2019 Awards of Excellence - Gene Foley

Hall of Fame (Career Achievement)

2019 marks Gene Foley’s 40th year at Harvard University Employees Credit Union (HUECU), the last 25 years of which he has served as President & CEO. Throughout this impressive tenure, Gene has led the Credit Union to remarkable growth and success, while also being an influential voice and tireless advocate for the entire credit union movement.

Gene’s credit union journey began in 1979 when he was hired as a teller.  At that time his goal was simple: make money to pay for law school. His talent and commitment was immediately recognized however, as he was promoted twice during his first two years of service.

As HUECU grew, so did Gene’s role and responsibilities within the organization. He opted to set aside his law school plans in favor of getting an MBA from Babson College, which he completed in 1990. With his educational background and 15 years of exceptional service and performance, Gene earned the respect and confidence of the HUECU Board, who in 1994 selected him to succeed the retiring CEO.

When Gene started as President & CEO, HUECU was still a relatively small operation with assets of less than $90 million. In the years that followed, Gene expanded product offerings to include checking accounts and credit cards. The field of membership expanded to include students and alumni. HUECU deployed ATMs as well as expanded its branch network. He led the Credit Union through a successful core conversion, and as the digital revolution began to take hold, Gene established its first web presence for the organization and introduced online banking.

As HUECU grew, Gene expanded the service offerings to include student loans, which rapidly became a substantial business line. He won the bid to offer the Harvard Alumni affinity credit card and in an unprecedented deal, successfully negotiated the purchase of the existing portfolio from Barclay’s bank. Understanding the importance of e-commerce for Harvard University Employees Credit Union’s growth, Gene committed significant focus and resources to technology. Harvard University Employees Credit Union achieved end-to-end digital capabilities, allowing access for the sizeable national and international populations in the credit union’s field of membership.

Today, HUECU is nearly $800 million in assets, having grown nearly ten-fold in the 25 years under Gene’s leadership. Never one to rest on his laurels, Gene is marking his 40-year HUECU anniversary by taking the Credit Union through a simultaneous core and online banking conversion in November 2019. Though this is a massive and risky undertaking, Gene felt it was necessary in order to continue on the path of growth and success the organization has enjoyed for so many years.

Though the success of the credit union has been impressive when evaluating any financial metric, Gene has always been equally focused on how that success allows HUECU to give back to the community. As a champion of financial literacy, Gene has created dozens of educational programs for member and non-members alike. These programs have helped thousands of people in the HUECU community get out of debt, pay for school, buy their first home, and much more.

A Harvard Winter Session program that Gene created, in collaboration with students and professors, is the first ever financial literacy class offered at Harvard University. This three-day intensive course teaches Harvard undergraduates valuable skills for managing their financial lives and has been part of the curriculum for nearly a decade. It was one of the many reasons Gene was recognized as a “Credit Union Hero” by Banker and Tradesman in 2012.

In addition to all the accomplishments Gene has done at HUECU, he has also been an influential figure in the credit union industry, both locally and nationally. He has a long history of involvement, such as serving on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Credit Union League, was an active contributor and architect in the creation of CCUA, and has served on countless committees at the State level as well as at the national level with CUNA.  

His active involvement, solid reputation, and passion for the industry have frequently brought him to Washington D.C. to participate in political and lobbying efforts geared towards the betterment of the credit union movement and its members. He has even testified at the House Financial Services Committee as an expert witness on credit card data security. Senator Elizabeth Warren has publicly thanked Gene for teaching her about credit unions philosophy and products. 

Gene Foley exemplifies passion and dedication.  His commitment to HUECU and to the industry is unparalleled, and through his tireless efforts he has not only developed an outstanding organization, but has brought positive and meaningful changes to the credit union industry.