As the new Dover Federal Credit Union CEO, Janell Upton is excited and ready to move into the future with the organization. With a vast financial services background and a knack for helping others, the first-time CEO is primed to upkeep and expand Dover Federal's great reputation as a community-based financial institution. But who is Janell Upton? Check out the interview below to get a behind-the-scenes look.
What are your hobbies in your free time?
I’m pretty adventurous. I enjoy camping with my husband and being outside enjoying nature or exploring a new city. Traveling and spending time with my family is also very important to me. A little-known fact about me is that I love fish and keeping large-capacity tropical fish tanks is my favorite hobby. My last tank was a 100-gallon Amazon biotope and I’d like to have another one someday. My family and friends have been known to call me a fish nerd and I’m ok with that!
Do you have any favorite shows or movies?
I don’t watch a lot of TV. However, I always tune in on Tuesday nights for Chopped on the Food Network. I love that show! As far as movies, I’m a big fan of adventure and/or history. Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven are old favorites and who doesn’t love Harry Potter?
What led you to work in Credit Unions over traditional banks?
I felt the connection to working in a Credit Union almost immediately. The ‘Not for profit, not for charity, but for service’ motto and ‘people helping people’ philosophy resonate deeply with me. Working to make a difference in our community and in the lives of others is personally and professionally important to me. I started working for my first Credit Union in 2001 and never looked back.
What made you choose Dover Federal?
The reputation, history, and potential of the Credit Union. With our deep roots in Delaware and our Multiple Common Bond Charter founded in the military, the decision was easy as my Credit Union background was an exact fit in that realm. I also discovered that DFCU and I shared the same drive towards diversity, equity, and inclusion across our industry. The location itself was also important. As I mentioned, I love the outdoors and we specifically wanted to relocate along the East Coast to an area with four full seasons of weather. I missed that while living in Florida! I was honored to be selected for the role and have joined a wonderful team of people.
What was your journey to CEO?
I started my financial services career working for a small community bank in Montana, where I’m originally from. Over the years I took ever-growing roles in the mortgage industry and eventually made my way to my first Credit Union overseeing account growth, consumer lending, and sales management. In 2005 I had the opportunity to move to Alaska and worked for a very large, successful West Coast Credit Union headquartered in Anchorage. I was fortunate to have strong mentors in that organization who believed in me. I moved my career across the numerous roles they placed me in, always trusting the leadership and their support. Eventually, I was responsible for a network of over 80 branches across 4 states with a well-built team. I remain proud of that organization and their leadership to this day. I then moved to Miami (moving literally from one end of the country to the other and from one weather extreme to another!) and took the role of Executive Vice President overseeing HR, Lending, Retail, Operations, Risk, and Compliance. It was a wonderful opportunity to put all of my experience and roles under one hat. I re-married while living in Miami and with my husband’s strong support, I wanted to make the last step in my career to CEO and do it somewhere we could lay deep roots. We’re very happy to be in Delaware and I’m proud to be at DFCU as the first woman CEO in our organization’s history.
What is your favorite part of being a CEO?
Working with this fantastic staff has been a great joy these first few months. We have phenomenal teams here and strong Board support. I want to pay forward the mentoring and opportunities I’ve had throughout my career. I’m enjoying getting out in our communities and I’ve already met so many wonderful people. I look forward to deepening the connections we have in the communities we serve and expanding our products and services to others.
What do you like most about living in Delaware compared to your other places?
I feel at home here. The location was exactly what my husband and I were hoping for and we’ve felt so welcomed since we arrived. It’s been wonderful to experience spring again and I look forward to summer and fall and celebrating the holidays with (hopefully) snow! I love the important history of our state, as well as the surrounding areas, and I’ve found a sense of community here that I haven’t felt since I left Montana. Delaware is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air and we couldn’t be happier to be here.