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Amanda Bardonner - Attract, Engage and Retain

Gaining experiences and building relationships along the way helped prepare Amanda Bardonner to take the next step in her career. Now taking her fundamental industry knowledge mixed with her work ethic and fearless approach to learning new things she has recently earned another promotion. Amanda talks about her experiences and her journey into the world of FinTech.

Tell me about your position at LendKey and how that came about.

I was recruited by LendKey for the Lender Marketing Manager position. At the time, my now husband and I were looking to relocate from Minnesota to Nashville. I had had a few interviews outside of the financial services industry but hadn’t found the right fit when I received a message on LinkedIn from LendKey’s Director of Talent Management.

LendKey had created a new position to help enhance the marketing support they provide their credit union and bank clients. It was clear after our initial discussion that this was a great opportunity to use my credit union marketing experience in a new and challenging way while still remaining in the industry that I’d grown to really enjoy.

LendKey partners with credit unions and banks to provide the technology, servicing, and support that credit unions and banks need for a comprehensive digital lending solution. Most notably, LendKey enables lenders to provide private student loan and student loan refinancing solutions for their members, helping them to attract, retain and improve the financial position of their Gen Z and Millennial borrowers.

The idea of joining a FinTech was exciting but what captivated me about LendKey was the true partnership approach with each of their lending partners. I believe for credit unions to be competitive in this ever-changing environment they need to be agile; partnerships with the right FinTech companies can help them compete and better serve their members in an efficient and cost-effective way.

Awesome, we know the journey all too well, as a couple of us here at CUltivate have made the move from credit union to financial partner. You touched a bit on it, but can you dig more into how your time in the credit union space helped prepare you for your current role.

My career with credit unions happened as a fluke, I never saw myself working in financial services. After I graduated college, I moved to my home state of Wisconsin to continue job searching and ended up taking a 3-month temporary position to help support the marketing team at Connexus Credit Union. Three months turned into 3.5 years and over that time the credit union grew from just under $400M in assets to $1.3B. At that time, our small marketing team managed all advertising, SEG and community development, internal communication, online banking and product development. I was so fortunate to have been exposed to so many different facets of the organization and have an executive team who supported and encouraged my professional development.

My role at TruStone Financial provided me the opportunity to test my skills in different areas as the credit union managed a mortgage CUSO, offered investment services and had a more robust branch network.

Ultimately, the vast experiences I had while working for two fundamentally different credit unions, prepared me to serve our clients at LendKey well. Credit union employees often wear multiple hats due to limited resources. I really took full advantage of the opportunity to learn from colleagues across the organization and stepped-up whenever I could to take on projects that exposed me to more and stretched my skill set. For me, jumping in and figuring out as I went was the best way to learn and I definitely encourage other young professionals to do the same – be hungry and volunteer for everything you can!

As Lender Marketing Manager, my role is to build a collaborative partnership with our clients and to help them develop strategies to market their products, reach their organizational goals and objectives and serve their members. My foundational knowledge of the credit union system allows me to speak the same language of my clients and come from a place of mutual understanding. Each institution is different but asking the right questions to understand their needs, challenges and goals helps me take a customized approach to each relationship.

After almost two years in this role, I was recently promoted to Account Manager where I’ll have the opportunity to refine a new skill set while still maintaining the relationships I’ve built with our partners.

That is great insight, the more you learn, the more prepared you are. Any struggles or adjustments you had to make along the way?

LendKey’s offices are in New York and Ohio so working from home in Nashville was the biggest adjustment. LendKey has a strong focus on community involvement and charitable giving, two of the best aspects of credit unions, so I’ve enjoyed engaging in different activities.

In terms of professional development, it looks a bit different since I’m not active in YP for a state credit union league anymore, but I do have a lot of opportunities within the organization to continue to learn and grow! LendKey also has an employee engagement committee that puts on challenges, events, game night and coordinates volunteer efforts to promote comradery, growth and development. Serving on this committee as a remote employee helped me to build cross-departmental relationships and stay engaged from a distance.

Leaving YP programs is tough, it was hard for us to walkaway a bit as well, that is a big reason why we started CUltivate, and we get to connect more people this way. Talk about your involvement with YP development groups.

I was first exposed to the CRASH experience and credit union young professionals’ movement at the World Credit Union Conference in Denver, CO in 2015. Meeting other credit union professionals from across the globe only escalated my interest in the credit union movement. Though we spoke different languages we all faced very similar challenges.

In 2016 I had the opportunity to CRASH the CUNA GAC. Lobbying on the Hill is always an awesome experience, but GAC provided an amazing opportunity to closely network with industry leaders and visionaries. The special YP sessions are such a great mix of career development, networking and industry overview. You leave excited with a ton of ideas to bring back to your role at your institution and generally fired up about the collective credit union movement. The energy Jim Nussle brought to CUNA and the interest he takes in YPs is exactly what the industry needed. I hope his great example continues to convince credit union leaders who may be late adapters, that we need to attract, engage and retain young professionals to keep moving our industry forward.

Attract, Engage and Retain Young Professionals. In case anyone missed that, that is outstanding, do you have any advice for up and coming credit union professionals?

A mentor in college told me that we are our best advocate and encouraged me to always proactively ask for development opportunities. I recognize that not all credit unions have strong YP development programs like I was fortunate to have with my first credit union. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, own your development and actively identify areas where you have an opportunity to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what the Call Report is or how strategic decisions are made. Perhaps there’s even an opportunity for you to start a YP group at your credit union – do it and don’t look back! I also encourage everyone to join their state leagues YP group if they have one, this is an awesome way to network with other industry professionals, share best practices and brainstorm on solutions.

CUltivate is people helping people with our mission to spread the word, connect the people, and give an outlet to share your stories. Know someone in the industry we should interview? Drop us a line at


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