Through its 34 years, there have been many storied recipients of the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards—the U.S. credit union movement’s highest national honors. There have been “leaders” and “pioneers,” “visionaries” and “champions,” but never a “myth” … until now.
“It was the mid-2000s when I first heard about a mythical creature doing amazing things at a small credit union in West Virginia,” shared George Hofheimer, founder of Hofheimer Strategy Advisors and a nominator for one of the 2023 Herb Wegner Memorial Award winners. “As I dug deeper, I discovered it was no myth, just a whip-smart, get-stuff-done leader who could teach more than a thing or two to organizations with many more resources.”
The leader referred to, of course, is Linda Bodie, CEO + Innovator at Element Federal Credit Union.
For decades, Linda’s sleeves-up, head-down approach to making a difference has quietly affected the credit union system. Her tireless pursuit of innovation and evolution has helped credit unions (particularly the smallest) understand the challenges and opportunities to staying relevant in an increasingly disrupted marketplace—all to ensure the system can meet its mission of improving financial well-being for all.
In 1998, Linda was appointed as CEO of Element Federal Credit Union (then WV United Federal Credit Union) with no previous credit union experience. Her three employees staffed one branch and managed just $2.3 million in assets. Despite limited resources, Linda fostered a culture focused on saying yes to anyone with a need and encouraged her staff (now 15 employees) and peer set to turn ideas into solutions that meet those needs.
During her talk at the 2017 Disruption Conference by CU Water Cooler, Linda embraced the title of underdog: “My credit union is an underdog. I am an underdog. I’m underfunded, underpowered, and overlooked. So how in the world do you keep moving forward and keep winning? No matter your size, your resources, or your perceived limitations, resilience, passion, and belief can be your fuel to compete with the big banks, the big budgets, and the big boys.”
And if there’s one thing Linda has never shied away from, it’s playing the big boys at their own game. Beating Chase Bank to win a cannabis banking contract for a conservative state government is just one of countless shoulder swipes.
A driver of her continued success is Linda’s tireless pursuit of improvements. “My title is Chief plus Innovator,” she said at the same 2017 event. “That means I’m the CEO and I invent stuff.” While some may say this without evidence, Linda can back it up—her small credit union was the first in the nation to offer remote check deposits.
While Element has grown its assets by almost 2,000 percent under Linda’s leadership, it’s still undoubtedly a small credit union—but Linda’s innovative spirit is so recognized and revered, she is continually sought to help shape the future of the national credit union movement.
Linda’s leadership as a board member for CU*Answers supports 187 credit unions, touching more than 2 million members as a core and technology CUSO. She also holds roles on the boards and councils of CU Pride, CU*Answers, Filene, CUNA Mutual Group, and was a founding member of the Credit Union Women’s Leadership Alliance (CUWLA)—a group established to give women CEOs of smaller credit unions an opportunity for cooperation and collaboration.
It’s no exaggeration to say Linda’s individual and institutional achievements could fill ten pages (the Herb Wegner Memorial Award nomination packet submitted by her peers fills 23) and any write-up will always fall short. She is truly a deserving recipient of the Outstanding Individual Achievement accolade.