Credit unions have many opportunities to lead, both among their members and within their communities. With 25 years experience in the industry, Jeff Trapp, President and CEO of University of Michigan CU (HV), is no stranger to the challenges and the rewards of the work credit unions perform across the state.
After growing up in Dearborn and receiving an accounting degree from Eastern Michigan University, Trapp got his first job as an accounting supervisor at Automotive FCU in Ypsilanti. Since then, he has worked almost exclusively for or with credit unions, including as an auditor from 1985 to 1988.
In 1991, Trapp was selected to be the vice president of member services at University of Michigan CU. Rising through the executive ranks, he became president and CEO in 2007. He is not someone who takes the task or its responsibilities lightly.
“A good credit union leader allows their staff to take ownership and responsibility for their performance. Employees must be encouraged to work outside of their comfort zone so they can accomplish and achieve more than they could ever envision,” says Trapp. “A good credit union leader enables employees to make informed decisions that benefit members and the credit union. Leading by example and setting clear expectations, you should not feel the need to use power in order to get the desired results. A leader must listen as well as he or she speaks.”
Trapp’s philosophy mirrors the broader credit union goal of encouraging members to take ownership and responsibility for their financial futures, while providing the guidance and personal service necessary to accomplish this goal. His style of leadership has added strength to an institution that has consistently been named the best bank or credit union by a local publication over the years.
University of Michigan CU has proven to be a leader far beyond its own branches. Its work within the community has helped connect employees, members and youth to support causes as diverse as the American Heart Association and the Ozone House. UMCU supports Food Gatherers Food Bank, the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life and encourages its employees to give their time to local non-profits during United Way’s Day of Caring. Four times each year, employees vote for the charity which will receive the money from that quarter’s fundraising events.
“Credit union involvement is vital to improving the communities where we do business. Since I live and work in Ann Arbor, I get to see firsthand the needs of the community and my neighbors,” says Trapp. “Whenever we are looking at new services, delivery methods or donations to local charities or events, I understand how this will impact our members and the community. That is why the University of Michigan Credit Union offers free budget counseling, free identity theft assistance and an extensive youth financial education program – because we know these unique services will help our members and make our community stronger.”
Such involvement works to create a bond with the community that is an extension of the service that makes up the credit union difference. Trapp knows the importance of such a connection and understands the benefits it has for the credit union and its members.
“The most important part of the credit union difference for me is that we are not about product push, sales quotas or commission statements,” he says. “We do what is best for each individual member. When we become focused on selling products based on how much profit is generated, we run the risk of creating the kind of nightmares that are now affecting many of our financial markets. Credit unions are truly about solving problems, one member one at a time.