Abi joined her interview with an imposed background photo of Chief, her family’s seven-year-old German Shepard snuggled up with their cat Fred (their other cat, George, was not in the photo because he was not a snuggler.) The backdrop was chosen because the team she works with at Marine Credit Union (MCU), as a consumer loan officer, has “team oriented” backgrounds. “We are very team oriented,” Abi said of her co-workers.
Abi works out of the Watertown, WI area and covers the Milwaukee area. She said that training for her job at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in 2020 was a bit of a struggle and she said she feared she wasn’t a good lender. She knew, though, that when she joined with her direct report, things fell into place for her. “I became a better lender,” Abi said. “I’ve been here almost two years. I love it. I love what I do.”
Abi said she is able to help people, coach them and teach them how they can help themselves … even when she might not be able to help them with a loan. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” Abi said of those who come to her needing financial recovery. “Don’t be ashamed,” she tells those members. “You didn’t know how to build and recover properly. Now you can start going forward.”
Abi explained she works with secured and unsecured loans … everything but mortgages including debt consolidation loans. She said she feels she is able to help those who are struggling financially because she has also struggled in her past. “I’ve been through a messy divorce,” she shared. “There was bad debt and collections.” She said she didn’t understand any of it at the time. “I didn’t know how to recover.”
That period for Abi, having her own struggles, has helped her to be empathetic with the people she now serves at MCU. “It’s okay to have those issues,” she said. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed, but you need to take control.”
“Part of my job,” Abi explained, “is to go through their credit reports line by line. For every derogatory notation – I have to ask about every one of those. I empathize with them. I had credit cards in collections,” she shared. She said that she is honest with them about her own struggles and helps them to know that they, too, can recover.
“People go through this all the time,” Abi continued. “Even people with good, high paying jobs also have medical bills and collections. It’s very common. People don’t talk about it in everyday life.” She said that because we don’t talk about it, financial struggles can become “taboo. It’s very, very common,” she said and added knowing so makes it okay to talk about.
Abi discusses, line by line, everything on her member’s credit report and learns the story behind every late payment behind every collection. “It makes a lot of difference,” she said when people share their story. She said that when she can understand the reasons, it makes a big difference in what they are able to offer them.
Abi explained that the MCU branch she works for is chartered to help people in rural areas in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. “People in rural areas often have a lot of credit struggles,” she explained. “Some have payday loans and title loans which often have high interest – up to 300%. When you have no other place, you will go where they say yes. When they are paying and not seeing the balance go down, they get frustrated.”
At MCU, however, Abi said that she has the opportunity to sometimes say “yes” to members but even when she has to say “no,” she is able to be compassionate and suggest ways to make positive changes to favorably impact members’ credit scores and finances.
Abi shared MCU supports her in other ways too, even offering paid time off when buying a new home and/or getting married. “I am so blessed in my life,” she said. “I have a wonderful family, a wonderful work family and a great job. I am a very blessed person.
“I’m very lucky,” Abi continued. “It helps that I have an amazing husband.” Other than with what he calls Abi’s “houseplant obsession,” she said he is very supportive and encourages her to love and do more of what she loves. She said she is so happy that her passion for helping people aligns with MCU’s mission.