Mark Kennedy, Summit Credit Union
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Mark Kennedy, chief lending officer, Summit Credit Union.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
Summit currently serves over 170,000 members. This number is growing every day and we need to be prepared to serve in a way that feels exceptional and is safe for our membership. Our members have a variety of borrowing needs as they journey through life, and we are committed to being here for them no matter the situation. I love the feedback from our members. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing, ‘That was so easy for me,’ ‘How did you get that done so fast,’ or ‘Because of you, my business is off to a great start.’ Those moments truly inspire me.
Equally as important, I love to hear feedback regarding the areas where we can improve or where there might be a better way. The members’ perspective is at the center of everything we/I work on. It is the lending team’s job to simplify the complicated world of borrowing for our members, whether it is regulation, product terms and benefits, complicated software systems, or a member’s anxiety with starting up a new business. Ensuring the best experience for our members given the expectations of technology advancements, speed of fulfillment, and risk management of outside threats such as fraud, represent both challenges and rewards for me.
Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
I love creativity, resourcefulness, and innovation. Frank Lloyd Wright is a great example of a person who used organic materials and the surroundings to help define the best solution for his clients. I truly appreciate the ability to see past the conventional, using the resources and landscape that are abundant and available. As a leader in today’s business world, it is critical to identify opportunities where that situation exists. Whether it is an efficiency play or simply doing what is right for our members, it is an expectation that we find the best solution given the situation. I wonder what Frank Lloyd Wright would have created if he was in the lending business?
What has been the high point of your career so far?
Getting the opportunity to lead the lending team at Summit as the chief lending officer. Prior to coming to Summit a little over two year ago, I had devoted 24 years of my life to the financial services industry leading both large and small teams. I have been extremely fortunate to work for some great organizations, leaders, and mentors. This opportunity allowed me to bring all of that experience together for the benefit of the communities we serve and the team I lead. It is a great feeling to serve in this way for an organization that is truly doing things for the right reasons.
Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Be patient and listen — you are a student for life. It is so easy to have all of the answers, but the real growth lies in being open minded and solving through negotiation, collaboration, and compromise. Most of my decisions early on were made to get to the finish line quickly rather than finding the optimal solution. The world is a complicated place, and more times than not a quick decision falls short of recognizing all of the intricacies and complexities of the situation.
What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
Dane County is a healthy and vibrant community with an abundance of bright minds, unique businesses, educational platforms, outstanding talent, and innovation in action. Residents tend to be involved and contribute to the greater good more than anywhere I have worked or lived. It is very apparent when walking around the Capitol on a Saturday morning for local fare and fresh-cut flowers, attending the numerous cooperative events throughout the year, and, of course, wandering down Regent Street on a Saturday afternoon in the fall as the Badger faithful crowd the streets.
Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I love to repurpose and reinvent things. I recently stopped at Deconstruction Inc., an architectural salvage shop in Madison, and purchased some vintage tin ceiling tile and created a focal wall leading to the upstairs in my home. I have also used reclaimed Wisconsin barn wood and an original sliding door from a local barn to build out a feature wall in my living room. If it is dirty, rusty, and interesting, I can find a use for it.
What are your guilty pleasures?
We have a vacation home in Savannah, Georgia, and my family LOVES to hunt for ghosts! It is a family affair for my wife and I, and our three children, ages 19, 21, and 13. We try to get there two times a year and we look forward to the midnights in the garden of good and evil. Taking pictures and recording sounds are only a sliver of the fun. We spend hours with our phones connected to a television monitor, searching for anything that looks or sounds like a paranormal event.
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