Joe Marchese: At Hershey Federal Credit Union, a fresh face to affirm authentic values

Joe Marchese is the incoming CEO of Hershey Federal Credit Union. He is working under outgoing CEO Paul Wagner during a seven-month transition and training period and will take over fully as CEO on March 1, 2019.

As the incoming CEO at Hershey Federal Credit Union, Joe Marchese has a unique opportunity to learn the ropes of his new job.

Since he started in early July and continuing through February 2019, he is working alongside outgoing Hershey Federal CEO Paul Wagner to make the leadership transition at the credit union as seamless as possible.

At 38, Marchese has a varied background in the field of banking. His employment history has a general pattern, starting with large banks and moving over time toward smaller community banks. He started as a teller at a Bank of America on Long Island, where he grew up. When family led him to settle in Lancaster County around 2006, he began working for Fulton Bank, where he gained more management experience and stayed until 2013.

When he married in 2012 and started a family, Marchese sought to move away from branch management – which meant evening and weekend hours – and into business lending, where he could help support his community by getting new businesses off the ground.

“My philosophy is credit unions, community banks, whatever that financial institution is in that community, they serve a role in that community,” Marchese said. 

After a time working in Fulton’s mortgage branch and then managing a branch of Jonestown Bank & Trust Co., Marchese ended up as a lender at Member Business Financial Services, a credit union services organization, or CUSO, based in Bucks County.

Marchese enjoyed the non-competitive nature of the CUSO, where member credit unions too small to have their own commercial lending departments shared assets. During his time there, he was, more or less, a contractor for three member credit unions based in Central Pennsylvania.

“I came from big traditional banks, and this concept of sharing … to find a local bank that wants to share like that, it’s very hard,” Marchese said.

When the portfolios of the credit unions in his territory at Member Business Financial Services diverged from his career objectives, Marchese accepted a position in the commercial lending department at Ephrata National Bank, where he stayed until being hired at Hershey Federal, or HFCU.

Leading as a millennial to serve millennials

One of Marchese’s tasks as the new CEO at HFCU will be to connect with millennials both to attract new staff and new members. His life and career outlook embody a millennial mindset, he said.

“You want to find something where it gives you purpose, drive to get up in the morning, where you feel like you’re doing something valuable,” Marchese said.

As he evaluates what leadership means to him, he hopes to convey his ideals to the credit union’s staff, and ultimately, watch it trickle down to members.

“We’ve gotta make sure that when they walk through our doors, they know that what we’re giving them is a real authentic service and that’s how we can separate ourselves,” he said.

The long-held values of community and equity at HFCU were part of the CEO position’s appeal for Marchese. The credit union was founded in 1949 by factory workers of The Hershey Co.

“I want to get out there and reset those values and show what the benefit is to work for a credit union,” Marchese said. 

As for continuing to grow membership and assets at HFCU, especially among millennials, Marchese plans to promote and develop new products targeted to a younger demographic.

Data from the Credit Union National Association’s March 2018 national profile has shown an increase in credit union membership over the past couple years, with 2017 growth at 4.1 percent. A 2017 report from financial software firm FIS shows that millennials make up 31 percent of credit union customers, whereas baby boomers make up the largest share, at 41 percent. By contrast, millennials make up 42 percent of the customer base of Top 50 banks, compared to baby boomers’ 30 percent.

Marchese’s approach to grow millennial membership is three-fold.

First, HFCU has to be where millennials are, which means ramping up web and social media presence and having engaging service. The credit union recently introduced checking accounts through Kasasa, which offers users perks like monthly rewards and waived ATM fees. Plus, as a vendor, Kasasa will run ads on the digital music streaming service Pandora to promote the HFCU checking account.

“That’s a key thing for someone our size. We need to partner with vendors that can help us roll this stuff out,” Marchese said.

The second objective for Marchese is to “make things easy for them, not you,” he said. That means streamlining processes and making sure technology, like the credit union’s online banking and mobile deposit features, function smoothly for members.

Finally, Marchese plans to affirm HFCU’s commitment to social responsibility. Aside from the financial options it has historically offered to members with less-than-perfect finances, HFCU will use its small size to its advantage to really dig into the community. The credit union has $66 million in assets, Marchese said, and three branches in Dauphin and Lebanon counties.

“Every opportunity where we can sponsor local events, local organizations, we want to do that. That’s part of our mission as a credit union in the community … Everybody’s giving it lip service these days, but you have to live it,” Marchese said.

Seamless transition

Shortly after starting at HFCU, Marchese spent two weeks in Wisconsin at a credit union management training program. He was already planning to attend the training prior to accepting his new job, and thanks to HFCU leadership’s flexibility and willingness to work with Marchese’s goals, he said, the timing and subject matter of the program proved to be a good fit to help usher in this new chapter in his career.

Despite being relatively young for a CEO at a financial institution, Marchese doesn’t feel like an outsider thanks to the peer network of fellow credit union leaders he’s built locally and through the recent training program.

Over the next six-plus months, Marchese will gradually take on more responsibilities from outgoing CEO Wagner. Already, Marchese feels empowered to get out in front of HFCU staff to share his vision and goals and is developing an employee engagement plan. Marchese also is working with Wagner to take stock of the credit union’s assets. 

“I think one of the benefits of having this long transition is understanding the ebbs and flows of the business. When are deposits at their peak? When are shared drafts at their peak? When are loans at their peak?” Marchese said.

Come March 1, 2019, when Wagner has moved out of the CEO’s office and Marchese takes the reigns on his own, it will be “totally seamless,” he said.

Becca Oken-Tatum
Becca Oken-Tatum is the web editor for the Central Penn Business Journal. She also coordinates and writes for CPBJ's monthly Young Professionals e-newsletter. Email her questions, comments and tips at

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