Carla Cicero took her first job at a credit union as a 17-year-old in her native Los Angeles.
Within six years her career ambitions were clear: She aimed to become CEO of a credit union by the time was 35.
“And so I started working towards that,” she said. She beat her goal by three years. That was 30 years ago.
Today, Cicero is the president and CEO of Numerica Credit Union, where she has overseen the organization’s growth and given back to the community.
Under Cicero’s leadership, the Spokane Valley-based credit union has expanded to become the second largest in the region with 21 branches and more than 170,000 members. It holds $3.6 billion in assets.
In the past decade, Numerica contributed $12 million to community nonprofits and organizations. The credit union’s 660 employees have spent more than 140,000 hours volunteering in the community.
Cicero, who joined Numerica in 2011, serves on several boards, including Greater Spokane Inc., the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Second Harvest and Rosauers Supermarkets.
A deeper look at Cicero’s leadership reveals a dedication to helping other women.
More than half of Numerica’s leadership positions are held by women, and four women serve on its board of directors. The credit union also launched a diversity, equity and inclusion program to recruit employees who reflect the community it serves.
Cicero said she believes in expanding women’s leadership roles within the credit union industry.
Cicero is one of three women on the board of directors for the World Council of Credit Unions. She is also a part of the Women’s Leadership Symposium, a group of women CEOs who support each other by sharing best practices and policies.
In 2019, the YWCA Spokane awarded Cicero its 2019 Women of Achievement award for business and industry.
Kim Pearman-Gillman, senior vice president of equity and community development, has worked with Cicero for more than three years.
She called Cicero a bright, thoughtful, caring and sharp leader.
“She’s a great role model,” Pearman-Gillman said. “To work for someone who cares so deeply – we have much to be thankful for.”
Numerica Chief Operating Officer Nicole Sherman also praised Cicero’s leadership style.
Sherman, whose banking career spans nearly 30 years, joined Numerica because of its values and focus on employees, members and the community.
Cicero listens to diverse viewpoints and brings employees together to work toward a common purpose or goal, Sherman said.
“In my almost 30 years in the industry, I’ve had the honor of working with amazing leaders, and I would place Carla at the top of the list,” Sherman said. “She’s amazing, courageous and compassionate.”
Cicero obtained an MBA from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and was at the helm of CitizensFirst for 19 years before joining Numerica Credit Union in 2011.
“I had a recruiter call me and say, ‘I have a job in Spokane that I want you to apply for.’ At the time, I thought, ‘It’s a big credit union, would I be able to do it?’ ” Cicero said.
She chose to accept the job offer and relocate to Spokane.
“There was just a great synergy between me and Numerica’s board,” Cicero said. “At Numerica, we have built such as wonderful organization. It’s a gift every day to be able to be the CEO.”
American Banker this year named Cicero to its list of “Most Powerful Women in Credit Unions,” which honored 25 women nationwide in the industry who are working to create inclusive cultures and lead through times of rapid change.
Cicero was recognized by the publication for excellent leadership, implementing innovative strategies and empowering women.
“I want to help (employees) be the best they can be and to feel like they enjoy coming to work, that their voices are heard and that we’re investing in them,” Cicero said. “So, that is what inspires me to come to work every day.”
While Cicero is committed to serving Numerica members and employees, she enjoys volunteering at nonprofit events and fundraisers, including Tom’s Turkey Drive and sorting donated food at Second Harvest Inland Northwest.
“It’s a powerful thing to want to help somebody else and feel like you’re contributing to something greater than yourself,” Cicero said.
Numerica also offers employees a paid day off every year to volunteer at nonprofits and organizations of their choice.
“I think what happens is we attract employees who have that same heart of giving,” Cicero said. “There’s so much generosity that goes on in our organization. It’s pretty powerful.”
Amy Edelen can be reached at (509) 459-5581 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.