When Bert Hash, Jr. took over as CEO of MECU in 1996 it was a $400 million institution with one branch that served municipal employees of Baltimore. In this podcast, he tells about the institution he took charge of. It had exactly zero ATMs. It did not dispense cash to members – if a member wanted a withdrawal, they were issued a check and most went across the street to a bank to cash it.
Hash, who came to MECU after a long career with banks, knew there had to be changes. Within his first six months, he put cash in the branch, installed the first ATM, brought in computers, and prepared the institution for the battles ahead of it.
When he retired in 2014, MECU had assets of $1.3 billion, a membership of 106,000, and it had grown from one branch to 11.
I knew I had to talk with him even before I heard that story and that was because retired SECU North Carolina CEO Jim Blaine and Renee Sattiewhite of AACUC enthusiastically seconded the motion.
When I initially asked Bert, he momentary hesitated – did he belong in the company this podcast features? Of course, I knew he did. But he is a decent, modest man and you will hear that personality throughout this podcast.
In one section he tells of taking a call from an irate member who believed MECU had made a mistake with his account. Bert agreed with him but still, the man went on and after 30 minutes, the man was still threatening to move his account to a bank. Bert told him he was sure he would find at least one thing different at a bank. What asked the man. “You won’t have a half-hour conversation with the bank CEO trying to convince you to stay,” said Bert.
His is a credit union life and it is made all the special because, as an African American, he faced challenges in his career path and in his leadership of MECU. He tells his story in this podcast which is an especially personal document.
At the end, you will hear a podcast paste on where a recording of a call Bert made to me is. That’s because as he reflected overnight about what he had said when asked if he witnessed racism in financial services, he decided he had more to say. His perspective is thoughtful, nuanced, realistic. (Sound quality is different. But the recording is audible.)
He offers a brief summary of the 100+ year of African American credit unions, tells why he thinks them important in reaching out to the underserved and offers a stirring perspective on the real credit union mission.
This podcast is recorded in Phoenix – thus the first remarks from Bert.
Tech note: this week the podcast switched to new software, Hindenburg Journalist. Forgive any glitches – they are on me.
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