Luke Zuiker works at Marine Credit Union (MCU) as a consumer loan officer for the central lending division. He started at MCU over three years ago on May 6, 2019. He explained that for the first nine months, he went to work at the office every day, but since March of 2020, when the pandemic hit, he was told to go home and now continues to work remotely. Even though they had offices when he first started, he shared that 85 percent of his work was by phone or through email. Now he works from his apartment in the La Crosse area and only visits the office on occasion when he has to mail something or send checks out. So … kind of a hybrid situation.
After completing high school in his hometown of Marshfield, Wisconsin, Luke attended college at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and earned education degrees in English and health. He explained that he student-taught in Holmen and although he still had an interest in teaching and coaching, he decided to explore other options after he graduated. He explained that he found work at MCU to be a “good opportunity” and he has been doing it since then.
“Ever since high school, I wanted to go into education,” Luke explained. His father taught for around 28 years as an English teacher. One brother taught English for six years before becoming a principal. His other brother, who eventually went into law, majored in English in college as well. “It’s kind of the family biz,” he said with a smile. “I was really into sports and wanted to coach. I enjoyed the experience,” he said of his teaching, but added, “I was new to the world and had an itch to see what else was out there. I just wanted to see what it was like in the private sector.”
Luke’s dad even taught him English when Luke was a sophomore in high school. “Dad was a really good teacher. He was my basketball coach too for two years. I learned a lot in his class.”
Did it ever seem odd to Luke … being taught by his dad? “The first day he acted really serious and ticked off. It was funny to see,” he said. “I was 16 years old. There were days I wouldn’t say anything in his class when I was ticked off at him,” he laughed.
“Teaching was hard. You have to find a way to creatively keep them interested. I always had a passion for helping kids,” Luke said. “It drew me to MCU too. I get to help people and serve the underserved.”
Luke explained that he was brought up in a financially conservative family, so it was interesting to him learning about the banking and service world. He called his training at MCU, “loan officer boot camp. Holy cow. I felt like I was an imposter. It was all foreign to me. Consolidations. Putting deals together. Being 23, I was like a newborn deer.” He said it was tough to wrap his head around, and it was a little intimidating at first … but eventually he caught on.
“There are days when I am maxed to capacity,” he shared but also said “It’s cool. The coolest part is that I can help people realize something that they didn’t realize before. The coolest part is telling people what they didn’t even know and help them to love starting their financial journey.”
“I can get you from here to there,” he explained. And Luke said it’s a lot about making better choices. “You can give someone all the resources in the world, but they still have to make the choices.” Being a CUNA certified financial counselor, Luke is able to help educate members on the choices they have.
Luke said he enjoys much of his work but does wish at times he could sit face to face with members. “I wish I could sit down with the person and do budgets with people.”
Even though he realizes he is in a “production business,” Luke said programs through the MCU Foundation, such as Finding Home, makes MCU a “more caring organization. I’ve always felt good about loans I’ve written here,” he added. He even said that 30 to 35 percent of his work is education. That, in itself, says a lot about MCU.
Luke is also certified through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He explained it was a four-hour certification centered on personal financial difficulties, thought patterns and ways to better understand and help people. “I learned a lot and can relay that information to members and give them numbers to call.”
Outside of work, Luke shared he has a passion for golf after having great-grandparents who owned and operated a golf course in Tomahawk, WI while he was growing up. Luke also referees for youth basketball and tournaments and enjoys spending time with his nieces. “They are pretty excited when the uncles come to visit,” he said with a big smile.
Luke also volunteers with other MCU employees and shared he will be helping a family who are now homeowners after participating in the Finding Home program. They will be helping the family move into their new home in a few weeks.
Where does Luke get his passionate heart from? From his dad but also from his mom. “My mom was a homemaker for over 20 years and was overlooked. She came from a family of six girls and one boy, and she had three boys of her own. She went back to work as a teaching assistant when I was 13 years old and after worked as a high school special education assistant. She is a selfless and giving woman – an incredible person. She loves to make sure other people are taken care of. You’re making me tear up,” he said and went quiet.
Luke’s uncle once told him he was proud of him for being the good kid on the playground. “My uncle was like that too,” he shared.
Luke said he was proud of his school growing up and the students there. “We had a good class. A good group of kids. We didn’t have a lot of division. Everyone got along pretty well with everyone. That takes real leadership. Sometimes we perceive there is division more than there really is. If we just take the time to understand people … that wouldn’t be the case.”