COO found belonging by serving community financial needs

Chad Forkenbrock’s leadership journey with Arizona Financial Credit Union.

Phoenix, AZ (STN) – When Chad Forkenbrock was 4 years old his father moved their family from Iowa to Arizona to start a typewriter business. Forkenbrock’s dad wanted his family to establish roots in the Phoenix suburb, so he instilled a sense of community and volunteerism from the moment they arrived.

Growing up, Forkenbrock spent a lot of time with his dad, watching him network their community and grow their family business. When Forkenbrock was in high school, his father was diagnosed with melanoma. This propelled him into the workforce earlier than anticipated, starting his journey with Arizona Financial Credit Union.

Initially, he did not plan to stay there long-term, but he quickly connected with the culture and found meaning in serving the community’s financial needs. Since then, he has held various leadership roles with the bank. Today, Forkenbrock is chief operations officer where he supports all of the teams necessary to the daily functions of the bank.

Web-exclusive, extended interview below.


Where are you originally from, and what was your childhood like?

Chad Forkenbrock:

I was born in Iowa. My family left Iowa when I was four years old. We drove to Mesa, Arizona, where my dad started a typewriter business. As technology evolved, the company transitioned from typewriters to computer networking. 

My family was very involved with our community in Mesa. We spent a lot of weekends volunteering with various community organizations like the Mesa HoHoKams and the Mesa JC. A lot of the volunteering our family did in the community was so my dad could network and find contacts for the typewriter business, and as a result, I spent a lot of time with him at his company when I was younger.

I went to Mesa High School where I participated in various after-school activities and sports. During my senior year of high school, my family was struck with the news that my dad was diagnosed with melanoma. He was given six months to live. For me, it was a transitional moment, everything he had built for our family seemed like it was going to go away at a moment’s notice. It was challenging for our family. We had to pivot. 

My mom went from working with my dad at our family business to working multiple jobs. She showed our family what it meant to be tough and resilient during some tough times for our family. 

Dad lived every day with a positive attitude, even after his melanoma diagnosis. He lived for 8 years after doctors gave him 6 months to live. He was the type of person who brought people together, he always encouraged us to stick together. Those fundamental family values shaped the person I am today. I have two children: my daughter is 10, and my son is 6. They’re both very different. She’s artsy, he’s very into sports. I spend a lot of weekends testing my patience coaching his flag football team. I have learned a lot about myself throughout the process. Getting those kids on the same page takes a lot of resolve.

Because of my dad’s illness, I started working sooner than I anticipated. I went to school at Mesa Community College and started working at the credit union as a means to an end. Working for the bank was not in my long-term plans, but I fell in love with the community, my colleagues, and serving people in financial services. 

When I became a full-time employee at Arizona Financial Credit Union, I found more opportunities for advancement. After navigating the challenges of the Great Recession, I had the opportunity to lead all branch locations. Eventually, the bank needed someone to lead our lending space developing a program to serve our clients more effectively. One of my mentors, Jason Paprocki, pushed me to take the role. I chased the position and successfully transitioned from leading our branches to leading our lending services.

When our VP of risk retired, there was a gap to fill in leadership at the bank. I saw it as a chance to step into the role of Chief Risk Officer, overseeing various teams like cards, collections, payments, the Bank Securities Act, and anti-money laundering. All aimed at keeping our institution secure. 

Then, with the bank’s CEO transition in October 2022, it felt like the natural progression of my career was to move into my current position as Chief Operating Officer. Now, I oversee retail teams, call centers, branches, all risk-related areas, operations, and the credit administration team. It has been quite a journey, and I am thrilled to support these groups.


Where did you go when you were looking for advice on how to lead different work groups?


I learned more about leadership from those I serve than from any of my previous bosses. It involves being attuned to their needs and supporting them. I’ve been fortunate to have had some incredible mentors: our former CEO Ron Westad, Jason Paprocki, Juan Ruiz, and our current CEO, Amy Hysell. They have all played a role in shaping me as a leader. Ultimately, understanding people is crucial. 

We all face obstacles. Having trusted advisors, both those I work with and my mentors, has provided me with the foundation to understand my goals and how I present myself. It has not always been smooth sailing. There have been times when our goals did not align. I learned the importance of finding common ground and working together toward success, rather than trying to push initiatives forward on my own.


Why is community service so important to the goals of Arizona Financial Credit Union as a banking institution serving the Arizona community?


Being involved in nonprofits from a young age made serving my community a part of who I am, so I am always going to be active within my neighborhood. One aspect I love about the credit union is our commitment to doing the right thing for the right reasons. We find where we can leverage our strengths and values, to find partnerships that align with our organization and carry our communities forward.


Why is building partnerships and creating lasting collaborations crucial for the work you do?


As a nonprofit financial cooperative, our focus is ensuring that we’re not just conducting transactions, but also fostering mutually beneficial relationships. We are committed to reinvesting wherever possible to bring value to the community and clients we serve. I’m genuinely interested in hearing about your needs and exploring how we can support you. If there are instances where we can’t assist, I believe in being transparent about why that might be the case or why it might not be the right time. We need to invest in the communities we serve and demonstrate our commitment to them through the products we design.


How do you like to be approached by other community leaders or businesses when they want to collaborate with you and AZFCU?


I value email and phone calls, but I am a little old school; I prefer a face-to-face sit-down. I like to spend that time asking questions. I ask a lot of questions because I want to learn. I want to learn about you. I want to learn about your needs. I want to understand if there’s a way for us to work together that makes sense, and I want to know how we can move forward. I’ve worked in finance for a long time, and I have worked through all sorts of different scenarios. If there is anything I can do to help your organization reach its goals, I will do it, so long as it aligns with our mission as a financial institution. 


What advice would you give someone new to leading within their organization?


I encourage people to expand their reach. Networking is valuable because everyone has different thoughts and experiences. How do you bring your idea, and your concept to life? You need resources. Access to resources can come from networking and collaboration. Many of the best ideas never get launched because people don’t know where to start, or they don’t have a good support system in place.


What is your call to action for people or businesses that want to create change in their community but might need more resources to make their mission possible? Why should they reach out to Arizona Financial Credit Union?


The world is evolving around us. We have seen things change so much. What can get lost in all of that is the people behind the change. It is important to stay connected to your community. We have to invest in our communities so we can continue fostering change. Ultimately, we want to bring value to our members, to our prospective members, and the communities we serve.


What keeps you excited to do the work you are doing at AZFCU?


I am extremely proud of us as an organization. One of the things I appreciate about our organization is we always think about the impact our decisions have on our members, our prospective members, and the community we serve. Going forward, I am excited to expand our impact in the communities we serve as the bank expands to new areas around Arizona. We want to serve more people and we want to serve them better.

For more information on the products & services Arizona Financial Credit Union provides visit their website.

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