Just a few short months after her start at CU*Answers, CUSO Magazine sat down with Lender*VP’s new Vice President of Professional Services, Ashley Melder, to learn more about her, her time in Lender*VP, and how she and her team help their credit unions daily.
CUSO Mag: Thanks for speaking with us, Ashley! Introductions first, what’s your role at CU*Answers?
Ashley: Thank you for having me! My role at CU*Answers is Vice President of Professional Services—Lender*VP. In this position, I manage the Lender*VP team, the Collections department, and the Conversion Call Support team.
CUSO Mag: How have you enjoyed your first few months?
Ashley: These first six months have been incredible! I’ve been learning so much and have met so many great people. I absolutely love my job and the people I work with! CU*Answers is an amazing company with dedicated staff and a very supportive and involved leadership team. I wake up in the morning excited to come to work and I always look forward to the new opportunities that the day will bring. I love our company culture! It’s a great balance between working hard and getting things done, yet still being given a positive environment that allows us to enjoy our workdays. The cooperative spirit is one I am proud to be part of.
CUSO Mag: Have you ever worked at a cooperative before? If not, what has it been like stepping into the cooperative world?
Ashley: Yes, I have worked at First United Credit Union and Preferred Credit Union. I love being part of the cooperative life!
CUSO Mag: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to CU*Answers?
Ashley: I studied politics at Grand Valley State University, thinking I would be the first female president of the United States—I even told my teachers that since grade school. However, destiny stepped in, and shortly after graduating college, I was introduced to the world of credit unions. First United Credit Union was looking to add a Spanish-speaking loan officer to their staff. Having never been educated about the subject, I knew nothing about credit or what the loan officer job would entail. Before the interview, I was Googling what a loan officer was and what credit unions were.
I went in for the interview with all my Google research, customer service experience from my restaurant jobs, and my best foot forward like my dad always taught me. I remember leaving the interview and calling my now husband, telling him how badly I wanted the job and praying that by some miracle I would be selected—and I was! I really could not believe it but was ready to soak it all in and become one of the best loan officers I could be. First United Credit Union is where my introduction to CU*Answers happened, and Preferred Credit Union is where it later continued. I fell in love with lending, helping people, and the relationships I had built.
Fast forward to April 2022, I was sitting in a meeting as a branch manager of a local bank (yes, I had gone to the other side for a bit). The VP of Lending presented at the meeting and then asked the managers if we had any follow-up questions. I did not have questions, but I certainly had some recommendations. I started talking about the credit union software I was familiar with and the benefits it offered. I suggested that we should look at what else was out there for us to use, as I was well aware that there were indeed better options available. Truth be told, I just wanted to work with credit unions again.
Who would have thought that a month after that meeting I would be in my first interview at CU*Answers? Then a month after that I would be starting my first day at CU*Answers managing the lending team and contributing to the software I knew and loved! I think back to that meeting in April and smile as life has a funny way of bringing things full circle. My passion for lending and appreciation for their products is what led me to CU*Answers, and every day I am thankful for the opportunities that brought me here. It would not have been possible without Google from the start, hard work and dedication in between, but most of all my dad who was always my biggest fan and number one supporter through it all. Not a day goes by that I don’t wake up thankful for this opportunity to do something that I love.
CUSO Mag: Can you tell us more about what you and Lender*VP do for credit unions?
Ashley: Lender*VP is a team of experienced professionals with on-the-street lending experience and an intimate knowledge of the CU*BASE loan tools. Our goal is to help our clients be successful in all aspects of lending by offering a variety of professional services such as consulting, tune-ups, collections assistance, offering various delivery channels, loan form creation, custom training, third-party integrations, offering products to help credit unions stay competitive in today’s world, conversion support, and many other forms of client assistance. We love seeing loan departments thrive!
CUSO Mag: In what one area of lending do you think credit unions could improve?
Ashley: Continued staff education is a key factor for the success of any loan department. During times of high turnover, a busy loan season, or consistent company changes, sometimes education and training can fall to last priority or even be forgotten entirely. It’s important for managers to make sure their staff feels empowered by encouraging them to seek out educational resources and make sure they have the proper training to exceed in their role.
Make time for the team to learn new things, and create a comfortable space for your employees to ask for help or enhance their knowledge on a process they feel unsure about. Lending is an ever-changing world! Giving them the tools to be successful will not only provide a great experience for the staff but will also reflect in the well-rounded and excellent service provided to the members! I encourage all lending managers to reach out to Lender*VP and see what resources we have available to help their teams stay current and competitive in today’s world.
In my experience, though, I’m here to say that credit unions just simply do lending better!
CUSO Mag: What does a typical day look like for you and your team?
Ashley: Always coffee first! Coffee gets followed up by monitoring the Lender*VP inbox for any needs our clients have throughout the day. We have team meetings to review what projects are currently in the pipeline and address anything that may need immediate attention. We discuss client feedback regarding what improvements they think should be made to the loan suite and move those forward as necessary. Usually, there are some snacks in between as we love food here! (And maybe even a few internal pranks amongst the team every so often.)
We spend a lot of time researching and integrating new programs and products if we think they are a great fit for our clients to help them drive loan numbers or make some processes easier. Lender*VP enjoys training clients and assisting with troubleshooting, so you will often find us on Zoom calls to help in those areas. The Collections department and Conversion Call Support teams are holding down the fort by helping clients across the country with their collection efforts and assisting newly converted clients and their members with a variety of needs. There is so much collaboration that happens on a daily basis between my teams and other teams here at CU*Answers. Working together is key!
CUSO Mag: Wrapping it up with a softball, what are your favorite summer and winter activities?
Ashley: My favorite summer activity is grilling out and playing with my dogs or going to Traverse City to enjoy the sights and the beach. Traverse City has always been my and my husband’s go-to getaway in the summer. Having grown up in Mexico and being used to warmer weather, my favorite winter activity is staying inside and keeping warm by the fire with a nice cup of hot cocoa, some popcorn, pickles, a good movie, and my family by my side!
CUSO Mag: Thank you so much for joining us today, Ashley. It was great to get to know you and learn a bit more about how you and Lender*VP support credit unions!