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Navy Federal welcomes new CEO

Courtesy photo
Navy Federal Pensacola campus

Navy Federal Credit Union is getting a new chief executive.

The world’s largest credit union announced yesterday that Dietrich Kuhlmann, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, will become its new president and CEO on March 1.

He will succeed outgoing CEO Mary McDuffie, a 24-year veteran of the company who has held the top post since 2018. In a press release, Navy Federal Board Chairman Ed Cochrane said the company had begun the search for a new CEO last September after McDuffie told the board she would be retiring.

"The Board undertook a months-long, rigorous process to identify the best leader for our credit union,” Cochrane said. “Dietrich has shown an unwavering commitment to both his country and to his fellow men and women in uniform throughout his extensive career. These experiences make him the ideal person to lead this institution, and we know he will continue to serve our members superbly in the years ahead.”

He added, “We congratulate Mary on her retirement and thank her for her decades of service to this credit union."

Kuhlmann joined Navy Federal in 2019 and has been chief operating officer for the last two years. He joined the company after a 35-year military career during which he served in key finance roles at the Pentagon and as programming division director for the Chief of Naval Operations.

This leadership change comes on the heels of a class action lawsuit and congressional scrutiny stemming from a CNN investigation that alleged racial disparities in Navy Federal’s lending practices. A separate analysis, by the Senate banking committee, reached similar conclusions.

Earlier this month, Several Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee called for a hearing on the matter. And last week, McDuffie met with three members of the Congressional Black Caucus. She presented the findings of an external review commissioned by Navy Federal and argued the lending disparities could be explained by factors other than race.

The credit union has argued that publicly available lending data, upon which the CNN and Senate analyses were based, does not consider key credit criteria that all lenders use when assessing credit risk — things like a borrower's credit score or information about their available cash deposits or relationship history with the lender.

After last week's meeting, legislators said they were still unsatisfied with McDuffie’s arguments and would continue pushing for answers.