by Shawn Marie Brummer, Communications & Media Specialist
April Tompkins was born in Edmond, Oklahoma, but spent most of her childhood growing up in Yankton, South Dakota, where she attended grade school, middle school, and high school. She says her father impressed upon her the importance of a good work ethic, teaching her from a young age to always arrive at least 15 minutes early, be respectful, and work hard.
After graduating from high school, she attended the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where she earned a B.A. in Economics and a minor in Spanish. During her college days, she also worked a part-time job at a bank, and after graduating, was promoted to a full-time sales associate position at their Yankton office.
After working for five years at the bank, she felt ready for a new challenge, and was especially interested in the lending field. She made a career change and went to work for a payday lender. (I know! Gasp, and read on!)
After just two short months, she knew it was a mistake and not a good fit for her values. She resigned and started looking for a new job. “At this point, I had learned a valuable life lesson: How you are treated makes more of a difference in a person’s happiness than how much money you make,” she shared.
At the time, the only financial institution hiring in Yankton was Services Center Federal Credit Union. Even though it was a part-time teller position, she applied and was granted an interview in November 2010. “I remember saying in the interview, ‘I just want to be treated well and with respect,’” she recalled. She also remembers thinking, “It must be the same as a bank, right?” She accepted the job, and within six months was promoted to Executive Assistant.
It wasn’t long before the “people helping people” philosophy became her own. “Coming from the banking industry and a payday lender, the philosophy and tone are different. I love the cooperative aspect; there is a large support system in this industry,” she says.
Under the guidance of Dave Wright, who was the previous CEO for 41 years, she learned all about the credit union’s history, as well as the greater industry. “His passion for credit unions was contagious,” she continued. “He was good about always explaining the reason why something was the way it was, he gave me the opportunity to try new projects, and challenged me to think about the bigger picture. He was a wonderful mentor.”
Her career blossomed. Within a few years she was promoted to ALM Specialist and tasked with all aspects of Asset and Liability Management, where she was able to apply her economics background. In 2016, she was promoted to Chief Operations Officer. During this time, she continued her education through NAFCU, receiving their Management and Leadership accreditation and Certified Risk Manager designation.
Following the retirement of the longtime CEO and then the resignation of the replacement CEO after a relatively short time, April was promoted to the CEO position on April 1, 2019 – at the age of 33.
Under her leadership, the credit union underwent a rebranding not quite one year ago, and now proudly calls themselves Explorers Credit Union, with a more modern look and feel. “The new name and brand really resonate with our team and members,” she explained. In addition, the credit union opened a branch in the town of Tea last spring – right when the pandemic was unleashing its turmoil. “It presented some difficult challenges, but we are proud to be serving in this new location.” Along with the new branch, the credit union with a community charter now serves 18 counties in South Dakota and Nebraska, including the towns of Yankton, Springfield, Parkston, and Tea, and boasts more than 8,700 members, $88M in assets, and 25 employees.
She continues, “Sometimes the best and worst thing can be the same thing. I think we all can agree that living in a pandemic can be the worst, but we learned so much about our team and our members during this time that I consider it the best as well. Credit unions were able to show their passion for people during this trying time. We found new ways to assist members, collaborate as a team and still see tremendous member and loan growth. I am very proud of my team and our members for working together for a better tomorrow,” she concluded.
Besides leading Explorers Credit Union, April is a current Manager on the Site-Four, LLC Board of Managers. Site-Four is a datacenter that serves credit unions from coast to coast. She is a past board member for St. John’s Preschool in Yankton, and volunteers as a “Math is Fun” tutor for the Yankton Area Literacy Council.
In her personal life, April gives kudos to her husband, Keith Tompkins, who has always been very supportive of her demanding career. Keith is a parole agent in Yankton, and they share two daughters, Keira (10) and Addy (8). They all enjoy hiking and backpacking together and have even done the Little Devil’s Tower hike. Currently, they are “section hiking” the Centennial Trail. They enjoy board games, especially Catan, a game of strategy. Both girls are involved with multiple activities, so there is always plenty of running involved. The family also has three pets: a Siberian Husky named Drax; and two Bengal cats named Loki and Thor.
In those rare moments of “free time,” April enjoys reading, journaling, and planning their next trip or vacation. Sometimes on weekends, she works to get caught up on her 80’s trivia so she can better relate to her executive team. Recent “homework assignments” have included researching “Goonies” and Duran Duran songs, just one of the drawbacks of being a young CEO!
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