugar Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
518 324-5700