Meet Robert! Robert is the Senior Leadership Advisor and Community Advocate for Spero, but he is better known for his gentle guidance and welcoming demeanor. Robert is an invaluable part of Team Spero and holds much wisdom that he has gained throughout his 38-year career in the financial industry. We had the opportunity to learn a little more about his journey and took away some great pieces of advice that you just might find helpful for your own journey! Keep reading to hear about how life on the road with family in tow led him to become President and CEO and how he ultimately ended up at Spero.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY
Robert’s professional story starts in 1985 when he graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Financial Management. Upon graduating from college, Robert went on to a few smaller jobs before being introduced to an opportunity to join The State Board of Financial Institutions as a Bank Examiner. In this role, Robert worked for the State of South Carolina examining state-chartered banks, savings and loans, credit unions, and funeral homes for safety and soundness. Here, Robert was exposed to every aspect of financial institutions and even had the opportunity to make connections with Senior Management and Directors of Financial Institutions across the state. Ultimately, Robert moved from Bank Examinations to Credit Union Examinations, where he was first introduced to the Credit Union world! These positions consisted of a lot of travel, and he even took along his wife and son, Merritt, on many trips. Robert shared, “Merritt grew up thinking everyone lived in a hotel and ate their meals in restaurants – as that is all he knew in his early years. Merritt took his first steps in the SPC Credit Union Board of Directors Room in Hartsville, South Carolina during one of my exams.” Robert then decided it was time to find a permanent home in a credit union.
From there, Robert was given the opportunity to join The Carolina Corporate Credit Union and shortly after made a move from Irmo, South Carolina to Anderson, South Carolina – joining Anderson Federal Credit Union as a Controller. In 1997, Robert became President of Anderson Federal Credit Union and held that title until the partnership with SC Telco Federal Credit Union in 2021, forming what is now Spero Financial! Robert transitioned over as Senior Vice President of Lending and Sales, and in February of 2023, moved into a new role of Senior Leadership Advisor and Community Advocate.
HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE DIFFERED FROM YOUR INITIAL EXPECTATIONS STARTING OUT 38 YEARS AGO?
Robert said he initially thought knowledge and “book smarts” were the most important characteristics in a career, but he eventually learned that building relationships are the most important. Robert shared, “Don’t get me wrong, you need to know the “ins and outs” of your job and have a strong work ethic, but it is the relationships we build that will sustain most through our careers, as well as life.” He continued by sharing the importance of taking the time to stop, listen, and be engaged with those that enter and impact our lives.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF ADVICE?
While there have been many pieces of advice over his 38-year career, Robert said that two in particular come to mind and complement each other! The first is, “If you can dream it, you can do it!” The second is, “As a leader/individual, if you are going to fail, fail based on your decisions and directions.”
Robert shared that to dream big, one must be prepared to fail along the way, and the ones who get back up after tasting failure will reach their dreams! He also shared that, as a leader, it’s important to do your due diligence but it is equally important to make sure that you are making the best decision you can make while being fair and firm.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR CURRENT POSITION? WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND COME TO WORK?
“The relationships with the people I work alongside every day, as well as the members and the communities we serve. I wake up in the morning with the purpose of serving the hearts of those I encounter daily. To be a great leader, one needs to be a better servant. I strive every day to meet that standard and to accomplish two things. First honor my past, meaning honoring those individuals/leaders that came before me with a heart of a servant, spirit of a warrior, and the mind of a champion. The legacy of individuals that came before us, who continued to build on an institution, which is credit unions that we all get to enjoy serving daily.
Secondly, leave a legacy, meaning leaving this place a little better than when I arrived for those that will come, so they will have opportunities to grow our credit union industry and prosper.
Currently, in my Anderson office I have pictures, alongside my family pictures, of current and past staff, former board members, as well as of members. These pictures remind me daily of my purpose and who I am serving and working for.”
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WOULD TELL YOUR 25-YEAR-OLD SELF IF YOU KNEW THEN WHAT YOU KNOW NOW?
“Live a memorable life, fully trusting God unconditionally with a mindset of being F.R.E.E... Once you are free of the burden of expectations, you will be able to enjoy the good and the bad along your journey. Live your life in such a way that if someone wrote a book about your journey, someone may want to read it.”
F – Focus – Focus on your vision, focus on being your best and things you can’t control.
R – Relax – Quiet the mind and quiet the body - slow down
E – Engage – How to engage in the present moment and how to engage in a routine.
E – Enjoy – Enjoy the moment/Enjoy the wins/Enjoy the journey