In the CU Professionals Spotlight
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

Alayna Johnson grew up along with her older sister and younger brother, on a farm near the town of Canton, South Dakota, located about 25 minutes south of Sioux Falls on the Iowa border. Her family raised cattle, and grew soybeans, corn, and alfalfa, but she says she was not the “typical” farm girl, in that she really didn’t have regular chores to do, other than the occasional “bean walking.” However, her childhood and teenage years were very busy and active, as she played nearly every sport that was offered, including softball, golf, volleyball and basketball. She was also in band, where she played the alto sax.

While still in high school, she landed her first job at a small Canton used auto dealer as a detailer, preparing cars for final sale. All the time she spent around the different vehicles inspired a love of the auto industry – and an appreciation for speed. So, at the age of 16, she made her debut in auto racing and spent one summer tearing up the track in a friend’s Lincoln Mark VIII at Thunder Valley Dragways. While she didn’t have any wins, she said that her experience further inspired a love of the auto industry.

A few years after graduating from high school, Alayna took a job at another local auto dealership in Sioux Falls. She began in sales for the Saturn line, and shortly after, as the dealership expanded, she began selling Pontiac, Cadillac, and Hummers as well. Because the Hummer franchise was new in Sioux Falls, she was lucky enough to be one of the first five sales people in the area. This meant she was invited to attend special training at the Hummer Vehicle Military Test Track in South Bend, Indiana where they got to challenge their driving skills on a very rugged terrain course.

“Imagine being in a muddy forest with lumps and logs and trees, over and under and in between the trail,” she recalled. “It was so rough that at one point, while driving, I could reach my hand out of the window and actually touch the ground – and I was sure the vehicle would flip over! Needless to say, there were some moments on that test track that were a little dicey,” she added.

After working in sales for several years, Alayna moved to the finance area of the dealership and eventually became the finance manager, closing deals. It was here that she discovered that she had a love and a talent for the finance industry, and decided she wanted to explore a career doing just that.

Alayna began looking for work in a financial institution, and found a consumer loan officer position at Sioux Empire FCU. She applied, and was hired in 2005, and has been with Sioux Empire ever since. In August of 2010, she was promoted to VP of Lending and was in that position until November 2016, when her position morphed into the Vice President of Sioux Empire FCU role. She seems to have found her calling in the credit union world.

“There’s just something about credit union people that makes it easy to enjoy working in this industry,” she said. “Everyone typically has a great sense of pride for what they do and it shows. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there that haven’t been blessed enough to understand what credit unions are and why we are different. We definitely have a challenge with educating the masses about why credit unions are so great,” she added.

That is one of the reasons she is so excited about the new “Open Your Eyes” awareness initiative, and why she supports it 100 percent. “I think it’s going to be a great campaign and will do wonders for the industry. It still amazes me how many people don’t know what a credit union does! We have a lot to talk about and a lot of good news to share, but we have a long ways to go and we have to keep at it,” she remarked.

Even though she works in finance and not marketing, Alayna understands the value in a great promotion. For example, she was very involved in Sioux Empire’s “Black Saturday” event. This is where the credit union offers great deals on interest rates for loans on a limited first come, first served basis. The first year, consumers were lining up at midnight on the day of the event. The second year, the credit union had people camped out the day before!

“We’ve actually done several fun and different types of loan promotions over the years, and the creation and implementation of these events has been very enjoyable! There have been several people that have influenced me with their credit union knowledge and passion; and these great teachers have been people I’ve worked with right here at Sioux Empire. The credit union environment, for me, begins with people helping people and doing your best to take care of the members, and treat people how you would want to be treated. I wouldn’t want to be somewhere else, where that moral compass has to be questioned. And at the end of the day, the passion that credit union people exude is just fun to be around, and it’s hard not to get on board. I take serious pride in being able to help our members the way we do,” she concluded.

Besides working side-by-side with her coworkers, Alayna has been actively promoting credit unions at the chapter level as well. She has served on the Board of Directors for the SE 605 Chapter of Credit Unions for the past several years, and is the current President.

On a personal note, Alayna is married to her husband, Mike, a self-employed contractor. His business is Michael Johnson Contracting Inc., which is a synthetic stucco, cultured stone and masonry business. He is also part owner of the general contracting firm, GA Johnson Construction, Inc.

The Johnsons have one daughter, Mya, who is in 6th grade, and one son Max, who is in 3rd grade. Rounding out the family is a yellow lab named Molly. The kids are very active in sports, and so they are typically running for basketball, flag football, or volleyball. In their free time, the family enjoys golfing and boating together – and has discovered that they all enjoy archery as well. Alayna has quite a natural talent for the bow and arrow, according to her husband. Next to shopping, it has become one of her favorite pass-times of late. 

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