Dean Chady is the Director of Lending Administration for Marine Credit Union (MCU). In his role, Dean provides leadership to the collections department. He explained that his time is spent working directly with his team, yet also working directly with MCU members trying to find ways to help them. “Most people don’t plan on falling behind,” Dean said. To help members work through those difficult financial times, Dean said, “It takes a special group of people.”
“MCU is lucky to have people who care so much about our mission and constantly make contact with members,” Dean added. “We are a little bit advisor and a little bit big-brother/parent,” he added saying it is important to also hold members accountable. It’s not always an easy task, and Dean said there are more days than not that they run across difficult situations.
During the pandemic, Dean explained, stimulus payments were a “big benefit to a lot of people,” and his team’s roles changed somewhat to make sure to let members know of resources that were available to them. Many, he said, didn’t think they would qualify for unemployment benefits, but during the pandemic, qualifications for unemployment insurance changed and many people found themselves qualifying for benefits. “There was a lot of education” Dean explained. “A lot ended up getting benefits. It did change the nature of situations. And, some were really in difficult situations,” he continued. That is when his team had to have the big brother/parent conversations having to say that it might be a time to consider selling to pay off their debt. It might be time to consider other things to help them through financially.
When faced with big changes, Dean explained, often people are “less willing to face it. They keep hoping things will get better.” Dean shared that his team has a lot of “introduction conversations” with members to work with the credit union’s financial counselors. “Our team does a lot of that on a day-to-day basis.”
Dean is originally from the Appleton area. He attended school and earned his bachelor’s in finance and human resources from UW-Oshkosh. After college, Dean worked as a mortgage loan officer at a “mom and pop” brokerage before coming to MCU in 2007. He and his wife, Jennifer live “across the river” in La Crescent, MN.
“What we do … our believes and values are very close to what we want to be doing in life. When you work for an organization that expounds on such values, you are very fortunate,” Dean shared. Of the four core values of MCU, Dean spoke mostly about compassion. “Compassion doesn’t always come through in an organizations’ actions,” he said. “Not so with MCU.”
Working in the “more challenging area of collections,” Dean said used to be more about punishing people. “Our team has responded by being compassionate. Marine has embraced that attitude,” Dean shared. Having that support in his professional life, Dean said allows him to be more compassionate in his personal life and helps him to “push that message” for the people who work for him and for his colleagues.
For example, Dean said at the beginning of their daily huddle, “We have a discussion; Tell me how you’ve helped someone,” Dean will ask of his team. “We look for stories of compassion and how we have helped our members move forward in their lives.” They do this to help members get their finances under control and be better able to give back to the community. “There is a constant theme of compassion,” he said. Members stories are constantly being shared of how MCU has helped members get out of difficult financial situations.
“I grew up with a strong sense of fairness,” Dean shared. “Fairness converts to compassion. Whether you are an employee of a credit-union or are past-due on a loan,” Dean said that it is important to be treated equally. To do so, Dean explained, starts with an “understanding of who that person is.”
“When you appreciate with fairness, you operate with compassion,” Dean added and said there is not just a “bottom-line.” He said he and his team work hard to find the best answer for the member and for the credit-union. “When protecting the business as the bottom line … putting the business’ best interest first,” Dean explained, “that is short-sighted.” He said it is important to find a balance for what is best for both interests. “Then everyone wins,” he added.
His parents and grandparents, and even his friends, Dean shared, influenced his appreciation for fairness and compassion when he was growing up. “The message was that you’re not better or less than anybody.”
Dean shared that his father was very “level-headed” and had conversations with Dean when he was led astray. “Do you understand why that was wrong,” his father would ask Dean. “It helped me to understand how my actions and interactions affected others,” he shared.
Dean’s mother was “always the giver of the family. She was always doing something for someone. She was always positive and always willing to help.”
How does it feel to work for a company that aligns with your personal values? Dean said he has worked for MCU for 15 years and has no plans to work anywhere else. “There are days we have frustrations and challenges, but knowing the organization has a heart and doesn’t just advertise they have a heart … that is really meaningful. I’m proud to work for an organization that values its employees and members as the primary driver of what we do.”
MCU, Dean shared, was modeled after the original intent of credit unions in the 30s and 40s. “They were local people getting together because this guy needed money for surgery or money for crops,” Dean said. “They were helping others who needed help.”
“A lot of credit unions are now credit-based,” Dean said. “I’m proud that (MCU) is not solely based on credit score. Our motto used to even be, ‘You’re more than a credit score.” Dean said they try to learn about the members situation behind the credit score. “The credit score is not always the determining factor. Helping members is a real source of pride for me and is one of the reasons why I initially chose to work at MCU.”
“I’m so proud of the heart of our team, the wins, that we helped a person to get back on track,” Dean shared. “Collections isn’t always an easy job when you have to take a car or foreclose on a house in order to hold someone accountable.” But he said that how his team faces the challenge of conversations that need to be had makes him proud of the work they do. “They continue to keep their heart.”
“There are more tough days than not,” Dean added. “Not everyone can have those conversations while recognizing that it’s difficult … but, staying true to our values.”
“You have to have courage. You can’t show compassion without having the courage to have the conversations because the situation pulls at your heart strings.”
Dean shared a story of a member he worked with a couple of years ago. He said that for several years the member filed for bankruptcy and Dean built up a perception of this person as someone who was manipulating the system. “I didn’t know the story,” Dean explained. When reaching out the member to contact him about his past due account, Dean said he learned that the member had been desperate to keep his family farm that he had worked his entire life. The farm fell onto hard times, and he had tried everything he could to not lose the farm. “In that conversation,” Dean said, “I totally changed my perspective.” Dean shared that he worked with the member, rewrote his loan and the member hasn’t been delinquent on even one payment since. “We saved the farm from disclosure and saved the relationship.”
Dean said this story still reminds him that it’s important to not go down that path again. “It’s not good for the world,” he said, “when we lose sight of the human aspect.”
Dean and his wife Jennifer live in La Cresent and enjoy spending time at their family cabin and carrying on his family tradition of jitterbug fishing with his stepson.