by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications Specialist
Andy Kronaizl grew up on a farm located about 12 miles west of Vermillion, South Dakota, between the tiny towns of Gayville and Meckling, the self-proclaimed “Hay Capital of the World” and “Hay Capital of the Universe.” He was very close with his five siblings, and because he didn’t find extracurricular school activities particularly interesting, he chose to stay close to home most of the time. His father was more than happy to have the extra help with the corn, beans, and alfalfa crops. By the age of ten, he was working long days in the fields, and while he doesn’t miss the long hot days, he appreciates that it helped to make him who he is today.
Once he was old enough, he began working at a local fast-food joint, and each paycheck he received was cashed and stashed in his bedroom at home. After a year of this, his mother brought him to Vermillion Federal Credit Union to open a checking account. Every following week, he would stop on Saturday mornings to deposit his paycheck, and even took out a few small personal loans. His first credit union loan enabled him to accept an internship, paying for the moving expenses and rent; and later a holiday loan provided the funds to purchase a collie/corgi mix for his girlfriend. (He was 23 at the time, still has the dog, Collette, and the girl, Jackie, and says he probably wouldn’t have either if not for the credit union.)
After graduating from Vermillion High School, Andy attended the University of South Dakota (USD) in Vermillion, where he received his Bachelor’s in Marketing. Following his graduation from college in 2014, he landed a job working in admissions at the university, first as a temp working with high school seniors, followed by two years working in admissions for their graduate school. While he enjoyed helping people continue their educations, he was a bit bored with little variety in his day, which was mostly spent chained to a desk. When he saw a posting for a marketing position at Vermillion FCU in 2016, he applied and was welcomed aboard soon after.
For the next few years, he continued working at Vermillion FCU, in addition to completing his MBA. However, he decided to spread his wings a bit, move away from home for the first time, and take on a new challenge – so he moved to the Twin Cities and began working as a credit union branch manager in 2018.
“It was a whirlwind experience,” he recalled. “Less than two months into my first management experience, it was announced that we were pursuing a merger into a different credit union. This merger brought astronomical member impact that filled our days for over a year – a new name, new online banking, new member numbers, and 18,000 new debit cards issued – half of which were somehow expired upon arrival.”
After the dust settled from the merger, he was offered a promotion to manage the credit union’s largest branch starting in March 2020 – just in time for the pandemic to strike. He managed to navigate the crisis with 11 new employees. Throughout this time, he had stayed in touch with Janet Mount, CEO at Vermillion FCU. Andy had shared with Janet that he and his wife were thinking about moving back “closer to home” to start a family. “One day, she called me out of the blue with a job offer to be VP of Lending. So, we sold our home in the cities and moved within a month,” he shared.
In August of 2021, Andy returned to Vermillion FCU. “Anything to do with lending at the credit union is my main focus,” he continued. “I am the credit union’s loan officer, so a great deal of my day is spent working with members and their loan questions/requests. I take the lead on any changes we may make to lending at the credit union. I am a very curious person and like to get myself involved in other areas too, and since we are a small credit union with only six full-time employees, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Today, for example, that meant exploring new phone/internet solutions to replace our current system. It’s something I never thought about before – but I have fun learning about anything new, and it’s fantastic when I can put that curiosity to work for the credit union,” he added.
“What keeps me going in this industry is knowing that we are truly improving lives. I see the impact every single day. The education, solutions, and dedication that credit unions provide makes us a critical part of so many lives, and it is very fulfilling to be a part of that. It seems like most people who are a member at a credit union are fiercely loyal to that credit union – and it’s a good feeling to know you’ve helped make someone feel that way.”
Andy says he has also enjoyed the cooperative nature of the industry and has found several mentors in his young career. “I’ve been so fortunate to work for people who believed in me, were committed to helping me be my best, and understood that my challenges or success were theirs as well,” he stated. First, there is Janet Mount, who shared her passion and education with him, in addition to two VPs that he worked closely with in Minnesota.
“When I met Janet, I didn’t know a thing about this industry. I can’t imagine I would have ever made a career out of this if she hadn’t shared her passion with me, helped educate me, and help me to see the positive impact we make in peoples’ lives. Lots of people feel that teaching others is a burden or isn’t their job, so I really admire people who are driven to share what they know with others. I strive to be that kind of person too,” he concluded.
Besides helping his coworkers wherever he can, Andy enjoys helping members to understand more about their personal finances. While it can be a difficult and delicate subject, he tries to educate them when their spending habits are causing financial issues. To assist him in this endeavor, he received the Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor (CCUFC) designation from CUNA, which he highly recommends.
Not only has Andy been working to educate credit union members, he came up with an idea for an award-winning commercial to educate non-members about the advantages of being a “member/owner” at Vermillion FCU. (You can watch the humorous and creative ad here.)
In his personal life, Andy has been married to his lovely wife Jackie for less than two years, although they have been together for nine. They live on the same farm he grew up on, along with their two dogs, Collette (the collie/corgi) and Potato, who is part beagle, part greyhound, and part “chip hound” because she loves to eat chips. In May, the couple will be welcoming their first child. They are enjoying being back in Vermillion, as his parents, grandparents, and several of his siblings still live in the immediate area.
In his free time, Andy enjoys watching sports (Go Yotes!) and playing vintage video games. In fact, he has one room in his house dedicated to this hobby – with a flatscreen TV mounted on the wall above an old tube TV so that he can watch sports while he plays retro video games. His most recent (and proudest) addition to this room is a full-sized Donkey Kong Jr. arcade cabinet, a fully restored 40-year-old machine. He has also dabbled in brewing his own beer, but his favorite part of the week is early mornings on Saturdays and Sundays, lounging in his hobby room with big cup of coffee.
Finally, we must mention that next week, Andy will be traveling to Washington, D.C. for the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). He was chosen to represent South Dakota as a 2022 Crasher and will proudly be carrying the state flag during the opening ceremonies.
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