A 20-year veteran at Pioneer Valley Credit Union, Debra Hayward has helped countless credit union members get a grip on their financial situations.
She began her financial career in 1971 as a bank teller, eventually rising to manager. She left banking for a desk job in another industry, but found that she missed working with people. She joined PVCU as a loan clerk, rising to loan officer and then vice president of lending.
Her tenure has resulted in a 99 percent loan to share ratio over the last two years – in other words, the credit union is now almost fully lent out. Stewarding the health of those loans is her primary focus.
Inside the credit union, Hayward leads her team to excellence through innovation, above-and-beyond service techniques and a focus on training. Between 2011 and 2012, four out of five lending department staff became certified financial life coaches and the fifth one is in the process of doing so.
She and her staff have also participated in The Money Conference, a volunteer workshop at Holyoke Community College, where attendees were able to sit one on one with the staff to discuss spending and savings practices, protecting assets from financial predators, and basic budget building pointers.
“What stands out about Debra is her commitment to the members,” said her nominator, Anabela Pereira Gardner,
PVCU’s president and CEO. “When faced with financial hardship, temporary challenges or long term savings goals our members know that they can turn to Debra for guidance and education.”
And guidance, she gives. When financially troubled members “walk into the office, you can see the stress. They don’t even know where to start, and some look like they’ve already given up,” Hayward said. The process becomes one of giving the member respect, so they can build self-confidence. Members’ biggest problem: “They don’t keep track of their money. Plastic is a big problem. It’s so convenient that they lose track of what they’re spending.” Even those with access to online banking don’t always take advantage of it, she said. It’s as if they don’t want to see what they know will be adverse news, she indicates.
She encourages members to try the time-tested method of using cash only, putting it in various envelopes for essential household expenses, and creating an emergency account that’s untouchable for everyday demands. She also educates on the difference between a need and a want. One of her most rewarding moments is when a member comes in to tell her that they’ve reached their financial goals.
PVCU’s Credit Builder Loan, designed for younger people and those trying to re establish credit, starts with a $1,000 “loan” that is deposited in an account and frozen. As the member makes monthly payments, the equivalent amount becomes available to them. The program helps to establish payment history and to create a positive credit bureau report, without any risk to the credit union.
Not limited to the good she can do to assist people with their financial well being, Debra is also active with local children’s cancer initiatives such as Katelyn’s Ride and The Children’s Miracle Network. She also volunteers for Westover Family Day at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee.