In the Spotlight: Meet Jim Schaefbauer from United Savings CU
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

Jim Schaefbauer grew up on a small grain and dairy farm that covered 2,100 acres near Strasburg, North Dakota, about 70 miles southeast of Bismarck. As the second oldest of seven children, he had many responsibilities helping on the large farm, and his father was always there, working hard, providing Jim with his first and biggest influence.

“Growing up on the farm, there was never a shortage of things that needed to get done, and my father’s work ethic and positive approach to life were great guides growing up,” he recalled. “He taught us the best way to do something was not always the easiest way – and that has held true for so many things in life. Dad took pride in his work, but was very humble in his successes,” he added.

After graduating from high school, he moved to Fargo where he attended North Dakota State University (NDSU), graduating in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Business Administration. He had also enlisted in the North Dakota Army National Guard on his 18th birthday, and was an active Guard and Reservist for many years. He served 12 years in the National Guard, and then 12 years in the Navy Reserve, retiring as a Chief Petty Officer in 2004. He especially enjoyed his time in the Navy, as it offered opportunities to travel to warm places near the ocean during frigid North Dakota winters. 

Jim’s introduction to the world of finance and the banking industry came as a night computer operator for Dakota Bank’s processing center, where he worked while completing his programming degree at NDSU. While in Fargo, he also met his wife, Jackie, and decided he would set his roots in that city.

In 1988, he landed a job with Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota (BCBSND) as a computer programmer. Over the next 24 years, he worked his way up the ranks. The company had a small credit union, Noridian Employees CU, which Jim joined, and soon discovered that the people helping people philosophy resonated strongly with him. In 1995 he was elected to the board of directors, became the board president in 1998, and served in that volunteer capacity for 14 years until 2012, when Noridian merged with Capital Credit Union.

At the time of the merger, Jim was serving as AVP of IT Operations for a BCBSND subsidiary. He made the switch to serving credit union members full-time when he was hired as VP of Member Services, East Region, at Capital Credit Union. The new position allowed him to expand his people helping people skills, and to put the philosophy into action.

“I enjoy helping people,” he stated. “I like the fact that when I’m helping a member across the desk, I truly do work for them, as they are our owners. Personal finances are a leading cause of stress for people, so it is very rewarding to help our members with their financial needs,” he explained. “The best feeling for me is when members have thanked me for helping them save money on a loan, or finding the right option for their particular need when they come in.”

One instance that stands out in Jim’s mind is when he was helping a member with a vehicle loan application. After commenting that she had a very good credit score, the member quickly interjected, “That is all because of you!” She went on to explain that she had attended one of the credit profile presentations Jim had conducted, and how much it had helped her. “There is nothing better than heartfelt appreciation,” Jim said.

While he was quite happy making a difference in the lives of Capital Credit Union’s members, when an opportunity arose for a President/CEO role at United Savings Credit Union, Jim felt compelled to try his hand at a new endeavor. He applied and was enthusiastically hired by their board in December 2019.  

Originally called the Great Northern Railroad Employees CU, United Savings CU has expanded, first merging with Northern Pacific Railroad Employees Federal Credit Union to become Railway Transportation Employees Federal Credit Union. In the 1970s, Burlington Northern purchased the railroad, at which time the credit union became Burlington Northern Federal Credit Union. In the early 1980s, the credit union’s charter changed from federal to state, and so did the name, to Burlington Northern Credit Union. Soon after that, in the mid-1980s, there was another merger with Steiger Federal Credit Union, and the name once again was changed. United Savings Credit Union was the new name, and is still in place today.

As Jim assumes the CEO role there, the credit union now has 22 employees and more than 5,100 members that they serve from four branches: Fargo Main, Fargo Amber Valley, Dilworth, MN, and Detroit Lakes, MN. His community involvement and his volunteer work in the greater credit union network have him well positioned to lead this Fargo based credit union.

He has served on the United Way of Cass Clay Campaign Cabinet for the past six years, where he assists staff in making important connections within the community. He serves on the FMWF Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee, helping promote awareness of needs and providing assistance to military service members. He also served as President of the Red River Chapter of Credit Unions Board from 2016 to 2018.

In addition, he has been a Den Leader, Cub Master, and Troop Leader for the Boy Scouts of America, was a youth football coach, and a youth hockey board member. He is a member of the Church of Nativity Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, and the NDSU Team Makers. He has also completed his Fellow Life Management Institute (FLMI) designation, is a graduate of the FMWF Chamber Leadership Program, and received his CUNA Certified CU Financial Counselor designation in 2015.

In his personal life, Jim and his lovely wife Jackie reside in Fargo. They have three grown children who live in Fargo, St Paul, MN, and Billings, MT, plus one Golden Retriever named Ziggy. In their free time, they like to watch old movies, play pinochle, and share some nice wine with friends. They have a beautiful place on Munson Lake near Detroit Lakes. The home once belonged to Jackie’s parents, and the family enjoys spending as much time as possible there.

One hobby that Jim developed a little later in life is running. It started when some friends invited Jackie and him to walk the Fargo half Marathon with them. Jim enjoyed it so much, that he decided to run the half marathon the following year after turning 50. He’s been running them ever since – and after completing the full marathon one year, has decided to stick to that plan!  

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