In his own words: Greater Nevada’s Wally Murray
Name/title: Wally Murray, President/Chief executive officer, Greater Nevada Credit Union and Greater Nevada Mortgage
Number of years in this job: 14
Years in this profession: 26
Education: Bachelor of science in business with a concentration in accounting, California State University-Sacramento
Last book read: “The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity” by Nancy Gibb and Michael Duffy
Favorite movie: It’s too close to call between “Big,” “Bull Durham” and “Groundhog Day”
What’s on your iPod: Lots of pop, country, rock and R&B from the 1950s to today — nearly 12,000 tracks in all and counting
Spouse, kids or pets: Dee Dee, my wife of 22 years; our two adult children, Tricia and Tony, and our 10-year-old grandson Mikey.
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Greater Nevada Credit Union and the duties of your position.
Wally Murray: Greater Nevada has served northern Nevadans for 65 years and provides a wide range of financial services to consumers and small businesses. The credit union was founded in 1949 by six State of Nevada employees in Carson City who simply wanted a place where they and their coworkers could save and get loans when they needed them. So, unlike other banking entities, we’ve always been a financial cooperative that is 100 percent member-owned and controlled. That means all 47,000 GNCU members are literally my bosses. So my job comes down to ensuring that we have the programs and people in place to help those members realize their goals and dreams today and trying to attract the right people to our companies to position them to do an even better job tomorrow.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Murray: It was strictly happenstance. I was several years into my career in the late 1980s without having worked in financial services, but I became aware of an opportunity at the credit union through an acquaintance who happened to be its executive vice president. He mentioned that they were trying to fill a supervisory role over accounting and data processing, which was a very good fit with my background in public accounting and a few other industries. The opportunity intrigued me and I was somewhat unchallenged with what I was doing at the time, so I decided to give it a shot. That was literally nearly half a lifetime ago and I have been with Greater Nevada ever since.
NNBW: What’s the most important thing you have learned in your career that helps you be successful in your role as president of GNCU?
Murray: It’s a mistake to think of financial services as being about money. Financial services are really all about people; money is only a tool, much like technology. Everyone has a story that’s unique to them, and we are most successful when we focus on the individual person and their situation. So the credit union mantra of “People helping people” is as appropriate today as it was when it was established decades ago.
NNBW: What do you like most about working in the credit union industry?
Murray: I love the sense of cooperation and collaboration that is the backbone of our movement and which has resulted in some tremendous innovations that truly benefit consumers in big ways. For example, thanks to the cooperation of thousands of credit unions, GNCU’s members have access to a nationwide, surcharge-free network of over 5,000 branches, 2,000 self-service kiosks and 30,000 ATMs. Those types of things only happen when leaders of different organizations are motivated from within to come together for a greater good.
NNBW: What’s the most challenging or difficult aspect of your job?
Murray: We need to serve as many people as we can, as well as we can, and to their greatest economic benefit while also generating enough of a bottom line to ensure others in the future have that same opportunity to take advantage of what Greater Nevada has to offer. That means we have to balance the leadings of our hearts with the knowledge in our heads, which can often be a very big challenge indeed!
NNBW: Have any advice for someone who wants to enter your profession?
Murray: Don’t treat it as just a way to earn a paycheck; that’s not fair to the people you work with, those you work for, those you serve or yourself. Also, it’s a multifaceted industry, so be in a state of continuous learning. On the other hand, don’t be in such a hurry to move upward or onward that you miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the people you are able to work with or those you are able to help.
NNBW: What do you consider to be your biggest professional accomplishment?
Murray: Working with roughly 150 tremendously dedicated and talented people, including an incredible volunteer board of directors, to successfully lead GNCU and GNM through the roughest economic period of the last several generations while simultaneously still being able to help people who were among the most devastated by those circumstances. Although the pressures were sometimes daunting and we could never be quite sure if tomorrow would deliver another economic shock, we stuck to our core values, adapted as necessary and delivered on our promise to ensure that Greater Nevada remained a solid, stable institution that people can continue to rely upon in the years to come.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Murray: A dishwasher in a small, family-owned Italian restaurant.
NNBW: If you could do anything, what would be your dream job, and why aren’t you working it?
Murray: I’m not doing it because Michael Jackson had a better voice than me and learned to do the moonwalk first. Just kidding. Actually, my life’s dreams are centered on much more than a job. But it would be pretty cool to be the inventor of the concoction or device that causes our national political leaders to work with one another across party lines, get rid of all the divisive vitriol and accomplish something meaningful for our nation and the world.
NNBW: What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? How do you spend your time away from work?
Murray: For the last 10 years it has been spending time with my grandson whenever I can. I also enjoy playing tennis, golfing with my wife and hanging out with her, listening to music, reading on my Kindle and dining out. In addition, I’m a bit of a word-game junkie.
NNBW: If you could live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
Murray: I think Frank Sinatra had it exactly right when he sang “Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention.”
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Murray: The next first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, after Willie McCovey.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Murray: For me, the decision about the time to retire is about so much more than just money. Right now I continue to be motivated and interested in what I do professionally, who I’m blessed to be able to do it with and what I am able to learn from it. Plus, I’ve noticed that once someone starts thinking about what they will do in the next phase of their life, whether it is retirement or something else, then they have probably mentally checked out of their current situation. That’s definitely not where I’m at today.
NNBW: What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Murray: As my lovely wife would surely attest, vacations are something that I am not very good at, to put it politely. So if I were forced to come up with something, maybe it would involve a trip to New York during tennis’ U.S. Open to attend a night session, then a round of golf at Bethpage Black, followed by catching a Broadway show, then a day at Yankee Stadium watching the Giants beat up on that dreaded interleague rival and topped off with a trip up to Cooperstown to tour the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Although I also understand that Tahiti can be lovely as well.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Murray: After nearly 30 years, I’m still not sure if I chose northern Nevada or it chose me. Whatever the case, I really enjoy the genuineness of this place. People are who they are, and the nature of our area allows them to be just that and doesn’t try to force them to be anything else. There’s plenty of room and opportunity for folks to spread their proverbial wings and define happiness on their own terms without needing to step on or over others to get there.
Know someone you’d like to see spotlighted in this space? Contact reporter Rob Sabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 775-850-2146.
Tiffiany Howard, a UNLV professor and recent Congressional Black Caucus Foundation senior research fellow, is the lead author of the study aimed at identifying ways banks can help support and invest in Black entrepreneurs.