To Move Forward, We Must Look Back

To Move Forward, We Must Look Back


Apple’s Steve Jobs expressed his belief that one could never connect the dots by looking forward. To progress, one has to take the time to look back. As we prepare for a new year ahead, let’s take a moment to look back at Sierra’s nearly 87-year journey.

Built in 1936 to serve the people who built, wired, and maintained our community, Sierra has always had a core of loyal members. But by the time I stepped in as CEO, we’d fallen behind. Our committed team—mostly people without backgrounds in banking—had no intention of following the status quo of financial institutions, where the customer too often came second to profits and sales. To us, it seemed natural to simply focus on who we serve. From the very start, we knew our members personally, and they weren’t afraid to tell us what we did right—and wrong. We got our report cards every day.

One of the first things we did with Sierra was create a platinum credit card. In the 20 years since that card was created, we’ve never raised its rate on a single cardholder. We set an expectation that we would always answer the phone within the first three rings, and that we’d quickly acknowledge and serve anyone who came to our branches, not leave them waiting. We brought in digital banking and created products to meet the changing needs of our members through the years. We were honored to bring the Vegas and Phoenix branches into Sierra’s family during the Great Recession and to welcome the Nevada Alumni Association, the AGC, Saint Mary’s Health Network, and dozens of other dedicated groups to Sierra.

Those decades of commitment to members and the community are paying off today. Right now, as 2022 comes to a close, we are still growing at about twice the state and national average. We still answer the phone on the first three rings. We’ve been recognized in the community as a Best Employer finalist and a Silver and Blue award recipient, and in the industry as one of the safest credit unions in America, among other honors. I look at our Yelp and Google reviews, and they are the best that any local bank or credit union has. We’re so proud of—and thankful for—that member response, but we don’t get stuck on self-congratulations. We use it as fuel to drive forward.

Other seasoned bankers and credit union people said we didn’t “get it.” We do. We get that our members are everything to the communities we love, and we must do right by them. We’re proud of the history we have to look back on, and look forward to facing the opportunities a new year will bring.

Jim Hunting

President and CEO