After leading the Prince George’s Community Federal Credit Union from a limited membership among county government employees to a financial institution that now welcomes any Prince George’s resident, Cindy Prestandrea is stepping down.
Prestandrea, 59, has been CEO of the Bowie credit union since 1995 and has been a player in the changing industry for 26 years. She said she will retire for personal reasons on Dec. 31.
“It’s gotten to the level where I enjoy it, but it’s time to pass the baton,” she said.
The nonprofit credit union has grown to $150 million in assets from $30 million when Prestandrea took over as leader. It has 48 employees, more than 16,000 members and four locations in the county. The credit union has added eight to its workforce during the past year. Earlier, she worked for Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Va.
Among the industry’s most difficult challenges has been the regulatory change for credit card interchange — or swipe — fees that have made credit purchases more costly to process, Prestandrea said. Those higher costs have made it more difficult for credit unions to help their members as much as they would like, she said.
The industry also has become more competitive, as credit unions expand from target member areas into overlapping regions, she said. Although credit unions have refrained from “blatant” poaching on each other’s territory, that mindset may not last long.
Nationally, credit unions held $1 trillion in assets as of June 30, or 7 percent of the total market, according to the National Credit Union Administration of Alexandria, Va. Banks held $14 trillion, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. There are almost 7,000 credit unions.
For Prestandrea, her career has been more of a life than a job. She grew up in Prince George’s and lives in Upper Marlboro, and said it is not unusual for a credit union member to recognize her in the grocery store or vice versa.
‘She enjoys people’
“Cindy has always moved forward, always looked ahead into the future,” said Polly Quinn, the credit union’s vice president of marketing and business development. “Cindy is very intelligent and down-to-earth. She enjoys people.”
Quinn has worked under Prestandrea for more than 17 years, including during the credit union’s transition to a community credit union in 2006.
She said the shift was challenging because the credit union had to reassure the county government employees that they were still the credit union’s primary members. The credit union expanded to include people who live, work, worship or volunteer anywhere in the county.
“She’s really innovative and not one to see the credit union as with just one target audience,” said David Harrington, CEO of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce and a former county council chairman.
Credit unions serve an increasingly important role in the community because they fill the gaps when banks are struggling to lend, Harrington said.
The next challenge the credit union faced and continues to face is getting the community’s attention, which it does through community involvement.
Under Prestandrea’s lead, the credit union launched a savings program that provided guidance for members to reach a target savings goal in five years. This allowed the credit union to bolster its loan-to-share ratio, which credit unions try to keep at about 80 percent, Prestandrea said.
In 2000, the credit union also started a financial literacy program that included a nine-week program for female prison inmates four times a year and pizza nights to teach teenagers about credit cards and debit cards.
“We would fill our auditorium,” Prestandrea said.
She was equally enthused about the credit union’s participation in the CityDance Center at Strathmore, which taught middle school students how to budget for their own theatrical productions. The credit union participated for five years before pulling out of the program this year due to expenses.
Prestandrea referred to the credit union’s time with the program as the “icing on the cake” of its financial literacy work.
The credit union also started making business loans three years ago, lending about $7 million annually.
“If you see that one member or that one business that you’ve really helped, that’s why you do it,” she said.
The credit union has chosen a successor, but it has not officially named him, Prestandrea said. She did say the new CEO comes from the northern part of the state and has been in the industry since 1994.
“I’m sure he’ll embrace this community as much as I do,” she said.