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Published November 20, 2012
Volume 20, Number 11


1st United Services Credit Union’s Victor Quint Believes in the Power of Preparation

By Nicole Zaro Stahl
NETWORK Editor


When Victor Quint was four years old, an uncle of Austrian descent took him and his older brother up to Dodge Ridge to learn how to ski. It was back in the 1950s, and ski slopes had few of today’s technical amenities. “There was not much there beyond the tow rope,” he recalls. “My uncle just put us on skis and said, ‘Here you go,’ and down we went. That’s how I learned. We were so young, we had no fear.”

While it may have been a successful teaching tool, that baptism by fire is the antithesis of the methodical preparation Quint has applied throughout his career. The President and CEO of Hacienda-headquartered 1st United Services Credit Union since 2003, Quint works with the board of directors, the management team, and a committee of volunteer members to forge the strategic vision of the not-for-profit institution.

With the goal of protecting and advancing members’ financial interests, it is an environment that emphasizes responsibility and stability. This was clearly evident in the credit union’s reaction to the 2007 financial turmoil.  The board of directors and executive team had, in fact, addressed different scenarios as part of their annual strategic planning sessions. Thanks to their foresight, the credit union’s balance sheet was well positioned, and there were minimal negative effects.
                                                                                                        (Courtesy of 1st United Services Credit Union)
“In 2007 we were not overloaded with real estate loans that had a high loan-to-value ratio. We had none—zero—interest-only real estate loans. So when values went down, we were not overcommitted to property we had financed.”

Another part of the strategic plan working in the credit union’s favor during the downturn was its member base. “Our field of membership is primarily comprised of city and county groups—teachers, sheriffs, civil service employees, medical groups—so when the economy deteriorated,  job loss among our members was very low,” Quint notes. The focus on stability was a main reason why 1stUSCU had deliberately avoided expanding into other counties to attract new members “who could not have some kind of relationship with us.”

The carefully plotted strategy has proved effective. As 1stUSCU’s 80th anniversary year comes to a close, the credit union enjoys assets over $800 million, a dozen branches, and 50,000 members across the East Bay. To give an idea of its comparative rank in the credit union universe, Quint notes that $1 billion in assets is typically the threshold for the top tier, which puts his organization close to the peak.

A STRONG WORK ETHIC
Quint’s first skiing lesson had a strong, productive influence on many aspects of his life. In awakening a passion for the sport, it also catalyzed a strong work ethic and a no-nonsense approach to finance. 

Early on, Quint learned that if he wanted something—such as time on the ski slopes—he would have to pay for it himself. The third of four children, he and his siblings were keenly aware that there was no room in the modest family budget for anything beyond the essentials.

The answer was to find work and save his earnings. In that, Quint received help from his father, who introduced him to the world of the credit union. “My dad, who is now 95, worked for the original phone company in the East Bay. He was a member of its credit union and worked his way up to become a director.”

At age five and seven, respectively, Quint and his brother started to accompany their father to the credit union at night, where he did the books as a volunteer. It was only natural for him to open share—or savings—accounts for his sons.  When the brothers took on a paper route a few years later, delivering the Hayward Review, they deposited their monthly earnings—which could reach  $30 apiece, a sizeable chunk for the time—into their share accounts.

As time went by, Quint’s jobs got more varied. One summer he went to work on a cow ranch. While in school, he was a grocery-store bagger, which he enjoyed for the people contact. “Being a bagger at the grocery store is not a career move, but it was probably the most fun job I ever had. You get to meet a lot of people, and that shapes the way you look at life.”

His credit union connections continued with his first car loan, and then, a few years later, his first professional position. While attending Cal State East Bay, he worked part-time for a CPA firm that audited credit unions. He got the job more by word of mouth than by design, but he enjoyed the work and when he graduated, he hired on full time. “It’s a very small world!” he remarks.

CAREER PROGRESSION
The small world got a lot bigger a few years later when Quint decided to take a break from the numbers. He traded the East Bay for Lake Tahoe so he could pursue his passion for snow-skiing. True to form, he financed the venture out of earnings from his job as a ski instructor. After three years, the realization hit that it was time to go back to the “real world.” Returning to the Bay Area, he applied for a controller position at a credit union. He was quickly hired. “Ironically,” he notes, “it was the one where my dad used to be a director.”

The next career step took him to a much larger credit union, Golden 1 in Sacramento. Quint met his wife there—“where else?” he quips—and the couple settled in the Sierra foothills community of Newcastle and started a family. They enjoyed country living, taking advantage of the beautiful surroundings to spend a lot of time outdoors with their small children and horses.

Their next move took them to Eugene, Ore., where the rural landscape gave way to the college town as Quint became Executive Vice President of a large local credit union. The nearby University of Oregon offered a wealth of campus-related activities, like rooting for the Ducks, that made the town “a great place to raise kids.”

When the position of CEO of 1stUSCU opened up in 2003, Quint was tapped for the spot. “Part of the reason I was able to get this job is my familiarity with all the different communities in the East Bay. I had a lot of business and school ties, so it was a natural fit for me.”

LEADERSHIP LESSON
Having spent the vast majority of his life working, Quint has had the opportunity to develop an interesting perspective on what it takes to be a good leader. To him, leadership “is all about other people, not me.” The path to success lies in listening to what other people have to say, a philosophy that makes the credit union’s tight-knit workforce an extremely valuable resource.

“If you need inspiration or advice, ask people close to the situation for their opinion. My staff is closer to our members, and they know what’s going on. You will learn way more about an issue if you listen to others.” His track record throughout his career obviously confirms the wisdom of this approach.

 

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