The credit union credo “people helping people” has been Roland (Ron) Draper’s own personal philosophy his whole life.
“I love helping people,” said Draper, a 30-year plus veteran of credit unions, most recently as CEO of Somerville Municipal Federal Credit Union. “Helping people – that’s the task at hand. It goes back to how I was brought up, and my blue-collar roots.”
The son of a police officer, Draper graduated from Boston College with a degree in business administration and marketing, and earned an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. He began his banking career at a large bank that no longer exists before moving to a small credit union for Raytheon employees in Waltham.
“It was quite refreshing to go to a smaller organization tied closer to the people and families they served,” Draper said.
He spent the next 15 years at Raytheon, and later at the Northern Massachusetts Telephone Workers Credit Union before taking his first credit union CEO position in Everett. Two years later, he was named president and CEO at Cambridge Portuguese Credit Union, where his hands on, take-charge approach helped turn around the struggling credit union. But in 2005, Draper left the credit union industry to fulfill a long unrealized dream of attending law school.
“I always wanted to be an attorney, even in high school,” he said. “But life happened, and it never worked out.”
Draper, who is also a licensed real estate broker and auctioneer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, ran foreclosure auctions during the day and attended law school at night. Three and a half years later, he graduated from the Massachusetts School of Law with a juris doctorate in real estate law and mediation, and at age 50 passed the bar exam on his first try.
“There are a lot of commonalities between law and finance,” Draper said. “Being an attorney and working at a credit union, you get to use your power and knowledge to help people and their families.”
After a five-year hiatus, he returned to the credit union business in 2010 as head of the struggling Somerville Municipal Federal Credit Union. His focus on improving member services, updating products and opening up membership helped turn the credit around.
He is a tireless advocate for small credit unions as a member of the Cooperative Credit Union Association’s board of directors, which represents some 200 credit unions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware. He is also a strong believer in bringing up the next generation of leaders.
“I love identifying talent, whether new or existing,” Draper said. “Anytime somebody mentions credit union in a resume, if I don’t have an opening, I send it on to someone who does. I feel I’m almost like a curator of credit unions, working to fill positions that will keep us going with our present generation and future generations.”
As Draper exemplifies, it all goes back to “people helping people.”