‘Most Admired CEO’ Praises Team for CU’s Success During COVID

Dave Roughton of SAFE CU was named “Most Admired CEO” this week by the Sacramento Business Journal.
Dave Roughton of SAFE CU was named “Most Admired CEO” this week by the Sacramento Business Journal.

SAFE CU’s Dave Roughton was named “Most Admired CEO” this week by the Sacramento Business Journal for his exemplary leadership displayed during the immense challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic — a remarkable characteristic portrayed by many credit union leaders over the past two years.

“I am humbled to be honored,” Roughton said on his LinkedIn account. “The past two years have been some of the most challenging in my career, as it has been for many business leaders working hard to ensure we exceed expectations in this ‘new normal.’ Out of that adversity comes opportunity for profound change and improved ways of doing business. Congratulations to all the CEOs honored this year.”

In issuing the honorable recognition (scroll down for entire article), the Sacramento Business Journal cited Roughton’s actions to ensure the credit union’s 245,000 members had access to financial products and services to help them weather the economic impacts of the pandemic and prioritize the health and wellbeing of SAFE’s 750 employees.

“Leading SAFE during such a challenging period took everything I learned in my 40-plus year career in the financial services industry,” Roughton said upon receiving the honor. “Fortunately, I have a strong team at SAFE who’s empowered to make decisions to move quickly to address urgent needs. My leadership style is to provide teams the flexibility and space they need to create the best solutions for our members and to support our employees working on the front lines and remotely.”

Roughton has embraced changes in the workplace by implementing a new flexible work plan that incorporates hybrid work arrangements, as well as finding smarter and better ways to serve members through technology.

He also credits SAFE’s corporate culture for its success over the past year.

“The pandemic taught us how to leverage our collaborative corporate culture to work smarter, more efficiently, with more flexibility, and to find innovative ways to continue to provide exceptional experiences to our members and employees,” Roughton said.

The long-time credit union leader also emphasized the importance of corporate citizenship and how a company can positively benefit the community it serves through philanthropy and volunteerism. In addition to providing more than $400,000 in grants and direct giving each year and thousands of hours of volunteer time, SAFE also supports regional economic growth through its 25-year naming rights sponsorship to the SAFE Credit Union Convention and Performing Arts District in downtown Sacramento.

Roughton will join other “Most Admired CEO” honorees during a black-tie awards ceremony in Sacramento in March. You can view the Sacramento Business Journal’s article here (or read below)!

‘Most Admired CEO Honoree: Dave Roughton of SAFE Credit Union’
(Taken from the Sacramento Business Journal on Jan. 16, 2022) — Beginning this week, we're introducing this year's Most Admired CEO honorees. Each CEO has been recognized for their skills as they've navigated challenges and inspired their employees over the past year. Our black-tie gala celebrating this year's honorees will be held on March 9. Tickets and more information are available here. See profiles of all 2022 honorees in our March 11 issue. 

Dave Roughton: President and Chief Executive Officer of SAFE Credit Union

Company overview: SAFE Credit Union provides banking and financial services for more than 245,000 Californians in 13 counties.

On leading through the pandemic: “The pandemic taught all of us at SAFE Credit Union how to work smarter, more efficiently, with more flexibility, and to find innovative ways to continue to provide exceptional experiences to our members while learning new ways to collaborate in a remote working environment and implementing safety standards in our branches.

Leading a credit union of more than 245,000 members and over 740 employees during such a transformative period took everything I learned in my 40+ year career as a leader in the financial services industry. Fortunately, I have a strong team at SAFE that's empowered to make decisions and move quickly to address urgent needs. My leadership style is to provide teams the authority and space they need to create the best solutions for our members and to support our employees whether they were working in branches or remotely.”

On flexibility: “The fluid nature of the pandemic makes it clear that leaders throughout the organization need to adopt a flexible mindset. We must be able to quickly pivot if needed to accommodate changing safety guidelines, economic conditions and employee needs.

I supported flexibility for our employees working remotely by changing management expectations from time spent in a chair to task accomplishment. Front-line staff quickly adopted shifting safety procedures.

Our employees appreciate that flexibility. In January 2022, SAFE created a new benefit, a Remote Work Plan, that allows for many of our back-office employees to work remotely part- or full-time if they and their managers choose.”

On innovation: "In times of transformation, successful companies will be those who provide teams the space and authority to create innovative solutions.

Early in the pandemic, SAFE's lending and IT teams supported our members' financial well-being by quickly creating self-service solutions for members to apply for emergency loans and payment relief. Our organizational development team provided training for managers on leading remote teams effectively.

Going forward, that creative, can-do mindset will fuel more innovative products and services for SAFE members as we complete a significant technology upgrade in 2Q 2022.”

On employee and community support: “Employees want to know that the work they do matters, that they are appreciated and respected. SAFE doubled down on its already strong workplace culture that supports work-life balance by implementing remote work policies and other processes to support employees.

I also led SAFE in expanding our corporate citizenship through additional donations, grants, and sponsorships. SAFE assisted nonprofits hit hard by the loss of volunteers and fund-raising events. SAFE supported small businesses through sponsoring a Shop Local campaign and a pandemic support hotline. SAFE directly helped more than 400 of our Business Banking members by securing Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Going forward, SAFE is committed to dedicating additional funds to philanthropic efforts and will continue to seek out effective ways to support those who live and work in the Greater Sacramento region.”

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