New York Credit Union Association Board Chairwoman Marie Betti was appointed CEO of Western New York FCU in 1994, but she began serving in leadership roles with the credit union almost as soon as she was hired. The New York Minute recently asked Betti, who now holds the title CEO/treasurer, 10 questions about her time in the credit union movement.
How did you get involved with credit unions initially, and how did you work your way up to CEO?
My cousin, Kathie Lafko, was working for what was then known as the West Seneca State School CU. There were only two people working at the credit union at the time and the other person was leaving. My cousin asked me if I’d be interested in working with her, and I said yes. The organist at my church, who was also the treasurer of the credit union, asked me to meet her at our church after novena for the interview. She asked me a few questions about my math skills and grades, and then she hired me.
Here’s the interesting part: I was on unemployment at the time. I was laid off from a seasonal position and planning to go back to that position in the summer. I was making more on unemployment than I would make at the credit union, but I was never one to sit around, so I took the job at the credit union.
As far as working my way up, I have kind of grown up with the credit union. My cousin left the credit union several months after I started, so I was the “lead” person in the office right away, and it just went on from there. Anytime the board needed anything done, they would ask me. I became the go-to person in the office fairly quickly.
What is your favorite part of leading Western New York FCU?
I love working with people: board members, volunteers, co-workers and members. I love how much we can accomplish when we all work together, be it for our credit union or our community.
Why and how did you decide to get involved with the Association’s board?
The Western New York FCU board used to invite the staff to the Chapter events and eventually to the Annual Meeting & Convention. So, I got a taste of what the Association was all about a very long time ago, but I was busy working full time at the credit union and raising four very active children. People from the Chapter would ask me to get involved, but I knew I couldn’t with my schedule at the time. So after I was finished with the hectic part of raising my children, I decided it was time to get involved.
I love the people that I’ve been privileged to work with on the Chapter Council and on the Association board. I gain so much knowledge from these relationships. It’s really fantastic, and I truly appreciate all that the Association does for all credit unions and the credit union movement.
What are some of the bigger challenges that your credit union faces?
I’d say the biggest challenge we face is trying to keep up with technology and compliance, though not necessarily in that order. Technology also presents a huge opportunity for us.
Do you have any credit union role models who have helped shape your career?
I’ve been in this movement so long and have met so many wonderful people, it would be hard to single out any one individual. I’ve made lifelong friends with many of my peers across the state.
In your opinion, what sets apart the credit union movement from other financial institutions?
I truly believe that the credit union movement lives by our philosophy of “people helping people” and that is what I believe sets us apart from other financial institutions.
What do you think the New York credit union movement will look like a decade from now?
It’s hard to say. I hope the changes will be gradual. It’s difficult with the constant merging of credit unions to think about what things will be like in 10 years. I think that we will have to be creative moving forward and perhaps consider sharing operational tasks, personnel and so forth.
Can you talk about the importance of smaller-asset size credit unions to the overall movement?
I think small credit unions play a vital role in our movement. The diversity of the credit union movement is one of our greatest strengths, and I hope we can find a way to assist those smaller credit unions that are struggling so that they stay viable. I want to see all credit unions—large, mid-size and small—succeed and prosper, and I believe that’s the best way to ensure the success of our movement.
What are your personal interests and goals outside of work?
I love to spend time with my children and grandchildren, and I love to travel. I also spend time volunteering for my church.
Do you have a favorite memory or moment from Convention?
My very favorite thing about Convention is that I get to see my friends from all across the state that I sometimes only see at Convention. The Conventions have changed so much over the years, and I’ve been around long enough to remember The Concord days and how we would all be together the entire time. I liked that. I also loved the comedy acts at The Concord because they were hysterical without using any profanity, which is a rarity.