Garth Strand’s credit union career spans more than three decades, but it includes only one institution: Hutchinson Credit Union.
Strand, president of the $188 million credit union, was the only man working at the credit union when he joined it in 1980 as vice president of lending.
“I did collections, changed light bulbs, scooped snow,” he said. “Life was fun back then.”
Strand, 57, intended to be a school teacher when he graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in education and business. But graduating in December made it difficult to find a full-time teaching position right away. So he ended up working at a couple of finance companies, including Security Pacific Bank. When Security Pacific relocated its Hutchinson operation to its headquarters in San Diego, Strand chose to stay in Hutchinson and go to work for the credit union, which at the time had just $5 million in assets and seven employees.
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Today it has 87 employees and five offices in Hutchinson, Newton, Haven and Wichita in the Farm Credit Bank building at 245 N. Waco, which a couple of weeks ago marked its 25th anniversary. Hutchinson Credit Union acquired the Wichita branch through a 1987 merger with the Farm Credit Bank Employees Federal Credit Union.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “I’ve had some good fortune, and we’ve had a lot of success here. I don’t think I’d want to have it any other way.”
Q. How has the credit union managed to grow the Wichita branch to $13 million in assets given that it’s located inside a downtown building?
A. We have had to work a little more diligently to provide a little higher level of service and make our products and services available via remote (such as online banking).
Q. What percentage of the credit union’s 1,150 Wichita members are employees of what is now known as CoBank?
A. It would be upwards of 80 percent. (But) we do have members who have worked in the building for businesses other than Farm Credit. We have members that moved from Hutchinson to Wichita and continue to use that branch. And we have a number of commuters who use that branch.
Q. Would the credit union ever consider expanding its Wichita presence?
A. If and when we find the right opportunity, yes, we would consider some other location.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge for the credit union during its growth streak between 2008 and now, when assets grew by about $70 million?
A. I would have to say hands down it’s been the legislative and regulatory handicaps that we’ve had to deal with.
Q. What would be an example of those regulatory handicaps?
A. (New) mortgage disclosures. It’s 1,100 pages (of new regulation). That’s just a very tangible example of what we are having to deal with these days.