By Martha Conway
Ron Belle, President & CEO
AmeriCU Financial Center located at Griffiss Technology Park, Rome
Belle presents Lisa Posselt, Consumer Loan Underwriter III, with an AmeriCU Service Award recognizing her 30th anniversary with the credit union.
Ron Belle, originally of Camillus, joined the AmeriCU team four years ago; as of last year and coinciding with AmeriCU’s 70th anniversary, he is now leading the team.
Belle graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University as well as earned executive management certifications from University of Wisconsin at Madison and Case Western Reserve University. After graduation, he entered the world of financial services before accepting a job at a Syracuse-area bank as a branch manager. From there, he worked his way up, securing increasingly responsible positions and managing greater numbers of people and teams.
During his career, Belle has moved five times living in four states as his career advanced; in 2017, he came home to central New York and AmeriCU. He’s been the president and chief executive officer there since May 2020.
“My wife is originally from Poughkeepsie, so this was a great homecoming opportunity for our family.”
His progress on the way up the financial institution ladder allowed Belle to observe and learn from several managers; two he considers mentors and speaks with regularly.
“At every level, you hone your management traits,” Belle said, adding that management skills evolve as you mature with experience and age.
To lead people through the realities of adapting to change, Belle said the most important functions of his job at AmeriCU are maintaining a strong foundational culture, having a well-designed strategy, and consistently communicating how change supports AmeriCU’s vision, mission and strategic plan.
“You have to focus on individuals,” he said. “You have to get to know the team and what drives them.”
Belle believes in a ‘shadow of the leader’ philosophy, with the understanding that people at every level in an organization can provide a positive influence that can affect sustainable change.
And one place AmeriCU’s nearly 350 teammates are focused on continuing to lead is in their respective communities. With 19 financial centers across nine counties, there are plenty of opportunities for the AmeriCU team to continue to engage with their communities through volunteerism and serving on boards for a variety of non-profits. AmeriCU is committed to providing comprehensive financial wellness, working with schools, colleges and businesses to provide financial resources on a variety of topics from home ownership to caregiving for aging parents, as well as learning about loans and building credit, all provided through in-person or live video seminars and online training programs.
“Across our central New York footprint, financial wellness education has grown and expanded, and participating schools and businesses have grown each year,” Belle said. “We often hear from teachers, students and businesses owners that the financial information we provided made a positive impact on people and families; that makes you really proud.”
AmeriCU’s growth has more than doubled in the past decade, and Belle said investing in technology is a necessity that has helped fuel that growth. Online features such as easier loan applications and better online banking services, attractive to new and long-tenured members, have been widely accepted and implemented.
Another reason for AmeriCU’s growth has been team. Belle said the company has expanded significantly, with a good mix of long-term, tenured professionals who have grown with the credit union, and new teammates who have brought new ideas and process changes from their experience at other organizations.
“We always talk about how valuable teamwork is,” Belle said. “It is possible to grow too fast and put too much pressure on our people to meet the added demands. As processes change, you can’t do things the same way or even use the same technology, so it’s crucial to communicate these changes to all team members and remind them how critical they are to our success.”
In addition, visionaries at the top of the organization must look at all facets of implementing new programs or services and weighing technologies against each other to see if the benefits and growth support the cost of the planned innovations. One of the biggest challenges facing credit unions right now is striking the right balance between banking entirely online using self-serve technology or the more traditional in-branch model.
“We will always strive to maintain that balance between technology and personal human interaction,” said Belle.
AmeriCU is reimagining its vision and mission statement, which Belle said will build upon its community-focused and community-based ideals. The organization is focused on increasing its community involvement and leveraging the expertise of its team members in the communities where they are located.
“AmeriCU’s name is synonymous with members’ prosperity and growth, and every day we make sure the breadth and depth of services dovetail with our vision and mission, as well as align with our core values,” Belle said. “Our visibility in the community aligns with our strategic plan.”
Belle said he is proud to have AmeriCU based in central New York, a local full-service financial institution that provides members services and advice, from a new member’s first account up to and including retirement and insurance needs.
Belle said some people are uncomfortable with the word ‘member’ versus ‘customer’ or ‘depositor’ at other financial institutions; simply stated, credit unions are non-profit cooperatives owned by members.
Membership is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in AmeriCU’s nine-county field of membership and their immediate family; anyone who works for a number of employer partners; and active or retired military and their immediate family.
“We’ve built a great brand with AmeriCU,” Belle said. “We’re working hard to ensure AmeriCU is the best financial institution, and along with our community support and involvement, we strive to be one of the most admired organizations out there.”
For more information on AmeriCU, visit AmeriCU.org or call 800.388.2000.