Like other businesses, The Golden 1 Credit Union has absorbed its share of economic blows since 2008. But the largest credit union in California has long prided its fiscally conservative approach to finance. And unlike its colleagues in the banking industry, where shareholder profits drive investment decisions, Golden 1’s business model is based first on providing value and service to members. To ensure it could weather such a storm as the recent Great Recession, company officials put plenty of money in reserves to cover a rainy day.
“And yes, we had two years of rainy days, but we’re now coming out of that dismal downturn,” Bland says. “We’re very optimistic about the economic indicators we closely follow, especially in consumer confidence.”
According to Bland, the financial well-being of its more than 600,000 members has stabilized. Saving programs for members have edged up while overall personal finance management has become much more top of mind.
“It’s been a humbling experience for everyone,” she says. “But the past couple years have served as a reminder of the importance of spending wisely while planning appropriately.”
Although savings accounts are a valuable part of financial plans, in the big picture, the national economy needs people to spend money in order to spur a complete recovery. And that’s where consumer confidence comes in.
“Because more and more economic indicators are pointing to not only a flattening out, but to a turnaround, confidence has risen. So people are beginning to purchase items that they had put off for two years. Your car, TV and appliances can only last so long before the continued maintenance costs exceeds the purchase of a new one.”
Also in the past two years, unlike many local financial institutions, the Golden 1 has opened a half-dozen branch offices. Three locations have opened in the Sacramento area, as well another three in the Bay Area — a market targeted for expansion.
This combination of indicators has Bland bullish on the times ahead.
“I believe our nation’s economy will come out of this much stronger and more mature than we were,” she says. “It’s not going to be an economy based on home equity values, which in the past basically funded most purchases.”
• Occupation: After a brief period with an interim title, in October 2010 Bland was named president and CEO of The Golden 1 Credit Union. With more than 20 years experience in financial services, Bland has held management positions with Golden 1 for the past 16 years, most recently serving as CFO.
• Personal: Bland, age 44, and her husband, Scott, live in Carmichael with their two teenage children, Connor and Abbey.
• Beginnings: Having grown up in San Francisco, Bland could see the business district from her home. “I thought I wanted to be a legal secretary, so I could wear a suit and work downtown,” she says. She graduated from San Francisco State University, earned her CPA and landed a job with KPMG LLP.
• Economy: “Most indicators are looking positive in my eyes,” she says. “Consumer confidence is trending up, which is probably the most important economic driver.”
• Lunch: For lunch Bland ordered her favorite item at Scott’s Seafood Grill & Bar: grilled sole with lemon-chive rice pilaf, steamed vegetables and lemon garlic butter.
On a hot, sunny morning last fall, 69-year-old retiree Pamela Chappell of Citrus Heights hit rock bottom. She was scraping by on Social Security checks and a tiny pension while paying for medication to treat her lymphedema, a painful swelling in her legs. Then she got a letter from the IRS warning her that it was about to empty her savings account of $8,000 — every dollar she had — for back taxes.
On a morning in April, eight representatives of local banks and credit unions walked into the Sacramento Metro Chamber headquarters to discuss the region’s lousy credit situation.