CEO Spotlight - Dakotaland Federal Credit Union

CEO Spotlight

Monday, May 22, 2017
Growing up in Salem, South Dakota, Dan Cumbee was as familiar with credit unions as he was with his family and school. His father was a member of First Dakota Federal Credit Union through his work at Northern States Power (NSP), and Dan was able to join as a family member when he was just in elementary school. Through that credit union, he opened his first savings account, his first share draft account, and financed his first car, his student loans, and a starter mobile home. This is Dan’s story.

“Credit unions are the only thing I know,” stated Cumbee as we started this interview. His first job in 1984, upon graduating from Dakota State College in Madison SD, was at First Dakota Federal Credit Union in Sioux Falls. Cumbee was the first full-time employee at the $1 million dollar, “almost full service” credit union, hired at $5.00 per hour, and no benefits. “They always told me it was the experience I was gaining that was valuable - looking back now, that experience was very valuable, as I learned all the basics and did every function of the credit union,” recalled Cumbee. He worked there for three years.

Then, with his work experience and his degrees in Business Administration and Data Processing, Dan was ready for a bigger challenge. On April 1st 1987, he began his career as the CEO of Dakotaland Federal Credit Union in Huron, South Dakota. Only his second job out of college, it has now been just over 30 years at the helm.

Dakotaland Federal Credit Union was established as Armour Employees FCU in 1935, charter number 167. Armour was a meat packing plant that processed hogs. In 1983, the plant was closed, and the credit union changed their charter from a single sponsor to a select employee group (SEG) credit union, and added many business groups to their field of membership (FOM). They successfully operated as a SEG credit union until the late 1990s, when the bankers sued AT&T FCU in North Carolina over credit union FOM, and ultimately won at the Supreme Court level. For the next nine months, the credit union was not able to add any new members - until HR 1151 passed. “We quickly became a community credit union when allowed, and will forever remember the helplessness of being limited and not being able to grow and bring in new members,” stated Cumbee. “I guess the bankers’ lawsuit success is the reason for our aggressiveness toward expanded FOMs.”

Expanding indeed. Dakotaland FCU currently claims a staff of 130 people working in 9 branches in 8 communities, serving 25 counties in Eastern South Dakota with assets of $310M. This is a far cry from their humble beginnings, and from when Cumbee took over as CEO. At that time, Dakotaland FCU had $6M in assets and 7 employees. In addition, the credit union was struggling as the original Armour Plant closed, reopened as Swift Independent six months later, closed once again, only to re-open as Dakota Pork. The unstable work conditions in the community created problems for the loan department.

“When I first started, our delinquency rate was nearly 14% and many of the delinquent loans were past 12 months delinquent.” (Cumbee jokes here about starting his career on April 1st - April Fools’ Day.) The credit union repossessed nearly 100 vehicles and held several auctions during his first few years. “I think I experienced almost every collection story you could encounter. It was quite an education, and I learned a lot about what not to do. I got to know several of our members very closely as I contacted them weekly. I was almost disappointed when they would finally get their loan current”, he jested.

In watching his members’ struggles and helping them through it, Cumbee has gained much personal satisfaction by being able to truly help. “I love when our members tell us how much they appreciate our services, and when they compliment our staff. He relayed one particular moment when, traveling to Minneapolis, he stopped at a Marshall, Minnesota C-Store. When the clerk saw his debit card, she remarked, “Hey, that’s my credit union too!” It was a proud moment for Cumbee when she added, “They are great - I especially like working with the Brookings office”.

Proud moments – there have been many for Dakotaland. Like being a two-time runner up for the CUNA National Community Credit Union of the Year Award. Or being the four-time winners of the South Dakota Growth and Progress Award. Employer of the Year from the Huron Professional and Business Women. Recipient of the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Business. Not to mention developing two CUSOs (a property and casualty insurance company and a bookkeeping, payroll processing and tax preparation company), being a “Top 10” auto and mortgage lender in the state, and being the sixth largest mortgage servicer in South Dakota.

Cumbee’s drive to help others has been demonstrated in other ways as well. He served in the South Dakota National Guard for eight years, in both the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. In the credit union industry, he has served as a board member for the South Dakota Credit Union League, including time as board chair, was a board member of the South Dakota Corporate FCU, served as president of the Central Chapter of Credit Unions, was a CUNA Mutual policy owners council representative for South Dakota, and a member of the SOS computer software review committee. In the greater community, he has served as a school board member and chairperson of Saint Martin School, a board member of the Community Development Fund of Greater Huron Development Corporation, and a board member of the Huron Chamber of Commerce. Cumbee is also a 1994 graduate of CUNA Management School.

While Dan says his biggest challenge and frustration is the onslaught of regulations in the last decade that limit our ability to serve our members, and the unfortunate consequence that our members lose out and have to pay the price for the sins of others, he is still happy, every single day, to be a credit union employee. “The best thing that has happened to me is the personal reflection that Dakotaland makes a difference in our members’ lives. Nearly 33,000 people count on us to provide needed financial services. It’s very rewarding to know we have helped thousands of people finance their home, and tens of thousands of people finance their vehicles. Working for credit unions has been absolutely the most rewarding career I could ever imagine! I have been truly blessed – I honestly feel sorry for the bankers,” he concluded.

On a personal note, Dan Cumbee married “the love of his life”, Angie (Czerny) in 2009. Many of you know her as Angie Cumbee – she is the former CEO of Rushmore Electric FCU in Rapid City, who took “the leap” and left a great job in the beautiful Black Hills, and moved to Huron to make her life with Dan. She is now the CEO of Huron CNW FCU, and according to Dan, “we both live and breathe credit unions on a daily basis.” Together, they have five adult kids - all married or with a significant other, and all with equally demanding careers, including: two eye doctors in Spearfish; an RN delivery flight nurse; a chiropractor in Canistota SD; a computer security professional and hotel accountant in New Jersey; two school teachers and debate coaches at Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls; and last but not least, a credit union loan officer/collector/MSR and handyman in Wolsey SD.

In their free time, the Cumbees enjoy relaxing in the Black Hills area, riding their Road King Harley Davidson, 4-wheelers, or bicycles. They also like to hike and golf, and travel when time permits.

Finally, we can’t let it go unmentioned that Dan was almost drawn into another career – but briefly. He made a short acting debut on the movie set of “Into the Wild”, a successful 2007 movie partly based in Carthage, SD. He was filmed in the background playing pool, but sadly, he didn’t make the final cut. However, he did get to hang out for several hours with some very famous people – including Vince Vaughn, Sean Penn, Robin Wright, and Emile Hirsch. He even got a check from Paramount Pictures – which of course, he promptly deposited into his account at Dakotaland Federal Credit Union.

Categories: 2017

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