2019 Awards of Excellence - Joe Walsh

CEO of the Year

Joseph A. Walsh is the embodiment of the credit union movement’s founding principles coupled with the modern-day drive and passion to push the industry forward; modest in character, big in heart, and incredibly witty. He’s a leader with strong values and convictions who continually seeks opportunities that will allow him to serve.

If you walk around our offices, you’ll find under Joe’s direction we’ve all morphed into expert problem solvers. Joe leads by teaching and serving.

Some of us continue to be perplexed by the fact that he recalls every single partner, child, or friend we’ve ever introduced to him. Others immediately recognize his rare and down-to-earth charisma. Our success is his number one priority. We consider PEOPLE, a key tenant of our strategic plan, his biggest achievement. Joe’s consecration can be witnessed through his commitment to his employees, the community, and our industry.

This past year alone he took on leading the efforts of three of the biggest PEOPLE initiatives Direct has invested in to date; Direct University, Direct’s Career Development Program, and our Culture Crew. Our training room is now home to Direct University, a professional development program designed as an interactive classroom experience. Joe serves as Professor of Continuous Improvement at the university where he instinctively shines at making our seminars come to life.

The overall goal of Joe’s professional development model at Direct has one common goal: give everyone a seat at the table. To achieve this Joe proactively works bottom up. He’s empowered a group of associates, the Culture Crew, to craft what he has branded as “achievement-based-collaboration.” The team serves as an associate leadership team who represent the needs of each department.

Among his most prized and impressive accomplishments is the creation and implementation of Team Lean, a working group of Direct employees responsible for upkeeping and teaching Lean Enterprise principles. Our partnership with the Lean Enterprise Institute has been the driving force for Direct’s cultural change. Joe is crafting an environment where problems and failures are celebrated as Growth opportunities. In Joe’s own words, “Growth solves all problems, opportunities lead to Growth.” As a byproduct of Team Lean and the Direct’s cultural shift, Direct has been named the fastest-growing Credit Union in Massachusetts for three consecutive years.

Our “SmartStart Program” targets people who need to build credit in order: to afford an apartment, their first car, their first home, and a credit line to help with basic expenses like a tank of gas. That’s one of the ways Joe sees Direct securing the safety and soundness of the industry. It’s the message he repeatedly delivers to lawmakers in Massachusetts: When Credit Unions are allowed to grow, everyone benefits.

On September 13, 2018, local news reported that Merrimack Valley was a ‘War Zone.’ A gas explosion displaced 8,000 homes and killed one person. Joe gave his management team the urgent task of creating an assistance program. He sent an email out to his employees to ensure that no one inside the Direct family had been impacted. Then using Data Analytics, his team segmented all those in the area believed to have been affected and had the marketing team make contact. The policies implemented included credit line increases, emergency loans, and other loan deferment options.

Joe is the prodigy that the Credit Union Industry has got to keep. To us, Joe is the leader we get the unique privilege to learn from ‘every day.’ Although, he’s only been CEO for four years he’s served Direct’s members for over thirty years. We can’t imagine a Direct Federal without him or if we’re being candid, we don’t want to. Joe proves that when you dream large, work hard, and serve with simplicity, your legacy transforms the lives surrounding you.