Bill Cheney: 2023 Herb Wegner Memorial Award Winner
As credit unions align around improving financial well-being for all, we’re recognizing it is a challenge of meeting individuals where they are in their own financial journey, along with empowering Members and employees to thrive. That’s a tall ask for any credit union, but can it be done at scale?
According to Bill Cheney, the answer is a resounding yes.
The CEO of California’s SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union will receive a Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement at the 2023 Foundation Dinner. His 1.2 million Members would likely attest it’s well-deserved.
Under his leadership, SchoolsFirst FCU has experienced incredible growth—doubling Membership and almost tripling in asset size since 2015—accomplished through a relentless commitment to world-class, personal service.
Bill has positioned the credit union at the forefront of the financial well-being for all movement; building on the service-centered culture by partnering with Gallup to establish tangible, measurable outcomes for Members’ financial well-being, and supporting the U.S. credit union movement—financially (SchoolsFirst FCU is a Sustaining Supporter of the National Credit Union Foundation) and strategically—to create a more equitable, impactful system for credit unions and consumers alike.
Of course, this level of servant leadership is nothing new. Bill has held a variety of leadership positions over the past 35 years at community, state, and national levels. In each role, he has understood the importance of compassion, loyalty, diversity, inclusion, and a sense of fairness. Perhaps most importantly, he’s understood the impact his leadership has on his team and the credit union movement.
He has been instrumental in navigating economic, political, and regulatory pressures while improving credit unions’ ability to meet the evolving financial needs of Members, employees, and communities—in good times and bad.
After starting his career in community and employee-based credit unions, Bill was named President and CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues in 2006. There, he helped the League support its credit unions and millions of Members through the Great Recession with tireless advocacy, transformational leadership and a laser focus on improving financial health and well-being.
In 2010, with the nation still reeling from the recession, Bill was appointed President and CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). A continuous thread throughout Bill’s career is his commitment to system-wide cooperation. At CUNA, Bill’s well-reasoned voice and collaborative approach brought industry leaders and policymakers together to tackle unprecedented regulatory and operational challenges.
Bill’s leadership through the financial crisis was also felt at the global level. When new international regulatory standards were put in place for financial institutions, they were created with large banks in mind—not credit unions. Working to mitigate the burden for smaller credit unions, Bill assisted the World Council in establishing the Global Advocacy Program that reduced international regulatory costs and has protected the ability of credit unions to provide financial inclusion to lower income populations.
Through that same effort, Bill participated in exchanges with Canada, Australia and Poland around advocacy for proper and empowering legislation and regulation in their own countries.
Partnering again with the World Council, in addition to the California Credit Union League and Caja Popular Mexicana (CPM) Bill led an international effort to provide guidance and training to CPM around modernizing their information system. This allowed them to operate more efficiently, meet regulatory requirements, and grow to the scale they operate at currently, as the largest credit union in Latin America.
Today, Bill serves as Chair of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, volunteers with the Consumer Federation of America; National Credit Union Foundation; Western CUNA Management School Board of Trustees; CCUL Legislative Action Committee; UCI Chief Executive Roundtable; Making Hope Happen Foundation (San Bernardino City USD); CSUF Philanthropic Foundation Board of Governors; Children’s Miracle Network Board of Governors; Worldwide Foundation Credit Union Board and Filene Research Institute Board.
It is not too great a leap to say Bill’s servant leadership has touched, shaped or influenced the financial well-being of 375 million credit union Members worldwide. Truly, a deserving recipient of the Herb Wegner Memorial Award.