Then & Now: Williams to pass torch, wrap up 32-year career at UARK Federal Credit Union

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 51 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the June 3 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Gina Williams plans to retire in the coming weeks after a 32-year career at UARK Federal Credit Union in Fayetteville. She was 18 when she started as a teller before working her way to president and CEO.

Williams, 50, has served as the top executive for over two decades. She’d worked her way to vice president before transitioning to her existing role in 2003.

“I’ve tried to stay humble,” she said. “My parents taught me that if you’re called to a position of leadership, you need to know that leading is not about power or exerting power. But it’s about serving others.”

She was interim president and CEO of UARK Federal Credit Union when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named her to the Forty Under 40 class in 2003. Later that year, she dropped the interim designation.

Over the past eight months, Williams has worked with her successor to ensure a smooth transition when she retires. Williams noted that she doesn’t have a set retirement date but expects to retire by the end of this summer. Executive vice president Ashlee McCue is set to succeed Williams when she retires.

The Crosses native has spent her entire career working at the Fayetteville credit union and has changed addresses over the years. In July 2016, the company opened an administrative office at 50 E. Van Asche Drive in Fayetteville. The credit union also has locations at 577 S. Hill Ave. in south Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

“When I took over as CEO, we were $36 million in assets,” she said. “And today, we are $82 million.”

Technology has changed as the credit union has grown over the past two decades. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit union’s members embraced technology when branches were closed.

“A big change that I have seen is how people use convenience services: our mobile app [and] our website,” Williams said. “We DocuSign our documents electronically. So, the need to walk into a brick-and-mortar branch has decreased over the years.”

The credit union has about 9,000 members, split between Northwest Arkansas and central Arkansas. Members have ownership in the credit union and elect its volunteer board of directors, a seven-member board to whom Williams reports. The credit union has 24 employees.

UARK Federal Credit Union’s unique aspects include “how we strive to know our members. We recognize them, call them by name when they come in, and we go out of our way to serve them to the best of our ability,” she said. “We refer to it as red-carpet member service … We’re different from banks in that we’re not-for-profit, and our membership base, they’re member-owners, not just customers.”

Asked about a career highlight, she said, “All of it.” Williams said she’s enjoyed working in asset liability management, leading and watching employees grow and helping members improve financially.

“That’s just fun,” she added. “It’s been fun from the beginning, and I will miss that as I retire. I love the people and love what I do. God is calling my life in a different direction, but it will still be hard to pass the torch when I have so much of myself invested in the company’s success and the people still there.”

Throughout her career, Williams has served on multiple boards and committees for the state credit union organization and earned multiple certifications from the Credit Union National Association.

In retirement, she looks “to create more amazing experiences for my daughters, like my parents did for me when I was growing up,” she said. “I want to travel more, fish more and help my husband in our ridiculously huge garden.” She also looks to take on more volunteer opportunities, including helping others who want to adopt children.

Williams and her husband, David, have three daughters – ages 5, 12 and 13. They reside in a log home along the White River in Crosses, an unincorporated community in southwestern Madison County. She enjoys camping, fishing, gardening and lying on the beach.