After almost 19 years at the helm of Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union and 40 years in the banking world, SMCU President and CEO Bob Harvey announces his retirement, effective April 1, 2011.
Mr. Harvey is only the third CEO in the 77-year history of Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union and has seen a world of change since his arrival in August 1992. During his tenure, the credit union has added five new branches and completed two mergers. When he took over in 1992, the credit union had assets of $135M and a staff of 70. Today SMCU is a half-billion dollar credit union with more than 130 employees.
As CEO, Mr. Harvey has been extremely active in the credit union community. He served as Board Chair for the Washington State Credit Union League, WesCorp and the African American Credit Union Coalition as well as a council director for the Credit Union Executive Society (CUES) and a lecturer and teacher for the California Credit Union League and Credit Union National Association. In 2003 he received both the Washington Credit Union Professional of the Year and CUES Executive of the Year awards. In 2004 he was named to the CUES Hall of Fame. On many weekends, Mr. Harvey, a former Marine Corps Captain, serves as a Reserve Police Officer with the Seattle Police Department’s Gang Unit, as he has since 1993, shortly after his arrival in Seattle.
As his retirement draws near, we gave Mr. Harvey a chance to reflect on his career at Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union.
How did you get started with credit unions?
I actually was going to be a police officer with the LAPD. I got married one month before I was supposed to go into the academy, on Christmas Eve 1971, to my first wife, and she said she wasn’t real excited about having a cop in the family, so I moved to plan “b”, banking.
I wanted to be a big-time commercial lending officer, big signing limits, big bucks, the whole big deal. I was trained in the retail-banking group and never could quite make it into the commercial-banking group. I got a call from a credit union recruiter, who was tapping different people in the banking industry to come work for different credit unions, and made that move into Lockheed Federal.
You were at Lockheed FCU for nine years. What brought you to SMCU?
My current wife said, “Why are you still at the Vice President level?” I said, “That’s what I know how to do.” I’d never even thought about being a credit union CEO. It was something that never crossed my mind. Many of my predecessors went from Lockheed to become CEOs of other credit unions. It was amazing. So she said, “Look what they’ve done. Look where you are.” She was the inspiration to make that happen. The fact that Seattle was her home also helped motivate her.
What were your first memories of being a new CEO?
What I remember of my first week was that I came to work that morning and couldn’t get in. I didn’t have any keys. I knocked on the front door and Ruth (Korotzer, SMCU Executive VP and COO) said, “Yeah, it’s OK. Let him in.” The only thing I got accomplished that first day was putting my greeting on my voice mail system. That took four hours, and then I went to lunch.
What are you most proud of from your time here?
What’s fun as a CEO is to watch people grow and prosper. To provide the opportunity to let folks go up the ladder has been really cool, because they learn and grow, and they get excited. We all have to come to work. The question is how can my job be enhanced? What can I learn? As I’m giving, what can I take back? That’s been something that makes me feel really good.
Why is now the right time to retire?
We only have a certain skill set. As a CEO, like anyone else, you try to keep enhancing your skill set, so that you’re adapting to whatever the new model for a positive environment or growth environment happens to be, but you’re still working within a skill set. It’s time for the next person to come in with the same amount of enthusiasm and energy, but with new, fresh ideas. That’s the key.
What are you looking forward to doing once you retire?
I’m going to keep my commitment to the Police Department. I enjoy that, and I’ll be able to do more. I’m also a member of the City’s pension board and will retain that commitment. Lastly, the Breakfast Group, my men’s group committed to helping young men succeed will get more of my attention.
I have a long-standing goal of riding my motorcycle cross-country. There’s a route called Interstate 50, it starts in San Jose and winds up in South Carolina. It runs from coast to coast and never touches a freeway. I want to see some of that perspective of the country first-hand versus just reading about it in magazines. A cruise through the Panama Canal is being planned as well as an extended stay in New Zealand; both will happen over the next few years.
Wherever the road takes him from here, we wish Bob Harvey all the best and thank him for many years of service and dedication.