Tallent will be recognized as the distinguished alumnus from the James M. Hull College of Business during the festivities April 28-30. He earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration from Augusta University.
Tallent recalls he was always good with numbers and math came naturally. A lifelong Augusta resident, he originally wanted to be a sports journalist. After deciding that wasn’t going to pan out, he gravitated toward accounting. Now, he’s the CEO of the credit union, where he has been since 1996.
Tallent went to high school at the Academy of Richmond County. He grew up a University of Tennessee fan and had his sights set on going to college there, but he knew due to the cost of out-of-state tuition, that likely wouldn’t happen. With some prodding from a neighbor, his collegiate career started at what was then Augusta College.
He is the first family member to get a degree from a four-year college and later returned to earn his MBA. Despite being a first-generation student, he knew his family expected him to attend college.
Tallent remembers his first accounting class with Mary Lisko, who retired in 2006 as assistant dean of what was then the College of Business Administration, after a 29-year career. Lisko left a lasting impression on Tallent.
“I really liked her. She’s very direct, very straightforward but also could talk down on my level and explain things. That kind of got the hook in me,” said Tallent.
He also remembers many other classes, but one management class stands out during his senior year. Tallent wasn’t big on public speaking, but for this class, he had to give a 15-minute presentation. After plenty of sweating about it, he got the job done and said to this day he probably learned more in that class than he would have in a public speaking class.
Finding a good paying accounting job right out of college wasn’t easy. He was prepared to get a computer science degree, but as luck would have it, he landed an accounting job for a local home health company shortly after enrolling in classes.
Health Masters Home Health Care asked him to assist a hired consultant who was looking to start a credit union. Next thing he knew, he found a new spot in the company after the approval came from the National Credit Union Administration to start HealthMaster Federal Credit Union.
“The approval showed up, and they didn’t bring the accountant back. They came to me and said, go open the credit union, and that’s what I did. I opened up the credit union and served as its only employee for 18 months,” he said.
Eventually, the home health agency was sold, and the credit union merged into another local credit union.
After a year of selling medical supplies for the same company, Tallent ended up where he is now, at HCCU. He enjoys every day, and that keeps him coming back.
“I feel very loyal to them,” said Tallent. “They took me in and said, we need you. I needed them, and it was a great fit. They trusted me, and I was lucky enough to get hired as the assistant manager here.”
Rob Grable was his predecessor as CEO at HCCU and in a short period of time, taught Tallent plenty. In four years, Grable had retired and Tallent was given the opportunity to run the credit union.
He knows there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with the role and he takes pride in all the credit union has accomplished.
“To have your hand in every major event that has happened over the last 25 years is pretty cool,” said Tallent.
One of the more memorable occurrences was Y2K, when people didn’t know how computers would react to the year 2000.
“We were still a very small credit union. We’ve always been around 15 to 20 employees for the most part. Not only was it so much as Y2K, but it was the whole Windows revolution. We went from those dumb terminals to Windows machines to get ready for Y2K, and we had to teach people who had been doing this job for nearly 20 years how to use Windows,” Tallent said.
Another challenge during his tenure has been keeping up with all the regulatory aspects of the business. They have changed over time, and he points to the mortgage crisis in 2008-09 as a dividing line. As HCCU grew, they had to focus more on information security and do more audit work to make sure everything was in line with federal regulations.
HCCU has always valued community engagement, not just through serving its members, but aso through charitable endeavors. One of their biggest partnerships is with the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, a place that hits home for not only Tallent, with his son spending time there, but other employees and their families as well.
That’s not the only charity they play a big role in supporting.
“We try to follow what the university is passionate about. We raise money for the Georgia Cancer Center and work with Paceline, but also the American Heart Association,” said Tallent. “We do anything we can for the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home, just to make sure the vets have what they need to have. Those guys have sacrificed a lot, and we want to make sure we do our part.”
There could easily be more charitable contributions and area partnerships in the future, as HCCU is merging with Georgia’s Own Credit Union. They have been working together the last few years, and Tallent indicated HCCU was at a point where some hard decisions had to be made about the future. The HCCU board voted to look for a partner, and Georgia’s Own was the right fit.
“We are about a $72 million credit union, and they are about a $4.8 billion credit union. This is going to take it to a whole different level,” he said.”
Tallent added the service level will remain the same as they continue to focus on the university and its needs, but there will now be more opportunities available for their members.
“The members are going to have access to products that we don’t have now. They are going to have access to call centers that we don’t have now. They’ve got three different call centers, depending on what your needs are.”
He added that not only are members going to have more services, but current employees will too, as it opens up career pathways directly in front of them.
Tallent also foresees building a stronger relationship with the Hull College of Business, as well as stronger bonds to the Augusta area as a whole.
“I think we’re going to be in a good position to do things that have probably never been attempted here in Augusta,” he said. “We have a plan we hope to share with AU that will ensure that students coming to the university go through financial counseling, financial education. Not only when they get here, but right before they leave. A way to say, ‘Look, you’re about to be out in the world, and I’ve got some thoughts on that.’”