My Journey to Credit Union Leadership

Name: Jason Lee

Credit Union: REV Federal Credit Union ($1 billion, Summerville, S.C.)

Title: President/CEO

Number of years at current credit union: Four

Educational background: Bachelor of Science in finance from Texas Tech University and an Executive MBA from the University of Memphis.

Jason Lee, President and CEO of REV, is featured in Credit Union Times’ Q&A series titled “My Journey to Credit Union Leadership.” As the leader of REV, Jason has long shown a strong commitment to serving the membership and guiding the organization with integrity, vision, and an understanding of the financial needs of the local community. His leadership has played a pivotal role in guiding REV towards success, notably driving the rebranding of REV following his takeover in 2020.

For further insight into Jason’s journey to credit union leadership, read on below.

CU Times: What are your key responsibilities in your current role?

Lee: I support, author and lead the implementation of REV’s vision and strategic plan. I’m the champion of REV’s brand, spearheading initiatives focused on REV culture both internally and externally.

CU Times: What drew you to the credit union industry?

Lee: Truthfully, my career in the credit union space began by sheer coincidence. At the time, I applied to a job posting in the Houston Chronicle for a position at the Texas Credit Union Department. In my role as an examiner, I was able to explore the inner workings of credit unions and truly appreciate their mission of putting people over profit. From there I switched sides of the desk, and was truly hooked! The industry has allowed me to embrace my entrepreneurial spirit and innate desire to make a positive impact on people and in the community. I haven’t looked back since.

CU Times: What unique skills, experience and attributes do you bring to your role?

Lee: First and foremost, I would consider myself to be a visionary leader and strategist. As many credit unions struggle to remain relevant, I’m committed to ensuring that REV stays well ahead of the asset line of relativity. My style truly is a blend of creative and analytical. My passion toward building resilient communities has led me to promote my fundamental belief of “growth with purpose.” As all these elements come together, I wholeheartedly believe that a better community is a better REV.

CU Times: Which person (or people) do you credit the most for helping and supporting you along your career journey?

Lee: My success can really be attributed to a number of past leaders who’ve each taught me valuable lessons, both in what to do and what not to do in order to build a successful organization. I think back on these lessons often as I continue to propel REV forward.

One particular person who made a tremendous impact on me early on in life was my high school basketball coach. He preached about the importance of practicing with players that are better, faster and stronger. In doing so, it will constantly push you to get better. He’d follow it up by stating this should be applied in your professional life too. Back then, I didn’t fully understand the power of his wisdom. As a professional, I’ve found myself always attempting to surround myself with individuals more talented than me, and this expanded my knowledge and exposure.

CU Times: What are some of the biggest differences between working in your current executive level role and your previous, non-executive roles?

Lee: Fortunately, in my credit union career, I’ve always held an executive position. Each role has afforded me a deeper appreciation of credit unions and how even though we serve a similar mission, we’re each so uniquely different in how we operate. I’ve learned economies of scale matter, and protecting the brand and driving culture are imperative to success.

CU Times: What’s a challenge you faced when you first joined your executive team, and how did you overcome it?

Lee: As the incoming president/CEO, I did an assessment and realized that my biggest challenge was underestimating the amount of overhaul required to create a sustainable and successful organization. The credit union was faced with complacency and a lack of strategic direction. Culture and brand were not a top priority. So, an overhaul of people, processes and systems was required.

In order for REV to experience long-term success, I knew that I had to build a solid foundation. This led me to conclude that we needed a complete overhaul from top to bottom. I redeveloped the strategic path forward, which included the rebrand to REV, the introduction of the REVtech Roadmap, launching internal culture to include unveiling REV’s four internal pillars, and hiring for mindset over skillset to attract talented individuals that embodied what REV represents.

CU Times: How would you describe your current leadership style?

Lee: I’m a visionary leader with an entrepreneurial spirit. My style is collaborative, transparent and strategic. I’m always looking at the big picture to ensure REV remains relevant. As a leader, I’m a strong believer in surrounding yourself with team members who are experts in their respective fields. Collectively, we’re able to enhance critical thinking through all aspects of our operations and ensure REV doesn’t have blind spots.

CU Times: Do you approach your job any differently now compared to how you did pre-pandemic? If yes, how so?

Lee: No, not really. The pandemic pushed technology forward by speeding up the process of adoption and utilization. Through the REVtech Roadmap, we’ve placed a greater emphasis on improving the member experience and making REV’s products and services more accessible. It also enabled us to uncover and address friction points to improve daily operations and create efficiencies.

However, from a corporate social responsibility perspective, the pandemic led to REV launching its Employee & Community Engagement Team. This group of internal champions spearhead our impact in action to ensure that our mission of Growth with Purpose is at the forefront of everything we do. We launched our #UpTheGood foundation that’s committed to putting people over profit, and implemented corporate wide initiatives such as Volunteer Time Off, REV Day for Good and monthly charitable givebacks across the Carolinas to help the community-at-large.

CU Times: What’s next for you on your executive career journey? Do you have any specific career goals you’re working toward?

Lee: My primary focus is to ensure that REV’s path forward leads to long-term success. I want to help modernize and align cooperatives, and prove that economies of scale can build better financial institutions that create greater impact for members and the community-at-large. Looking ahead, I see REV growing into a multi-billion-dollar financial institution and having a bigger regional presence. Personally, I want to positively impact the career journey of those around me. I want to help support others achieve their goals and enable them to live their best #REVlife. Ultimately, as a career aspiration, I would like to create a REV lifestyle brand.

CU Times: What big-picture impact do you hope to make within your credit union, as well as for your members and community?

Lee: Our mission is Growth with Purpose, and I believe REV is making an impact daily. To remain relevant, REV needs to constantly be growing, and the “with purpose” means I want to create positive net economic impact, social impact and member impact. REV’s activities as a financial institution support billions of dollars in economic impact and thousands of jobs in the areas we serve, our corporate social responsibility and giving improves the well-being of thousands of people in the community, and our products and pricing enhances the financial lives of all members. So, ultimately, I hope to strengthen and multiply our impact over time.

CU Times: What career advice would you give your younger self?

Lee: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to never underestimate my ability to adapt to new environments. Accept that you can’t help everyone, and embrace that there is no perfection. Just the endless pursuit of it.

Chilingerian, N. (2023, November 29). My journey to credit union leadership: Jason Lee of Rev Federal Credit Union. © 2023 ALM Global, LLC. Re-published with permission.