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An Interview With Todd Fortner, President & CEO of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

Todd Fortner, President & CEO of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union
Todd Fortner, President & CEO of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

What was your first job overall and what was your first credit union job? How did you get brought into the industry?

I sold shoes at Cain Sloan department store (now Dillard’s) in Nashville, TN during high school and college. It was one of the only departments that worked on commission and allowed me to make more than minimum wage! I began my professional career as a CPA with a regional accounting firm and did external auditing for community banks. After a few years of auditing, I moved on and obtained my first position as CFO for a credit union. The move to CFO was a logical step from my CPA career.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received early in your career?

Any strength taken to an extreme becomes a weakness.

Did you ever have a moment when everything just clicked and you felt like what you were doing was what you were meant to do? Or did you feel you were meant to do something else?

Life is what we make it. I have generally felt satisfied with my role no matter where my career path has taken me. There were times where I wanted more professional growth than a particular role allowed, but I’ve always maintained an optimism that allowed me to persevere in those roles until an opportunity for growth presented itself.

Can you give an inspirational story for how your credit union helped a member when a bank wouldn’t?

This happens regularly, so let me give you a funny story instead. We had a retired member wanting to buy a hearse and the bank would not finance it. It was an old vehicle but had low mileage. We asked him what he was buying it for and he stated that he was going to use it to go fishing. Since it was so long, all his fishing poles would fit in it perfectly! He was thrilled we were able to finance it for him and offered to take our CSR on a ride, which she declined.

What’s the one thing that, when a young professional that reads this, you want them to take away?

Be optimistic in everything you do. Believe in the mission of the credit union industry and bring joy to those around you with a positive attitude and gratitude for life. We impress upon our employees that we never know what someone else in life is going through and that sometimes people take their hardships out on us during our interactions. If we can provide a smile or caring ear during those times, we can lift someone’s spirit and accomplish amazing things.

The credit union industry, like any business in this day and age, faces new challenges and new opportunities. Is there something you wish that credit unions would get into that they are not already?

As an industry, I wish that we could collaboratively develop a new payments rail that would displace VISA and MasterCard and be a win for merchants, credit unions, and consumers.

How do credit unions reinvent themselves and stay relevant to a younger demographic when faced with so much competition from banks & other non-traditional forms of banking?

We must continue to make our institutions easier to do business with. To accomplish this we must stay on the front edge of technology, commit to having highly trained staff members (who provide great service!) and continually make process improvements.

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