Rising Star Award Winners

John Listak

2019 Award Winner

John Listak
Manager, Lending Systems
Alliant Credit Union
Chicago, IL




Jim Esner

2018 Award Winner

Jim Esner
Assistant VP of Indirect Lending
GTE Financial
Tampa, FL





2017 Award Winner

Gregory EdwardsGregory Edwards

Lending Manager
Market USA Federal Credit Union
Laurel, MD

Gregory Edwards, known as Gregg, helped to build and establish a Lending Department for Market USA FCU that has grown loans by over 43% since he came onboard in June of 2016. Through a combination of new strategies and unique approaches, he has managed consistent growth in loans with consumer loans generating a yield after charge-off of 6.30% and credit cards a yield after charge-off of 11.29%.

Gregg has worked diligently to relaunch an indirect lending program at the credit union that is centered on efficiency, accuracy, productivity, and active management. He also uses tools such as advanced data analytics and custom reporting to identify trends in the industry and stay ahead of the curve. Using these tools to identify unique markets with niche needs, Gregg and Market USA have been able to develop products and services that serve its existing members, but also usher in a new group of loyal members that helps to break from its traditional employer-based membership of the past.

Upon being hired, Gregg immediately stopped redundant and costly paper reports and focused on electronic, custom reporting to help establish underwriting benchmarks and productivity goals that had not been previously established.

Gregg identified the need for accuracy and consistency regarding loans, so he then helped to begin a shift from a decentralized lending structure to centralized, converting Loan Officers into Underwriters and assisting our COO in building a new Loan Origination System with a custom decisioning engine from the ground up. Loan volume has grown astronomically, but members have not seen any delay in the processing of their loans, instead being the beneficiaries of newly automated, instant decisions that allow for faster turnaround times.

Aside from successes with overall productivity and operational enhancements, Gregg has also worked to make Market USA a fun and exciting work environment for his colleagues. He established The Marketeers, a volunteer social committee that is focused on staff happiness and well-being. The Marketeers also help to motivate and recognize employees with staff recognition bulletin boards in the credit union, birthday parties, videogames in the conference room, and exercise challenges. Additionally, Gregg can always be counted on to offer help wherever he is needed, be it a menial task such as cleaning up a storage room or providing valuable, innovative ideas to solve a problem.

All in all, Gregg has been an invaluable asset to the Market USA team and credit union industry and we look forward to working with him for years to come.

2016 Award Winner

Stephanie ZulegerStephanie Zuleger

Vice President – Chief Lending Officer
Y-12 Federal Credit Union
Oak Ridge, TN

This award honors and recognizes up-and-coming talent in the ranks of credit union lending leadership. Zuleger was recognized for her achievements as the Chief Lending Officer at Y-12 Federal Credit Union. Over the last 18 months, she led changes to the credit union’s Loan products, both Mortgage and Consumer, that led to significant increases in both. These new loan volumes were certainly a benefit to the credit union and the additional members who were able to qualify for new loans with the credit union. Over the last 12 months, she worked with other Lending staff to completely rewrite ALL Lending Policies and Procedures. These changes have made it easier for the credit union’s internal staff and members to do loans through the credit union. Zuleger has also had a very positive impact on the culture of the credit union. She leads the "fun" team at Y-12. She helps to make sure staff are recognized appropriately – Y-12 maintains a strong and solid culture and that we don't forget that FUN is a part of all we do in life, work or personal. This cultural aspect has been very important as the credit union has seen explosive growth over the last 36 months. Zuleger recently worked with several other young credit union professionals and the Tennessee Credit Union League to start the Tennessee Credit Union young professionals group. This group was started from scratch by Zuleger and a few other young professionals with the help of the Tennessee Credit Union league. This group held their first conference in Knoxville earlier this year with over 75 young credit union professionals in attendance. This certainly benefited, and will continue to benefit more young credit union professionals as we move forward. Zuleger brings a very high level of energy and creativity to her role. She always maintains a positive attitude and looks for ways to make things happen, rather than ways to not do things. She is a passionate advocate of the credit union business model who based her recently completed Doctorate Thesis on Identifying Impediments to Succession Planning in Credit Unions. Her research included interviewing current credit union CEO's as part of the research and paper development process.