Theresa Tschumperlin (Submitted photo)

ST. CLOUD – One of St. Cloud Financial Credit Union’s top executives has been accepted into a prestigious national program focused on improving the credit union industry.

St. Cloud Financial's Chief Operating Officer Theresa Tschumperlin was selected to participate in Filene i3, an innovation leadership program hosted by the Filene Research Institute.

The two-year program will pair Tschumperlin with 23 other credit industry leaders from around the country to collaborate and solve issues facing the industry as a whole.

Tschumperlin began her finance career around 15 years ago after earning degrees in finance and accounting – and noticed immediately that she could make a positive impact in the lives of others.

“Finance is a large part of everybody’s life,” she said. “No matter who you are, the financial decisions that you make in your life are really important. I found out very quickly that I love to lead people. I love to help other people grow and learn, and that’s by and large why I find myself in the position I’m in now. I get to have an impact in so many different areas of the organization.”

Tschumperlin joined St. Cloud Financial about nine months ago after serving as the Chief Operating Officer of a Minnesota-based commercial bank.

“I love to talk about how to make things better,” Tschumperlin said. “So, coming to a new organization, it’s like being a kid and finding a new playground. You get to watch everything happen and figure out how you might be able to better things for the benefit of the member, the organization and the employees.”

The Filene Research Institute says i3 is an exclusive program designed to “produce credit union leaders who think forward and change lives by leading innovation initiatives at their credit unions that bring about new products, processes, and business models that strengthen credit unions and their members’ financial well-being.”

“We’re going to break into smaller groups within the big group and identify gaps we see within the industry,” Tschumperlin explained. “We have resources at our disposal we might not otherwise have to identify solutions for those gaps. We can look at the things that individual organizations feel like they have to live with or work around, and we can just face them head-on, imaginations wide open.”

Tschumperlin says she was drawn to the i3 program because it has a reputation for making an actual impact on the credit union industry.

“(The application materials) talked about how many successful companies have been created out of these projects,” she said. “And I thought, okay – now we’re talking about actual, tangible progress that’s contributed to the industry because of this program? I’m in.”

In Tschumperlin’s role with St. Cloud Financial, she’s tasked with creating and maintaining a business services division – and that’s a topic she plans to explore through the i3 program.

"There are so many things a small business owner has to worry about that are outside of the reason why they want to start a business in the first place,” Tschumperlin explained. “Where is that one solid, core base where they can go with any question at all? It’s overwhelming. Maybe there’s a small business owner who just wants to weld, or paint, and they want to get paid for it because they have to eat and pay their bills.”

So, we really want to be that trusted advocate and partner for whatever that small business might need,” she added.

Tschumperlin says she likes to lead by example – and allow the people around her to make their own decisions.

“I like to give people the opportunity to figure things out on their own,” she said. “A lot of times, people will come in here with a question and I’ll answer with a question. I don’t want to sway your opinion – I want you to be you, and run your department the way that reflects you, not me.”

“So, I really like to encourage people to bring their individuality with them.”

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