Shattering Glass Ceilings: Sati Smith becomes DMCU’s first African American woman CEO

Sati Smith’s journey is one that defies the odds. As a Black woman in the financial industry, she has shattered glass ceilings while simultaneously shouldering the responsibilities of single motherhood, full-time studies, and a demanding full-time job. Her story is one of unwavering strength, unyielding perseverance, and, above all, boundless faith. Now, as the newly appointed CEO of Diversified Members Credit Union (DMCU), she makes history as the first Black woman to hold this prestigious position. Sati Smith stands as living proof that Black women not only belong in the C-Suite but also possess the resilience, determination, and expertise to excel in this role.

“I’m going to be really transparent. It is a heavy load being the first Black woman in this position, but some people are meant to take on that that heavy load,” said Smith with excitement in her voice. “I definitely feel like it’s an assignment that was given to me and I can carry the load. I am just excited. I’m really passionate about our members and people in general, and to have the opportunity to have an impact on the community and the members that we serve makes me proud. I’m just ecstatic and I’m just anxious to do great things to help our members in the organization.”

Sati Smith’s appointment to the position of CEO is not just a personal achievement but a significant step forward for her community and a powerful symbol of breaking glass ceilings. She becomes one of the few African American women in the United States to hold this high-level position in a financial institution. With nearly three decades of dedicated service, Smith’s journey from a teller to the C-suite is a testament to her unwavering commitment, relentless work ethic, and a passionate drive to help others.

DMCU, which serves nearly 30,000 members and manages $500 million in assets, operates branches in Detroit, Clawson, and Novi, offering a wide range of financial products and services, as well as a robust financial coaching program designed to cater to the diverse needs of its members.

“Supporting small businesses along with pushing financial literacy and coaching is important to me. It’s relevant to everyone, everyone could benefit from it no matter what their financial status is. So that’s a big initiative that we’re going to continue with and move forward.” Smith continues, “Also teaching financial literacy to our youth is a huge initiative we want to introduce. Another big initiative is to focus on the small businesses and that’s why it’s important to understand our members. Meeting the members where they are, giving them what they need and making sure that we can offer the services that are beneficial and relevant to them. Outside of support for our members we want to pour into our employees. Continuing to coach them up and paving their career paths is vital to our organization. I have a lot of things that I want to do and we’re beginning to be strategic and getting all of that on paper starting with our objectives and that makes me eager for the future.”

As the CEO, Sati Smith will take the reins of leadership and provide the strategic vision for DMCU. She will work closely with the Board of Directors to ensure the institution’s community-based approach to financial services is upheld. Her responsibilities include overseeing DMCU’s operations, maintaining the highest standards of service, and ensuring the effective implementation of member-supported policies and procedures. In addition, Smith will play a vital role in shaping the future goals of DMCU, focusing on supporting its diverse membership and strengthening its commitment to the community.

“The foundation of DMCU is the many wonderful people that we serve,” Smith emphasizes. “We see our members as individuals with their own stories, struggles, and triumphs. This approach has kept DMCU going strong for nearly a century and will continue to set us apart in the increasingly competitive financial landscape.”

Sati Smith’s vision for DMCU reflects her profound understanding of the institution’s core principles. She sees each member as an individual with their unique stories, struggles, and triumphs, and it’s this personalized approach that has sustained DMCU for nearly a century, setting it apart in the competitive financial landscape.

Smith’s journey to the top is a remarkable story. Over the past 25 years, she has climbed the ladder, starting as a teller with Kemba Financial Credit Union in 1998 and ascending to roles such as a data processing clerk, IT manager, branch manager, operations manager, and Chief Operating Officer at DMCU. Her life story, including her experiences as a single mother on welfare without a high school diploma when she began her career, is an inspirational narrative of determination and resilience.

While ascending through the ranks and raising her daughter, Smith pursued her education, obtaining her GED and putting herself through college. She earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts from Ashland Theological Seminary. What’s more, her daughter, now 31, works at DMCU as a loan processor, a testament to the family’s dedication to the institution.

“You just do,” Smith said filled with emotion. “I never really focused on what kind of impact it was actually going to have on her. I just knew that I had to be an example. You don’t know if your children are going to follow in the footsteps that you’ve laid or if they want to go in another direction. All you can do is plant the seeds. To actually see that she’s reaping the benefits of the seeds by moving on in the financial industry is beautiful. I didn’t realize how much of the impact that I was having on until she told me I was her hero. As a parent and even a single mother, you know, you make a lot of mistakes. You don’t get a booklet telling you how to parent and oftentimes, you feel you can do better. For her to actually say that to me meant so much to me.”

Sati Smith’s promotion to the role of CEO marks the beginning of a new chapter for both her and DMCU. Her predecessor, Kathie Trembath, her longtime mentor, retires after more than 40 years in the credit union industry and nearly two decades with DCMU but will remain as a consultant for the institution in the coming months.

David H. Brooks III, Diversified Members Credit Union Board Chair, expresses the board’s pride in Sati’s accomplishments, calling her a remarkable mentor and role model. The board eagerly anticipates her innovative initiatives and her leadership as DMCU continues its mission to support and serve its diverse membership.

In addition to Sati Smith’s historic appointment, DMCU is pleased to welcome Mark Evenson as its new Chief Financial Officer. A Michigan native, Evenson brings more than 18 years of experience and a track record of building and motivating dynamic teams to the institution. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in management and corporate finance from Eastern Michigan University and Walsh College of Accountancy, respectively, Mark previously served as Chief Financial Officer for Cornerstone Community Financial in Auburn Hills. His appointment strengthens DMCU’s leadership team, further solidifying its commitment to providing exceptional financial services to its members.

Sati Smith’s journey from a teller to becoming the first African American woman CEO in DMCU’s history is a remarkable story of perseverance and determination. Her appointment is not only a testament to her own dedication but also a source of inspiration for countless individuals, especially women and minorities, who aspire to break through barriers and achieve their dreams. As Diversified Members Credit Union continues to evolve, it will do so under the capable leadership of a CEO who embodies the values of community, service, and empowerment. Sati Smith’s tenure promises to be an exciting and transformative chapter in DMCU’s storied history, ensuring its legacy for future generations.

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