Andrew Downin

My day job is managing director of research for Filene Research Institute, which we like to call a “think and do tank” for cooperative finance, especially credit unions.

Credit unions tend to have a reputation for being a bit predictable. My role is to connect them with provocative insights that push them out of their comfort zone in order to better serve consumers. I love working with some of the world’s most creative thinkers—people who are looking for new and better ways to address financial challenges—and bringing their insights to the credit union space.

My most memorable caffeine was my first espresso as an undergrad at the University of Arizona, which I drank at Bentley’s Coffee House. I’d never had an espresso and for whatever reason I decided to go all in and have a triple espresso—and I even drank the espresso that a friend ordered and didn’t drink. At that time I was an intern at a CPA firm and was so jittery when I got back to work that I had to lock myself in the bathroom until I calmed down. To this day I’m addicted to caffeine but I do not drink triple espressos.

My current caffeine of choice is a bit of a ritual. It starts with a cup of coffee at home while I’m eating my breakfast. On the way to work I drink a diet Red Bull in the car, and once I get to work I have another four to five cups of coffee. In the afternoon I switch to Diet Coke.

My favorite place for caffeine is at home! There’s nothing better on a Sunday morning than sitting on the couch with my husband enjoying a cup of coffee with a little Bailey’s—especially in the fall—with the local news on the TV. We crack the window and enjoy the crisp cold air while we sit and talk about the week behind and the week ahead. It’s lovely and peaceful.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Edward Filene and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Edward Filene was the founding father of the credit union movement in the U.S. and the man our company is named for. He was a true visionary and a guiding light in the world of finance. He saw that most people, except the wealthy, were excluded from financial services and believed it was possible to create a business where profits were a means, not an end. He was a man with millions in the bank who worked tirelessly to serve those who didn’t have access to financial resources. Filene’s philosophies resonate with me on a personal level and I’d love to talk with him and gain his insights on the challenges we still face when it comes to financial access.

As someone who loves music and has always fantasized about a career in theater, it would be a special thrill to sit down with Lin-Manuel. As a composer and lyricist, he’s one of the most passionate, creative people living today. I’m in awe of his ability to take sparks and turn them into theater and his unabashed willingness to put himself and his ideas out there. Who else would have thought of taking a topic as seemingly bland as Alexander Hamilton and crafting it into a groundbreaking masterpiece?

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  self-absorption. With the explosion of social media we have so many platforms that allow us to tell others how we feel about something without taking the time to hear what they have to say. Maybe the right amount of caffeine would encourage us to take off the headphones and reconnect. And maybe that would help us once again become a world that values manners and civility.