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April Clobes: 2017 ATHENA Leadership Award Recipient

Monday, December 4, 2017  
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Like any good executive, April Clobes must keep a close eye on the metrics that gauge the success of her organization. The metrics she oversees as CEO at MSU Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) since 2015 are most impressive. MSUFCU has grown to one of the largest university-based credit unions in the country with an asset base exceeding $3.76 billion and more than 248,000 members worldwide. With 810 employees and adding between 150 and 200 annually, MSFCU is growing so rapidly that it just opened an 184,000-square-foot expansion at its headquarters campus in East Lansing.

As impressive as the metrics are for MSUFCU, what sets Clobes apart as a leader is her wholehearted commitment to building an environment that brings out the best in others, especially MSUFCU employees, other professional women and the Greater Lansing community. Her roles as a successful business and community leader, and her commitment to mentoring and developing others led to April’s selection as the 2017 ATHENA Leadership Award recipient by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

April Clobes meets personally with employees who have issues they wish to discuss and mentors women from young professionals to executives seeking to move up in the business world.

“April is a passionate leader who truly lives the mission of the credit union by helping members and employees achieve their goals and dreams,” said Bill Beekman, MSUFCU’s Chairman of the Board. “The fact that employees recognize her commitment to creating a positive environment in the workplace and community speaks volumes about her exceptional leadership.”

Clobes, who is well known for her exceptional work ethic is a self-described introvert who doesn’t seek recognition. Her initial thoughts upon learning she was selected for the ATHENA award were to thank those who nominated her.

“I was surprised and very humbled by the recognition from the community,” said Clobes. “I appreciate that several people I admire like Jack Davis, and Mark and Nancy Hollis thought enough of my work in the community to nominate me.”

Clobes is regarded by those with whom she works as a “nurturer of talent” who encourages the best from her employees and seeks to match their work responsibilities with their passions and abilities.

“If I have an opportunity to work on any new project, I try to pull together the people who will be excited to work on it and assign the parts of the project to people who can do them best,” said Clobes.

By creating an environment where people want to come to work, MSUFCU annually achieves some of the highest employee engagement scores in the nation. The company offers very robust benefits packages, including 401K plans with a two-to-one company match, 100 percent paid healthcare premiums, tuition reimbursement, competitive wages and regular salary increases even during down financial times.

Equally important. according to Clobes. is a commitment to nurturing the career path of each employee, including well developed training opportunities and internal promotions. Managers meet with employees every two weeks to review career progress and there are separate career and goal coaching programs.

“Employees are engaged because they know the management team is invested in their long-term success,” said Clobes.

A commitment to transparency and communication also enhance engagement at MSUFCU. Clobes will meet personally with any employee and is known to send hand-written notes thanking team members for their hard work. Clobes has a blog in which she answers questions from employees who want to understand why certain things have occurred within the organization. One employee recently praised Clobes for being thorough, transparent and for showing care and consideration in her answers.

“To me that is the best answer I can give as to why people like to work here,” said Clobes. “We really do work at creating an environment where people have access to ask those types of questions and give feedback.”

MSUFCU has grown so rapidly, that the company opened its second building on its main East Lansing campus, just eight years after the initial headquarters was opened.

One of the major reasons that Clobes says people like to work at MSUFCU (the company regularly receives more than 100 applications for every job posting), is the reputation the credit union has for being engaged in the community. Employees enjoy opportunities to serve as volunteers in any one of numerous community projects and boards.

“People want to work here because of our commitment to the community,” said Clobes. “People appreciate that we do a lot of volunteerism in the community. They see that we are philanthropic in our efforts to lift up other organizations.”

Clobes “walks the walk” when it comes to her personal involvement in the community and when she works with an organization, she tends to emerge in leadership positions. She will serve as 2018 Chair of the Board of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership and Chair of the Wharton Center Advisory Board. She also serves on the boards of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, MSU College of Music National Leadership Council, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum International Advisory Board, MSU College of Business Alumni Board and Oakland University’s Campaign Steering Committee.

“It is important to demonstrate leadership both in my organization and in the community,” said Clobes. “There are never enough people to fulfill all the roles that are needed. We all have an obligation to help the community thrive and survive.”

“It is what April does beyond the boundaries of her role with MSUFCU that is so impressive,” said MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis. “Without fanfare, she has an impact on so many people and thrives on watching the success of others. It does not matter if it is at the arts, sporting events, community fundraising activities or business engagement, April is always making a positive impact.”

Clobes is a role model for other aspiring professional women. She serves as a mentor to MSU students, often speaking to MSU classes and student groups. Clobes has mentored several women who are excelling in senior management roles at MSUFCU. She has found that young women, in particular, struggle with confidence. She encourages them to work at telling their story.

“Women in general need more guidance at getting comfortable promoting themselves,” said Clobes.

MSU Provost and past ATHENA recipient June Pierce Youatt offers high praise for April Clobes for her role in business and the community, especially for her work in supporting other women in the community.

“We have many impressive women in our community - women who are personally successful, who nurture others, who mentor the next generation. We have many caring women in our community - women who are personally giving, who care for their employees and those with whom they interact. We have many generous women in our community - women who give regularly of their time and resources, who lend their expertise and skills to the community organizations and educational institutions. There is no other woman in our community whose combination of success, caring and generosity makes them more deserving of the ATHENA Award,” said Youatt.

Many prestigious recognitions have been awarded to MSFCU during Clobes tenure as CEO. In 2016, MSUFCU was recognized as one of Fortune’s 50 Best Workplaces for New College Grads, as well as the #1 Top Workplace in the large employer category on the Detroit Free Press Top Workplaces list. In 2016 and 2017, MSUFCU was selected as one of the nation’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For®. MSUFCU was recognized as fifth in the nation for its financial education program by the National Youth Involvement Board and also received the Celebration of Regional Growth award from the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Among numerous awards MSUFCU has received was being named the number one employer in the large employer category on the 2016 Top Workplaces list by the Detroit Free Press.

When asked what gives her the greatest professional satisfaction, Clobes, not surprisingly responded: “Happy employees and happy members - that’s what we are here for. We are here to ensure that members have a great experience and we are here to ensure that employees have a great experience while doing that work.” 

Consistent growth, impressive metrics, shiny new buildings and prestigious awards don’t just happen. In April Clobes’ world, they are the result of a determined commitment to bring out the best in others, a culture that emphasizes the importance of serving and to building a stronger, more vibrant community. It is a formula you might call award-winning.

Click here to download the December issue of FOCUS.

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