After serving as acting head for nine months, Mary Madden was named the CEO of the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union in May 2002. At the time, she was one of just four women nationwide in charge of a credit union with a balance sheet of more than a billion dollars ($1.4 billion, to be exact). “Fortunately, those ranks have expanded, which is impressive,” says Madden now. “Women have come a long, long way.”
But if she smashed through a banking glass ceiling, it was not at all a conscious act. “I don’t really look at things from a male-female perspective,” she says. “I was afforded the same opportunities as my brothers. I’ve always believed gender doesn’t matter; it’s what you bring to the table — the talent and the dedication.”
Her rapid rise to the top demonstrates both her expertise and her tenacity. After getting her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, Madden spent several years working in advertising and marketing. She earned an MBA from the University of Massachusetts in 1994, and soon landed at the Digital Federal Credit Union. She joined as a marketing specialist but worked her way up the ladder to become VP of operations. After eight years, she joined the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, a much larger company that afforded better workplace opportunities. She frequently turned down other offers, and eventually found herself in the corner office at HVFCU. “It was a change, going from focusing on day-to-day operations to more strategic and visionary work,” she admits.
Not one to be daunted by such an overwhelming task, Madden got right to work revamping the entire infrastructure of the credit union. This included renovating the bank’s headquarters and branches, updating their computer system, and changing out all the ATMs for better ones. And those efforts have certainly paid off; HVFCU has 250,000 members, as compared to 121,000 when Madden took over the position. And that billion-dollar balance sheet? It’s now $3.7 billion.
Even in the male-dominated banking industry, Madden’s capabilities were such that her gender was never an issue. “At conferences I was oftentimes the sole woman,” she says. “They were nice to me, and I never really felt ignored or ostracized because I was a woman. My opinions and comments were always well-received and listened to. If I ever had to prove myself, I never did feel it.”