Leading Through Quality Teamwork

PROVO, Utah – Oct 02, 2020 – When COVID-19 struck, one of Sterling Nielsen’s first thoughts involved the welfare of his employees. As the CEO of Mountain America Credit Union (MACU), he oversees employees with a variety of responsibilities, and he wanted to guarantee that they could keep their jobs.

A 1992 BYU Marriott School of Accountancy MAcc graduate, Nielsen helped his employees transition to working from home by ordering more than seven hundred laptops for them. “I want my employees to know they have jobs and they have someone who has their back,” he explains. “I’m not going to alter what they do just because of a virus. We’re all part of the same team.”

As MACU CEO, Nielsen has more than 900,000 members and 2,600 employees to think about, and one of his top priorities is ensuring that each employee and member receives the support and care they need. This team-oriented, individual-focused mindset is likely at the heart of why he recently received a prestigious award that recognizes exceptional credit union CEOs.

In October 2019, Nielsen was honored for his many years of dedication to MACU when he received the Credit Union Executives Society 2019 Outstanding Chief Executive award. The award recognizes credit union CEOs who display professional achievement, support employee motivation, and are dedicated to their community. “What meant more to me than the award itself was the fact that I was recommended by my employees and board of directors,” Nielsen says.

Nielsen started working for MACU in 1995. During his twenty-five years at the credit union, he has held a variety of positions, including in the accounting department and as an executive vice president. He was chosen out of 520 applicants to be CEO in 2008.

“Logically, the recession was not the ideal time for me to become the CEO, but it was actually a wonderful opportunity,” he says. “The recession made it easier to implement new changes that strengthened our organization as we emerged from the recession.”

During Nielsen’s time as CEO, MACU has opened several new branches and currently has ninety-five locations in Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Idaho. The credit union has also grown from $300,000 in assets to nearly $11 billion. He believes that much of this growth comes from fostering a dedicated team. “I don’t think you necessarily need to be flamboyant or have stereotypical leadership qualities to be a good leader,” he says. “Having a talented team with people you can depend on and trust is what helps me find the most success as a leader.”

Even though he devotes countless hours to strengthening the credit union, Nielsen always makes his family a top priority. He and his wife, Stephanie, have five children and two grandchildren. They enjoy swimming, watching movies, and playing pickleball.

Nielsen recognizes the ways BYU Marriott prepared him for a successful career and team-oriented service. “What I appreciated about the accounting program was its variety,” he says. “The program focused on computer systems, management, marketing, and law. All of those skills have enabled me to better serve my members and employees.”

Sterling Nielsen is the CEO of Mountain America Credit Union.
Sterling Nielsen is the CEO of Mountain America Credit Union.
Nielsen and his family. Photo courtesy of Sterling Nielsen.
Nielsen and his family. Photo courtesy of Sterling Nielsen.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert