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Credit Union CEO keeps it personal

Community First’s Cathie Tierney named Post-Crescent Media’s CEO/executive of the Year

March 20, 2016

Appleton Post-Crescent

By Maureen Wallenfang

Careers are like marathons, and in any marathon, there’s a finish line.
For Cathie Tierney, however, that line has not yet been drawn.

After nearly 40 years at Community First Credit Union — the last 22 of them as its president and CEO — the Appleton native continues to run at a breakneck pace to keep her financial institution growing and moving forward.

During Tierney’s tenure as CEO, the credit union’s assets have risen from $156.5 million to more than $2.3 billion. Membership tripled to 123,000 in 13 northeastern Wisconsin counties and employment has more than doubled to 472.

CFCU is now the third largest credit union in the state, and had the highest net income ($38.1 million) of all credit unions in Wisconsin in 2015.

Also in 2015, Tierney announced CFCU will build a new $25 million headquarters in the Town of Menasha.

 Because of her track record and forward vision, Tierney was named Post-Crescent Media’s CEO/Executive of the Year by a panel of judges composed of business leaders and Post-Crescent executives.

“Cathie is an exceptional leader of the CFCU as well as in our community. She’s so well-deserving of the recognition,” said The Katapult Group executive Kathi Seifert in nominating Tierney for the honor. The two women know each other through board work in the community.

Tierney views her role as unique. She strives to preserve the personal feel of a local, small-town business even as the credit union grows.
“Our business more than anything is about relationships. We deal with people and their lives and their wellbeing, from a financial standpoint," she said. "My biggest concern is how do we stay small and very connected in the hearts and minds of our members and our employees."

Credit unions are member-based, not-for-profit financial organizations owned by their members.

The majority of CFCU's growth, she’s proud to say, is organic, with a small percentage through acquisition.

  “It’s not my intention to grow beyond our 50-mile radius. We’ve had many opportunities to move into bigger markets, to Madison and Milwaukee and even-out-of-state if we would choose, but we’ve always decided that our focus is going to be local,” Tierney said.

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