Robert Cashman has been President and CEO of Metro Credit Union since 1998. Founded in 1926, Metro is the largest state chartered credit union in Massachusetts. Cashman has been affiliated with Metro since 1983 when he graduated from the Boston University School of Management. During his tenure as CEO, Metro has grown from $316 million to over $1.7 billion. Based in Chelsea, Metro provides financial services to more than 190,000 members and is also a leader in workplace banking, serving over 1,200 companies throughout the state. Metro currently has 15 branch offices and plans to open more in the future.
Cashman sits on the Board of the Cooperative Credit Union Association and was previously Chair of the Board of the Massachusetts Credit Union League. Active at the national level, Mr. Cashman is a former Board Member of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Board, the national trade association for over 6,000 credit unions across the country. His most notable civic affiliation is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Cashman and his wife, Shari, have two daughters, Alyssa and Haley. Alyssa is a graduate of Syracuse University and is currently a Senior Development Coordinator for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) in New York, and Haley graduated last May from Syracuse with a degree in Public Health and is now attending the MGH Institute of Health.
You’re third generation in the family business. Is your community involvement also part of a family legacy?
I’m fortunate to have grown up in a home where I saw both of my parents – as well as my grandparents – doing things that gave back to the community in a variety of ways.
What drives you to do volunteer work?
My parents were always busy giving back – whether it was Sisterhood or Kiwanis – it was a way of life, part of the family. As I grew up, whenever I had an opportunity to become involved, I did. I remember in high school being part of the Big Brother program. It was fabulous, it was a great feeling. What gets my juices going is seeing the difference you can make when you get involved.
What causes are most important to you?
The things that are near and dear to our hearts, first is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Our older daughter, Alyssa, was diagnosed at age 10 back in 2001 with Type 1 diabetes, and since then we’ve been very much involved with the organization. I’ve served on the board, my wife has done the same, and we’ve had a variety of “walk teams,” and over the past 10 or 15 years we’ve raised close to a half million dollars for funding research to find cures for juvenile diabetes. We are also very devoted to the Jewish Community Center and Congregation Shirat Hayam.
Diabetes is an area where real progress is being made, isn’t it?
It is. And the money that is there is being used to fund a variety of avenues – some to cure the disease, and others to allow for technology and devices to assist people with Type 1 so they don’t have the ramifications, the long-term effects on their organs.
How about Jewish Family and Children Services?
Here on the North Shore, it was the Jewish Family Services, and I was president of the organization. Our organization was doing a great job, but we felt we could do more if we had more funding, more financial and human resources behind us, so we decided to merge with Jewish Family and Children Services. I now sit on the board of that organization and am very proud of the work we’ve done with the Ambassador Group here on the North Shore – we’ve done a tremendous number of great things here.
Do you think your experience as a businessman helps you with fundraising for charities?
It’s not just the fundraising, I think my business acumen is helpful to establishing timelines, process, allocation of resources – both human and financial – understanding how to set goals and objectives. So I think it’s helpful, but most important is that being in business you get to meet and know so many people, and I can go to them and say, “Here’s a program where you could really help.”
There are changes going on in Jewish institutions that are causing angst. Are these shifts a problem, or is it just a time that requires adjustment?
Instead of giving to one central organization and trusting a board to decide where the money should go, people are more interested now in direct giving, and they’ll put their energies and monies into the organizations they know, and that way they get to see the results of their giving. There may be a particular aspect of an organization that they like and they’ll give targeted money. These changes create a competition for dollars, and that’s something we’re seeing on the North Shore because we still have lots of individual organizations. I think people are more careful to make sure that they’re giving to organizations that line up with their beliefs – philosophically, culturally and morally.
You sound like you’re a skilled manager. What are your strengths?
I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to be with an organization that has a great staff – management team, board of directors and employees. That combination of strengths has allowed me to be a successful manager and for our organization to be successful. Metro Credit Union is celebrating its ninetieth anniversary, and there aren’t that many organizations that have had that opportunity. I’m actually third generation working at this organization. And one of the things that keeps me going each day is to make sure that we’ll perpetuate the cultural and philosophical missions that this organization has been about. I work lots of hours, I work extremely hard, and I think that allows me to take some of the credit for the success of this organization. And that gives me the privilege of being able to spend time with family, with friends, and in supporting the organizations that mean a great deal to me.
Who have you had as role models or mentors who played an important role in your life?
My father had a saying, a question he would always ask, “What was your high for the day?” And that’s a great question – one that keeps you focused on what’s important. He’s a wise man, he’s always been a wonderful mentor and my best friend. I’m very fortunate that I still have him, and I always have that question in my mind that puts me in a positive mood – “What was my high for the day?”