Don Arkell

Don Arkell

Owner, CU Lending Advice

Don first worked with Brett Christensen at Clark County Credit Union as one of his original hires and a member of his first sales team.  While at CCCU, Don quickly moved through the ranks at the credit union, working in all areas of Sales and Lending. He eventually founded a CUSO owned by CCCU– Members Auto Brokerage Service, Inc.

Don joined up with Red Rocks Credit Union in Highlands Ranch, CO in 2007 and helped RRCU to establish a vibrant sales culture while transforming the Credit Union from full retail delivery to offering 100% of consumer loans and member service through remote delivery channels. This effort drove down operational expenses, reduced the FTE count, increased loans, total assets and net income.

During the difficult economic times of the last decade, Don navigated the organization through the muddy waters of the mortgage business by overhauling the entire Real Estate Lending program. Focusing on the core values of the organization, Don completely rebuilt this vital area of the organization by implementing a successful Consultative Lending strategy. Don’s efforts are credited with turning this failing area around and growing into the most profitable area of the credit union.

Don’s unique leadership style and passion for Sales and Leadership have made him a sought-after speaker, trainer and strategist.  He works with credit unions around the country helping them grow their loan programs, organizational design, lending technology and strategic planning.

Jessica Vartanian

Jessica Vartanian

Senior Consultant, CU Lending Advice

Jessica first began working with Credit Union’s almost a decade ago after spending the first part of her career managing retail branches in the ‘big bank’ space and working in public education.   

 In 2012, Jessica joined Don at Red Rocks Credit Union in Highlands Ranch, CO.  During her time at RRCU, Jessica progressively moved through various roles leading the Sales Teams, Contact Center, Business Development, and Information Technology

During her tenure, Jessica led the credit union Sales Team to organization-high loan growth, successfully established in-depth referral programs within the contact center and branches, and spearheaded numerous enterprise systems conversions-driving organizational efficiency while reducing operational expenses 

 Her ability to marry technology and process automation, combined with her background in education enabled her to develop strategies that both equip credit unions with the technology and process automation needed to thrive; while simultaneously training and empowering teams for exceptional member experience and sales/lending acumen.  

 Over the years, Jessica’s work has received multiple awards and accolades throughout the credit union industry making her a sought-after speaker, trainer, and mentor.  

 Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree in Education. In addition, she is a certified adult trainer and facilitator; receiving certification in both in-person and virtual adult learning. In 2019, she completed a graduate program from the Said School of Business at Oxford University focusing in the area of Fintech.  

Bob Steensma

Bob Steensma

President/CEO Five Star Credit Union | Consultant, CU Lending Advice

Bob Steensma has been the President/CEO of Five Star Credit Union (FSCU, Dothan, AL- $383m) since June 2007. During his 29-year credit union career, Bob has been a Collections Manager at three credit unions and has held senior management positions in Collections, Lending, Operations and Sales at several credit unions throughout the country ranging in size from $300 Million to over $1 Billion in assets.

Under Bob’s leadership during the past nine years, FSCU has grown 274% in assets while being the most profitable Alabama credit union since 2011, with assets greater than $15 Million. In 2014, Five Star gained national recognition in the industry for being only the 5th credit union to purchase a bank, and in 2015 they became the first credit union to complete two bank acquisitions.

After a professional friendship with CU Lending Advice owner Brett Christensen that began in 1996, Bob has worked as a part-time collections consultant and trainer for CU Lending Advice since 2008. During that time, Bob has consulted and trained collections professionals in more than two dozen credit unions coast to coast ranging in size from $50 Million to over $3 Billion in assets. Bob is a native of Dallas, Texas and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from DePaul University in Chicago.

Brett Christensen

Brett Christensen

Advisor, CU Lending Advice

Brett works directly with credit unions in the U.S and Canada teaching and consulting with professionals on various lending topics. His personal and entertaining speaking style have made him a popular speaker in the credit union industry.

Prior to forming his own company, Brett worked for four years as a lending consultant and trainer for Lending Solutions Consulting, Inc. In addition, Brett is the former Chief Sales Officer of APPRO Systems, Inc. which purchased the Loan Link Lending Center. Brett previously managed the Center as President for three years. Prior to his work at Loan Link, Brett worked for the $680 million Clark County Credit Union in Las Vegas, Nevada. He also worked as a civil engineering officer in the United States Air Force.

Brett earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1987, and a Masters of Business Administration Degree from the University of Phoenix in 1991.

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