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Dover FCU CEO Rzewnicki to depart

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DOVER — Dover Federal Credit Union (DFCU) President and CEO Chaz Rzewnicki has been selected as the next head of Vibe Credit Union in Michigan, leaving the state’s second-largest credit union to fill its top job.

Dover Federal Credit Union President and CEO Chaz Rzewnicki | PHOTO COURTESY OF DFCU

Rzewnicki will take the position with the $1.2 billion-asset credit union on Sept. 1. He will succeed Vibe President and CEO Allan McMorris, who will retire at the end of this year. Rzewnicki and his wife, Crystal, are both native Michiganders, and the position will allow them to be closer to family.

“It was the right position at the right time, as my wife and I have been talking about being closer to family. We typically go back to Michigan four or five times a year. Every time, the night before we leave, our children start crying about leaving their grandmother and their cousins,” Rzewnicki told the Delaware Business Times. “I’ve always prioritized family over work. This was an incredible opportunity to continue doing the work I’m passionate about and be close to family.”

Donna Kiscaden, DFCU’s chief financial risk officer, will serve as interim CEO while the board conducts its search for CEO, according to a press release.

DFCU longtime board member and previous chair Jeannette Schuler described accepting Rzewicki’s resignation with “mixed emotions and [offering] very best wishes.”

“Under his leadership in extraordinary times for DFCU specifically and in the world overall, DFCU has not just survived, but thrived,” Schuler said in a press statement. “He has established a solid foundation and an exceptional team at DFCU which will continue to serve our members and community. I have no doubt Chaz will continue to make a positive impact in his professional journey and in progressing the credit union industry.”

Rzewnicki has served as the DFCU president and CEO since 2016, and worked at the institution since 2014. He is a veteran of the sector, working his way up from a co-op position at Research Federal Credit Union in Warren, Mich., when he was 19 years old.

“I never thought I’d be in this business, but it turned out to have an incredible overall philosophy of helping people. It’s a business that lets me hang a sign on my door that reads ‘It’s not about the income, it’s about the outcome.’ Banks have a different model, and I’ve found that the federal credit unions are focused more on helping people. That philosophy of doing business really trapped me,” he said.

He later became the assistant branch manager there, and was later recruited to work at PARDA FCU in the Great Lakes state. At PARDA, he served for 12 years and was promoted to director of operations in 2007. In 2014, recruiters worked with DFCU to entice Rzewnicki to take the vice president of member services position.

In 2016, he was named DFCU’s president and CEO at a time when the institution recorded a $6.3 million loss and discovered a data breach. But through what he described as servant leadership style — as well as slowly, but steadily, righting the issues like “checking things off a list” — the institution bounced back. In 2021, DFCU reported its most profitable year, with $649 million in assets.

But Rzewnicki used his time at the top job to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, starting major programs in 2019. Dover has a population that is roughly 42% Black, and he found it frustrating that many of the executives at DFCU “looked like him” rather than the city’s population.

“I don’t want to be surrounded by people who look like me. I want people who lived different experiences and look at things in a different way,” he said. “It frustrates me when other companies out there try and point to lower levels to say how diverse they are. You need that representation on all levels.”

When COVID-19 hit Delaware, he and the DFCU team watched women and minority-owned businesses struggle to secure Paycheck Protection Program loans. In response, the institution created an external financial equality task force to help find solutions. Around the same time, Rzewnicki turned to succession planning to open more doors for Black and other employees to reach executive status. A DEI committee was created and a DEI officer was appointed. 

At the end of 2020, the DFCU board of directors ultimately passed a resolution that requires the institution to take actions necessary to build a diverse and equitable workplace, with reports made every year. One by one, the DFCU reviewed internal systems for systemic bias, and worked to address them.

“This has to be actions that follow words, and I don’t want anything to come undone when I leave,” Rzewnicki said.

Connecting the DEI effort to community offerings, DFCU is looking at “second chance” checking accounts, designed to help people with checkered financial histories to rebuild their banking profile. It hasn’t been approved, but the institution is also working to become certified with the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, opening more possibilities to offer financial assistance at low rates.

“There’s systemic inequities that exist, and I’m not interested in the conversation that they don’t exist at this point. I do believe that credit unions are poised in a unique way to do something about this,” Rzewnicki said. “I believe that my life mission is to build people up to succeed. People ask me how I use my white privilege, and I always point to building people up. You haven’t truly lived life unless you’ve lived to help people.”

Established in 1958 at the Dover Air Force Base, DFCU now serves over 40,000 members and over 500 workplace partners through its eight locations in the state.

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