Mike Mercer Recognized for Lifetime of Impact with 2015 Herb Wegner Memorial Award

The Foundation Recognizing Mercer with Award for Lifetime Achievement

In recognition of his ground-breaking leadership, innovative contributions, personal commitment and unfaltering dedication to the advancement of the credit union system, the National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation) is pleased to announce Mike Mercer, President/CEO of the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, as the recipient of a 2015 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Mercer's award will be one of four Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special dinner hosted by the Foundation at the Marriott Marquis Washington on March 9th, 2015, on-site at the Credit Union National Association’s 2015 Governmental Affairs Conference. Registration for dinner tickets and sponsorships will be available next week on the the Foundation's website.

“Anyone who knows Mike knows he’s an innovator and status quo challenger who has always pushed leaders to rethink old habits and consider new ways of doing things,” said John Gregoire, Chair of the Foundation's Wegner Awards Selection Committee and President of The ProCon Group. “From his role at the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, time as CUNA Chairman, his work with the Polish credit union system, and more, Mike always has displayed tremendous insight and innovation.”

An Unfaltering Members-first Mindset
In his role as President/CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, which helps Georgia credit unions meet the financial service needs of their more than 2 million members, Mercer has been an advocate for improving the financial lives of individuals and families on local, national and international levels. Mercer is the primary architect for the Helping People Afford Life outreach campaign, which highlights areas where credit unions help people access the knowledge, advice and programs that will enable them to make good decisions and thrive financially. Georgia credit unions were able to help their members save more than $130 million in 2013 alone. These results and other good deeds are highlighted in the Annual Report of the Helping People Afford Life initiative.  The reports are shared with government officials and members of the media, contributing significantly to the positive reputation of credit unions.

“Throughout his career, Mike has preached the power of financial cooperatives, and their ability to empower individuals with the knowledge to succeed,” said Doug Fecher, President/CEO of Wright-Patt Credit Union. “He has directly impacted countless individuals across his state, nation and around the world.”

“Ambassador” to Credit Unions in Poland
Over the years, Mercer has become known as the main “ambassador” of the Poland-Georgia credit union partnership program. As a key driver in the creation and implementation of this international partnership, Mercer’s vision of improving people’s financial lives through credit union membership has allowed the citizens of Poland to benefit from the same financial service opportunities as people in the United States.

Today, 62 credit unions and more than 1.8 million members benefit from cooperative principles in action.  The Georgia-Polish partnership model has now become the flagship for other international partnerships worldwide. In 2007, the Polish government awarded Mercer with the “Order of the Knights Cross”, the highest Polish governmental award available to non-polish citizens, in recognition of his contributions to the growth and development of the Polish credit union system.

“One may wonder why the Polish credit unions folks, including myself, became so close with Georgia and Mike,” said Grzegorz Bierecki, Senator of the Republic of Poland and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Union. “I think one of the answers is an attitude, the quality of non-preaching advice, equality in our relations, respect for different cultures and ways of life without being judgmental and supercilious. These are some basic characteristics of Mike Mercer as our mentor, our credit unions’ professor, and last but not least, as our friend in the fullest meaning of this word.”

A Voice for the CU Movement & Cooperative Values
Mercer's advocacy was instrumental in obtaining the essential support of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, to shepherd the Credit Union Membership Access Act (H. R. 1151) in the 105th United States Congress. This critical legislation, authorizing federal credit unions to have multiple common bonds, was signed into law on August 7, 1998. It reversed the Supreme Court's ruling in NCUA v. First National Bank & Trust.  

“Mike is an outspoken, articulate leader,” said Bill Cheney, President/CEO of SchoolsFirst FCU. “His credit union career has spanned four decades, starting in the late 1970's. He has personally impacted thousands of credit unions and tens of millions of credit union members through his work, first in the Corporate Credit Union Network and now almost 30 years as President/CEO of the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates. Mike is never willing to sit on the sidelines or accept the status quo, Mike pushes people's thinking, he encourages innovation and change, and he always has an eye to the future in the best interest of our movement.”

Mercer has been actively engaged at every level in the credit union system. He began his career as one of the first employees of the new U.S. Central Credit Union, eventually becoming the second in command while still in his 20s. In 1980, he moved to Atlanta to help recapitalize Georgia Central Credit Union during the high-inflation, high-interest rate environment of the times.  He quickly became involved in leadership roles in the corporate credit union network. In 1985, Mercer was named President/CEO of the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, which included the league and Georgia Central Credit Union. In his post as League president, Mercer served on CUNA, CUNA Mutual Group and Association of American CU Leagues (AACUL) committees, eventually becoming chairman of AACUL. Mercer was elected to the CUNA board and also has served as Chairman.

Mercer is also a member of the board of the National Cooperative Bank, and is the only credit union professional in NCB’s history to hold the position of Chairman. “At NCB, Mike's vision and understanding of cooperative values has proven to transcend industries and has been a welcomed injection of energy into the pursuit of our mission,” said Charles E. Snyder, President & CEO of NCB. “If I have learned one thing about Mike during his tenure, it is that his engagement, commitment and passion for the cooperative movement is steadfast and true. In his role as Board Chair he is an embodiment of cooperative principles.”

Preaching the Virtues of Collaboration
Many collaborative ventures have benefited from Mercer’s contributions. In 1989, Cooperative Services Inc (CSI) was organized to provide support services for Georgia credit unions. Today, this CUSO has 50 owners and over 100 customers. CSI has provided patronage refunds and price reductions that have returned investor capital multiple times over.  Mercer was also instrumental in forming CU Service Centers, Inc which served as a catalyst to link credit unions to shared branches across the country. More recently, Mercer played a key role in the development of League InfoSight and CU Partner Link, additional multi-League collaborations.

Mercer has also been a mentor and role model through instructional and collaborative training seminars. Two of the most successful – the GCUA Learning Journey and the GCUA Idea Institute – gave hundreds of the nation's credit union executives an opportunity to connect with some of the brightest minds in the credit union world today and draw from real-world expertise in their own planning.

In 2005, Mercer was recognized for his work with Georgia credit unions with a Georgia Lifetime Achievement Award. This honor is bestowed to individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving the credit union movement by unerringly instilling the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.”

“Mike’s career with credit unions is totally and fully associated with creative and innovative approaches for credit unions to grow and prosper,” said Dan Mica, Principal of The DMA Group. “To use Mike’s own words, his personal vision and creativity make him a ‘center of gravity’ for all those interested in unique ways to preserve the best of the past and move forward to the cutting edge of the future.”