When Stephen Black first came into his position with Washington’s largest credit union, BECU, he found himself searching for ways for the member-owned organization to build bridges across the communities of the Pacific Northwest.
“It was uncommon at that time to get involved with LGBTQ community organizations and pride parades – no one had ever considered that,” said Stephen. “But I felt completely at ease representing our gay and lesbian members, and putting ourselves front and center at the pride parade. I can’t tell you the level of support we received (from doing that). It went all the way to the top from the board (at BECU) to people who called us up in tears, saying ‘my son saw your billboard and said that was the first time he felt represented there.’”
Stephen, GSBA’s Corporate Leader of the Year, began his career at BECU in 2006. Ever since, the credit union’s membership growth and asset size have increased by 300 percent, with a current membership of over 1.1 million members. In his role as Vice President of Marketing, Stephen is the “head ambassador” for the BECU brand.
“It’s my responsibility to communicate what BECU is, what we stand for, and to really educate the public as to the differences (in services) we offer and how we’re able to fulfill the needs they have,” said Stephen. “We also educate people about financial health, as well as spread our roots through the community, and find opportunities to fulfill our mission there. BECU is a member-owned not-for-profit cooperative. It’s a lot of words, but what it means is that the members of BECU are a collective of owners. They are the top consideration for every decision that we make. So when you see us out in the community getting involved, it’s really for the benefit of our members to celebrate them.”
As part of his position, Stephen coordinates the credit union’s June celebrations of Pride, including event sponsorships, campaigns, swag, and the company’s parade presence. This past June, BECU passed out free crimson capes emblazoned with the slogan “Free to Be” to Seattle PrideFest attendees. With BECU now having a presence at Seattle Pride for a decade, Stephen has helped steer the credit union to make a regional impact at Pride celebrations across the state including Tacoma, Burien, and Spokane.
Stephen remembers when he first arrived in Seattle in the late 1990’s and coming across the GSBA Guide & Directory for the first time.
“Finding that guide book when I was a young person on Capitol Hill, seeing the businesses who were either a part of or supportive of the community was a big deal,” he said. “I still have the same dentist, I still use a lot of the same businesses.”
While Stephen has worked with GSBA several times over the years, he also contributes to other nonprofits in the area such as Three Dollar Bill Cinema and Human Rights Campaign Seattle, and served as a board member for Lifelong AIDS Alliance for several years. But what makes him most excited about his current community involvement projects, is seeing young members of BECU’s staff take up the “Pride parade mantle” and turn out for the credit union’s Pride events.
“I’ve sort of been the catalyst to get that started, but I know that once I leave, I’m going to leave BECU in amazing hands to propel us into the future,” he said. “It’s super gratifying and that’s what I feel is most special about winning this award.”
Join us in honoring Stephen during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott: http://bit.ly/2Rzxo3i