Gabriel Reyes - Lifelong Learner
Gabriel Reyes has risen through the ranks in the financial services industry and has found his home with credit unions. He is a lifelong learner and is always looking for the next challenge or opportunity to learn from. We met Gabriel during the first ever Virtual CRASH hosted by the Cooperative Trust at Filene’s New Credit Union Experience Virtual Event! We were able to sit down with him to chat about his experience and what he plans to accomplish next.
First things first – tell us how you got your start in the credit union industry.
I started working in the credit union industry in 2005, after an 18-month stint with Wells Fargo where I was a Teller. Since 2005, I have worked for another credit union and two national banks. Basically, just taking it all in to figure out what I wanted to do within the financial industry. Having a well-rounded diverse background has allowed me to experience a lot in the industry and help the ever-changing needs of consumers. I have been working in the financial services industry for over 14 years and have held various roles, from Teller to Director of Retail Operations. Currently I am the Business Analytics Consultant at Travis Credit Union.
You were selected to be part of the first Virtual CRASH that Filene hosted – tell us about that and what you took away from it?
This was my first experience as a CRASHER at a Conference and my first Virtual Conference. It was a great experience, and fun to be a part of the event as a CRASHER because there were additional workshops, I had the opportunity to participate in. While the whole conference and CRASH sessions were great, I really enjoyed the “Member Experience and Services Excellence in Credit Unions” session with Dennis Campbell. I also enjoyed “Storytelling in a Business Setting”, with Kelsey Crouch, where we had the opportunity to come up with a story and go through the process of enhancing the highs and lows to draw in the audience. I believe effective “Storytelling” has become an important process of Data Analytics because it requires a special skill to deliver complex information in an easy to comprehend and impactful way to create urgency. Overall, the information and experience were invaluable! Being able to tell our story is impactful and helps us build our network as young professionals. For this reason, I was excited when Cultivate asked to interview me and talk about my own personal experiences. With everything moving to digital and virtual today it is important to be able to spread our knowledge and message to the masses, while taking in other professional’s experiences and stories as well. I will definitely be looking to be involved in more CRASHER and YP opportunities going forward.
We agree, we really enjoyed those sessions as well. Being a young professional, how do you suggest other YP’s get involved and stay engaged in their passions and the CU industry?
I think it is very important to find a credit union that has a culture that will help you experiment in different parts of the business to provide you with exposure. Perhaps even, look into an internship program. Oftentimes we as YP’s have no idea what career path we want to step into, and it is difficult to find out which part of the financial sector we can best utilize out skills unless we have exposure to different parts and aspects of the institution. Throughout my career I have always tried to take on new roles and learn about other aspects of the industry. We might not truly ever know where we fit in the industry but if we can take bits and pieces from other departments, we can then make more sound decisions in our day to day. It is that team approach, how can I make their life easier that matters.
You mentioned before that you took a brief break from the CU industry – what did you learn during that time away and what brought you back?
I stepped away from the credit union industry because of other career advancement opportunities. As you may know, part of the credit union industry includes tenured employees, so career advancement can be difficult. This is a struggle our industry faces, and we risk losing passionate and invested people in the movement. Losing motivated people is not something industries can consciously recover from. Our industry has these CRASHER opportunities to further motivate and connect us but if our credit unions aren’t giving us the opportunities then it falls flat and people leave.
Absolutely. You are currently obtaining your MBA, what part of education have you enjoyed the most?
The cohort that I am part of, the case study learning environment, networking, and collaboration are the parts I enjoy the most. I am enrolled in California State University at Sacramento in the MBA for Executives program. It is an accelerated experience and focuses on comprehensive knowledge, decision-making, and awareness rather than specialization in any one discipline like Finance or Accounting. It provides a great overview of the knowledge necessary to lead an organization or start a business.
I am a lifelong learner and enjoy learning new things. I actively read on new trends or topics that are affecting the financial services space and retail space in general. I also take courses online through Udemy or other platforms to learn new skills. I also enjoy keeping up with sports – whenever they may return. I enjoy attending NBA and NFL games. I am a passionate Los Angeles Lakers and Green Bay Packers fan, so hopefully those seasons will start up as expected so I can travel to watch some games!
We think a lot of people are anxiously awaiting the return of sports. What is next for you?
In the short-term, completion of my capstone and graduation in July are next for me with my MBA. After that, I will look for other programs to continue developing. One program I am interested in looking into is Filene’s i3 program. As for my career; I continually look for advancement and new challenges. I am particularly interested in Innovation and strategy, and my experience falls under the Retail umbrella. The introduction of innovation and strategy roles into the credit union culture has become necessary now more than ever, especially at senior and executive levels.
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 CultivateYP@gmail.com