It looks like there will be a contested election for seats on the board of the State Employees’ Credit Union, the $50 billion financial institution with 2.7 million members and offices in every N.C. county.
Three nominees seeking to be on the ballot for election received more than 4,000 signatures from credit union members, according to Jim Blaine, the former SECU CEO who has questioned the group’s leadership over the last two years. SECU rules require that the potential nominees receive 500 signatures by paper ballot.
Hundreds of members took part in the signature gathering effort, Blaine says.
The 11-member SECU board has a nominating committee that has picked three people as its preferred slate for the election, which will conclude at the group’s annual meeting on Oct. 10. The names of those three people will be disclosed on Friday, according to the credit union website.
“A contested election should benefit all employees and help clarify and explain the future direction of SECU,” Blaine said in an Aug. 14 post on his website.
Three current board members are up for re-election: Jo Anne Sanford, Alice Garland, and Thomas Parrish. Sanford is a Raleigh lawyer and a former N.C. Utilities Commission chair. Garland was the top executive at the N.C. Lottery from 2010-2018. Parrish is a veteran state information systems executive who works at the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
The independent self-nominated candidates are:
- Michael Clements lives in Winston-Salem and is a retired state employee who worked in public health in several counties.
- Barbara Perkins is a Raleigh CPA who worked in finance jobs for state and private companies.
- Chuck Stone lives in Goldsboro and worked as a healthcare administrator at state mental-health hospitals. He also was operations director at the State Employees Association of North Carolina.
SECU has not had a contested election board since 2013, Blaine says. He’s created a blog that repeatedly questions SECU’s board for various policy changes, including making changes in the group’s election processes. He says he favors candidates who will raise questions about the existing board’ strategies, including some significant changes occurring following the September 2021 hiring of veteran industry CEO and regulator Jim Hayes as CEO.
Hayes pledged to make SECU more competitive by improving technology, allowing for more employee input on decisions, and instituting “risk-based lending,” which is ubiquitous in the financial services industry by setting rates partly on borrowers’ credit scores.
SECU had been among the only U.S. lenders that levied the same rates for loans for each member. Blaine and his successor, Mike Lord, view the strategy as both ethically correct and smart business because it differentiated the nation’s second-largest credit union from for-profit banks. Blaine led the group from 1979 through 2016, while Lord was CEO from 2016-21.
The credit union needed to offer tiered lending rates to compete for business from members who were opting for other lenders that offer better terms, according to Hayes.
He left SECU this summer to become CEO at a Maryland-based credit union serving State Department employees. The Raleigh credit union is now led by Leigh Brady, who has worked for the organization for more than 35 years.
The board elections will include absentee voting between Sept. 1 and Oct. 3 through online and paper ballot channels. Members will also be eligible to vote at the annual meeting.
SECU reported assets of $49.6 billion and deposits of $44.9 billion as of June 30, compared with $53.1 billion and $48.9 billion a year earlier. Net income for the first half of the year totaled $245 million, versus $284 million in the same period last year.