Featuring Anthony Hernandez, CEO of Defense Credit Union Council
Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography Courtesy of DCUC
They say that behind every great man there is a great woman, and the truth of that statement is something that Anthony Hernandez certainly seems to embrace. A retired USAF Colonel with 25 years of active duty service in his pocket, his current role as President and CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council is one he credits not solely to his own merits—numerous and compelling though they may be—but also to the connections afforded him by his wife’s career at DCUC. “My selection as CEO was the result of a very competitive process,” says 51 year-old Hernandez. “I competed against some very qualified finalists who are still serving in senior DoD positions. However, I believe that it was taking advantage of the abundance of opportunities provided by my wife’s career and her credit union industry connections that made all the difference. During the 16 years that she worked for DCUC, I was fortunate to attend several DCUC events as her ‘plus one,’” he explains.
“Instead of sleeping in or playing golf, I attended DCUC meetings and spent a great deal of time with DCUC’s member CEOs and their boards of directors. My wife also introduced me to the DCUC Board of Directors, and over the years I gained a deep understanding of DCUC’s mission. This is what made me want to join the organization. This also helped me articulate a clear vision during my CEO interview and led to the creation of our strategy for moving the organization forward. I strongly believe these touch points made all the difference in my selection over the other finalists,” he contends.
“I continue to treasure my wife’s work with DCUC, and it has taught me the importance of never discounting your spouse’s connections—ever!” he laughs.
Credit to those connections aside, it was the strength of his principles, his discipline, and his leadership skills that were the deciding factor in selecting him for such a highly authoritative position within the organization. And it could well be said that it was his career in the military that molded him into the man that he is today. “I learned humility, discipline, and how to plan and execute missions in addition to developing my leadership skills during my military career, and it took me out of my hometown and exposed me to a bigger world,” says the former New Mexico native. “When I think about where we were, where we have been, and where we are now, I am amazed and thankful for the experience gained along with all the memories.”
Where he is now is certainly impressive, especially when one considers the scope of what DCUC does. Created in 1963, it has since grown to include more than 25 million memberships and has been the primary liaison to the Department of Defense for more than 50 years. “As an association of defense credit unions, DCUC gives over 180 defense credit unions a single point of contact inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, allowing each defense credit union to positively impact the entire life cycle of military personnel,” Hernandez says. “From opening a first checking account to helping them buy a car and then a home, all the way through retirement, DCUC credit unions take care of military families from generation to generation, giving them access to easy and affordable credit while protecting them from predatory lending and bad financial practices.”
Important work, to be sure, but they also have a mission that goes even deeper. “DCUC is also a huge part of the military community, spanning 48 states and 20 countries worldwide. And as a non-profit trade association, DCUC and our member credit unions always give back to the communities in which we serve. In terms of helping our military and veterans, we recognize that military families face unique challenges; and DCUC member credit unions including those operating in Alexandria are experienced in helping to support their members with specialized programs. For example, our members guarantee pay during government shutdowns and make paying bills back home easy during deployments.”
For the men and women of the military and their families, the services and the initiatives of DCUC are invaluable—sometimes even life changing. Having such strong support from an organization that truly understands the challenges faced by veterans, active duty military personnel, and military families can make all the difference in some very tough situations, and the impact they make in the communities they serve is one of the very things that resonates so deeply with Hernandez. “We make a tremendous impact in the community because we take financial inclusion and diversity very seriously,” he says. “We work very hard to ensure that there is equal access to credit along with providing responsible financial education in our communities, and each of our member credit unions have the same drive and focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) initiatives.”
"We make a tremendous impact in the community because we take financial inclusion and diversity very seriously."
Influential though they might be, the strength of only one entity can only go so far, and it is by partnering with other organizations whose mission matches their own that they have been able to extend their reach even further and faster. “DCUC has formed many meaningful partnerships—among them the Association of Defense Communities, the Military Child Education Coalition, StreetShares, Hope for the Warriors, Home Base, Purple Heart Homes, Folds of Honor,” Hernandez says, naming but a few of the many charities and non-profits with whom DCUC actively works hand-in-hand. “Each of these organizations serve different elements in our local community as well as around the country. We also do what we can in response to requests from government officials. DCUC is currently helping to promote awareness to the tragedy of veteran and family suicides on behalf of the Veterans Administration and the White House. We also support Congressional initiatives on fair credit reporting, access to housing, and small business lending. Each of these help Alexandria—and other military communities around the country.”
With power such as his comes great responsibility, and that is something that Hernandez takes very seriously. And while some could perhaps become jaded by the challenges of working in such a high-ranking government related position, he takes those challenges with the heart of a true military man, making it his mission to serve his country and its brave men and women to the best of his ability in all that he does.
DCUC is the premier defense trade association representing the interests of defense credit unions serving the U.S. Armed Forces worldwide. For more information, please visit: www.dcuc.org.