‘It Has Truly Been a Journey’: Fillingane Looks Back on 25 Years

Rita Fillingane, vice president of research and collaboration for the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, retired this week after 25 years in serving credit unions.
Rita Fillingane, vice president of research and collaboration for the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, retired this week after 25 years in serving credit unions.

With deep gratitude and recognition, the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues will bid farewell today to a longtime colleague in the industry who concludes 25 years in serving credit unions — Rita Fillingane, vice president of research and collaboration for the Leagues.

“I could not ask for a more rewarding time working on behalf of credit unions and their members,” Fillingane said. “I am humbled to be part of the credit union movement, helping credit unions serve their members over the years. For that, I am very grateful.”

Fillingane’s 25 years of credit union service started in the Leagues’ Research & Information (R & I) Department as an R & I consultant and included some painstaking regulatory periods, as well as great technological innovations in credit unions as they continue evolving to serve their members with innovative products and services. She also worked in the Leagues’ CU Development Department before returning to head up the R & I Department and then conclude her career as vice president of research and collaboration. Her time at the Leagues is just the latter-half of a broader 47 years within financial services.

Over the years, she’s been a part of several credit union groups and initiatives, including the Leagues’ Shapiro Group, CUNA Lending Council’s Executive Committee, and Inclusiv’s efforts on behalf of low-income credit unions and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) awareness. She is also a Western CUNA Management School (WCMS) graduate and has served as a WCMS Alumni board member.

League staff and industry professionals have expressed what an honor it’s been to work with Fillingane. Here, we ask her to paint a visual of her special time in credit unions and working with a group of individuals who endeavor to change credit union members’ lives every single day.

What’s been the most fulfilling aspect of working with leaders and professionals in credit unions, and why?
When I came to the League over 25 years ago, I had no real clue what credit unions were. I knew they were financial institutions, but I didn’t know the real heart and mission of credit unions — of “people helping people.” I had worked for a national bank for 19 years and as a national bank examiner for two years before starting my credit union journey. And it truly has been a journey. 

But what has made it stand out is my wonderful “League family,” and the wonderful people and many, many credit union friends I have made over these years. It has all been a fantastic learning opportunity, from answering questions on the Research & Information (R & I) hotline, to working with credit union compliance professionals, to helping our Shapiro Group smaller credit unions, to working with our Youth Involvement Network and financial education, to working with our low-income designated credit unions, to working with HR professionals on salary surveys, and working with Chapters and Chapter leaders — just to name a few. All these opportunities allowed me to meet so many wonderful and dedicated credit union professionals with one goal in mind: to help their members. My various roles over the years have helped with that goal, and this, along with those friendships, has been most fulfilling.

What are some themes you’ve seen evolve within the credit union system over the years that were interesting and exciting?
A few areas that have come front-and-center have been compliance, financial literacy, and serving low and moderate-income and underserved communities. These areas are quite different, yet each fits nicely with the other. 

I don’t know that anyone wakes up and says, “I want to be a credit union compliance officer.” It is certainly challenging. And for some of us, it’s fun to dive into these complex and ever-changing rules and regulations. Consumer compliance regulations are there to protect the consumer, the member.

The financial education that credit unions provide also helps to protect members by giving them the power to be in control of their finances. And within this area, reaching out and extending credit union services to low-and moderate income and underserved communities — and providing financial education alongside one-on-one member service — helps build relationships and trust.

These are just a few of the many areas that have evolved in credit unions, and I have been incredibly lucky to collaborate with credit unions on each of them.

How has discussion among credit union professionals within research, compliance, and collaboration changed, and why?
When I started in the Leagues’ Research and Information Department, compliance was not nearly the focus it has become. There were very few dedicated compliance officers. 

Today, as we know, governance, risk, and compliance has taken a front seat in credit unions and all financial institutions. And the League has been able to assist with that challenge by providing many resources and tools to help credit unions stay up to date and in compliance with changing rules and regulations. Credit unions recognize the importance of compliance and have given it the attention in their shops that it needs.

What are some parting thoughts as your 47-year career in the world of financial services culminates in 25 years at the Leagues?
As my tenure at the Leagues draws to a close, I want to say “thank you” so much to everyone for making these 25 years so gratifying. It has been great to work with my League family and so many of you over so many years. Thank you so much for all your support as we journeyed down the many miles of laws, regulations, compliance, and all kinds of other research, issues, discovery, and opportunities. It has truly been a journey.

And who knows, maybe our paths will cross again sometime in credit union land. In the meantime, best to all, stay safe, and keep up the good fight!

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