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From the archives: “Seeking economic justice for all”

Maurice Smith speaking at 2020 Wegner Awards

In the lead-up to the 2022 Foundation Dinner, we take a look back at some Herb Wegner Memorial Award winners from previous years.

Leader of not one but two credit unions (Local Government FCU and Civic FCU) there are few who embody the credit union difference as much as Maurice Smith.

A self-confessed “cooperative nerd”, he was a driving force behind the adoption of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as the eighth cooperative principle, and a deserving recipient at the 2020 celebration.

Smith began his financial services career as a loan officer for State Employees’ Credit Union (NC). In 1992 he joined Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU) as executive vice president, was promoted to president in 1999, before being named chief executive officer in 2017.

Under his direction, LGFCU leadership constructed a strategic business plan that placed “Securing financial freedom for every member” at the organization’s core.

“His philosophy of equal treatment of all members, and his belief that members deserve the dignity of access to affordable financial services, are the guiding principles for our credit union,” said Mark Caverly, President of LGFCU.

“He never wavers from his professional and personal commitments to helping people live better lives, and this promise is woven into the fabric of LGFCU.”

That commitment to supporting all members was evident with Smith created a business lending resource for the typically volunteer-led first responder organizations. LGFCU launched a Commercial Lending department to fill the need, providing loans totaling more than $113 million in over 75 of 100 North Carolina counties.

That same vision also led to the formation of Civic Federal Credit Union, which formally launched in January 2019.

The digital-first credit union was born to provide financial products and services that could not be met through LGFCU’s current charter, and to provide access to members who may not be close to traditional branches.

Another monumental project Smith was instrumental in, was the creation of the Carolinas Credit Union League Foundation. He championed the need for the League to have a philanthropic arm, to ensure credit unions were focused on their communities’ well-being. He was nominated to the Carolinas Foundation Board in 2001 and served for twelve years.

“Without his forward-thinking approach, influential spirit, and relentless compassion, the Carolinas Foundation would not be the organization it is today,” said Lauren Whaley, president of the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation.

Smith’s natural ability to build relationships and his unwavering focus on supporting community also saw LGFCU partner with the School of Government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. An LGFCU investment enabled the School’s Development Finance Initiative (DFI) that is expected to infuse over $1 billion of private investment into distressed communities over the next decade.

Smith’s strategic leadership has also benefitted countless industry organizations.  He does or has served on countless credit union committees and boards including CUNA’s Board of Directors, Chair of the Filene Research Institute; and Director of the African-American Credit Union Coalition.

“Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character,” said Adrian Johnson, chairman of the African-American Credit Union Coalition at the time of Smith’s Herb Wegner nomination.

“I admire his authentic and genuine leadership, and he has demonstrated time and time again what the credit union industry is all about.”

Meet Maurice: https://youtu.be/ztyS5Hlpfrw

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