May 17, 2011
According to nineteenth-century education reformer Horace Mann, “A human being is not attaining his full heights until he is educated.” Jeff Sermon’s Executive MPA degree has helped him reach high enough to become the sixth president of Utah Community Credit Union.
Although Sermon has acted as president of UCCU for eight years, he was only the sixth employee hired at UCCU in 1976. He worked as a loan officer while earning his undergraduate degree in communications from Brigham Young University. At first working for UCCU was only a part of Sermon’s short-term plans before becoming an attorney.
“I was on my way to law school, but I realized I really liked what credit unions were about—people helping people succeed. I decided to make this industry my career path and knew I could do it,” Sermon says.
To augment his ability to succeed in the credit union industry, Sermon enrolled in BYU’s Executive MPA program. He recalls the difficulties of being a full-time employee, student, husband, and father, but says he wouldn’t trade the valuable information he gained from the EMPA program for anything.
“It gave me a broader view of enterprise dynamics, from policy making to the ethics of an operation,” Sermon says. “Even in nonprofits you have to operate efficiently, the principles I learned made a big difference with strategic forecasting and planning.”
Since he earned his EMPA Sermon has moved up the corporate ladder at UCCU. Before becoming president, he also served as executive vice president and vice president of lending. Sermon’s education has helped him advance his career and it has also helped UCCU develop. When Sermon graduated from the EMPA program in 1985, UCCU had two branches with about one hundred employees—now they have eighteen branches with more than 320 employees serving more than 107,000 members in Utah, Wasatch, and Juab counties.
As president, Sermon leads the member-elected board to develop short- and long-term strategies for growth. Sermon says the financial world has changed immensely with the evolution of technology. He says UCCU is striving to stay on top of the tech trends because more than 40 percent of members do the majority of their banking online.
“Our mission at UCCU is to be the best credit union in our market and be our members’ first choice for financial services and information,” Sermon reports. “Our goal is to help them meet their financial dreams.”
Sermon believes education is key to help the next generation meet its financial goals. To do this UCCU has developed “Be Money Smart,” a program that teaches children how to reach new financial heights through proper money management.
“It’s better to learn about it in school than in the school of hard knocks,” Sermon quips. “We do a great job of teaching our kids how to make money, but we don’t do as good of a job teaching them how to manage money. If you can do both you’re doing well.”
Sermon and his wife, Debbie, have lived in American Fork, Utah, for thirty-four years. They have five children and nine grandchildren. Sermon is a musician and songwriter. He has released two CDs, Building Bridges to the Heart and One Step at a Time. Sermon also serves on the executive board for United Way and National Association of Federal Credit Unions.
Writer: Sarah Tomoser