Credit Union Appoints New Chief Retail Officer to Lead Innovative Strategies

Desert Financial Credit Union

Laura Wallace has been appointed Chief Retail Officer (CRO) at Desert Financial Credit Union, an iconic name in the Valley with a recently minted statewide charter.

A credit union veteran, Wallace rose up the ranks, investing her career at Alliant Credit Union in Chicago, Illinois, for three decades. Alliant is a national, award-winning credit union with more than 600,000 members.

Credit unions are different from traditional banks and are not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives that invest in local communities and extend financial tools and education to the underserved.

In her new role as Senior Vice President, Chief Retail Officer, Wallace will lead sales and services in Desert Financial’s retail branch network, now 47 strong with a new branch opening in Prescott Valley in September 2021.

“We’re thrilled Laura has joined our team at this exact moment, especially,” said Cathy Graham, executive vice president at Desert Financial. “She brings a wealth of experience across many lines of business but improving the member experience is her real passion.”

Wallace’s mission includes aligning processes and technology to empower the delivery of consistent, superior member service.

Desert Financial delivers a variety of innovative digital and contactless options alongside personalized services in locations across the Valley.

“As technology continues to advance, our members expect a consistent experience across all channels and simple tools to make their lives easier,” Wallace says. “It’s critical we align to these expectations by executing on our ‘Call, Click or Come In’ and ‘Phygital’ strategies. In other words, how do we combine in-branch and digital services effectively so our awesome team can focus on building relationships and tackling more complex situations?”

It’s a tall order, but Wallace is up to the challenge as the financial services industry evolves to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Wallace says Desert Financial’s robust corporate philanthropy also inspired her to migrate west to join the growing team. In 2020, the company gave back more than $3 million to support dozens of local nonprofits’ Covid-19 relief efforts.

“I love the credit union movement as it really is about the membership — how to make their lives better through community involvement and giveback, better pricing, lower fees, financial guidance and education, etc.,” Wallace says.

The credit union movement boasts a robust number of female executives, with 51% representation of CEOs in the industry, a decided contrast against traditional banks. Wallace describes her leadership style as approachable, supportive and collaborative. She actively invites ideas from all areas of the organization and embraces change, and feels right at home in Desert Financial’s open, supportive culture.

Celebrating more than 80 years in years in Arizona, Desert Financial is the state’s largest local credit union with $7 billion in assets, 350,000+ members and 47 branches. Membership eligibility is open across Arizona with contactless solutions via eBranch, making it easy to call, click or come in. As a not-for-profit cooperative, Desert Financial takes pride in sharing success. In 2020, members received $14 million in dividends via the Member Giveback Bonus, and Desert Financial gave more than $5 million in COVID-19 relief plus donations, scholarships and random acts of kindness to our members, community and team.

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