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June 20, 2013

The Cooperative Trust Changes Hands - What Does That Mean for the Future? [Guest Author: Jimmy Marks]

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[Editor's Note: Ron's out today, so we're throwing it over to Jimmy Marks, DigitalMailer's Creative Media Director, to comment on this breaking development.]

For the first time in its history, The Cooperative Trust has undergone a leadership change. Brent Dixon, the organization's creator and, for want of a better term, "Motivational Shepherd", has stepped down. He will be replaced by James Marshall, a credit union employee from the UK and a participant in this year's Crash the GAC event.

James has worked for CUs in the UK and is currently in London, waiting (I'm told) to make his way to the US of A. He'll be working with Filene on next steps and a strategy for growth for the tiny gathering of industry-loving young folks which started out as no more than a handful of weary travelers in a DC-area hostel. 

I've met James. I like him a lot. I don't know that much will change in the day-to-day, but I can appreciate his desire to bring outside perspective and to further energize the base. I'm sorry that Brent won't be directly tangled up in the Cooperative Trust's various goings-on, but I also greatly doubt that Brent won't have a hand in the organization in some way.

Long story short: I think this is great news. It comes at a time when the continued success of the Trust's mission and vision depend on an involved, articulate, energetic individual. 

For as legitimized as the Cooperative Trust has become in the past few years, there are people in the industry who still only see a bunch of "kids". Trust members have been accused of being leeches, only showing up at industry events - like GAC, or the WOCCU conference, or the NCBA annual meeting - to eat free food, stuff bags with vendor swag and disrupt the goings on. As an "adjunct faculty" of the Trust*, I can tell you that this is a gross misconception. I can also tell you that plenty of people that accuse Crash participants of being ill-mannered cheapskates are more than willing to show up at Thunderpunch, turn up their noses, drink the free alcohol and leave without thanking their very gracious hosts.

But I digress.

The Cooperative Trust holds "Crash" events because there are many credit unions in America that have a loyal member base, a keen mission and vision, but very little in the way of a travel budget. Others still send board members and C-level execs (all of whom, to be fair, should go to events like GAC and league meetings), but don't send younger folks that could benefit from learning more about what makes this industry tick. And lest you believe that the Cooperative Trust was founded to serve ages 18-25, there are "Trustees" of all ages - they're mentors, they're advisers, they're peers - and they hold just about any position in the credit union you could dare think of, from the top of the org-chart all the way down.

I won't spend too much time speaking on behalf of the Cooperative Trust - James Marshall's out there doing his job right this second and he's more than happy to speak to you about the future. But If I could put a bow on the vision of the organization, it would be simply this...

"A change is gonna come."

I've been a member of and have worked with credit unions that have undergone leadership changes in the past few years. Very few of them go out hunting for replacements in the non-finance sector, and I don't think very many more go after bank execs to fill the need. Typically, credit union people replace credit union people. You might say that this causes more stagnation in the industry...if we can't get outside of our own hiring pool, how can we grow? 

We grow by creating a better class of "credit union people". People who are experienced. People who are passionate. People who believe that credit unions can serve the people they were founded to serve on their own terms. People who will keep the credit unions we have growing strong and will help buoy the industry. I think the mission of the Cooperative Trust has been to create that class of credit union person, through mentoring, through service, and through engagement. 

I think James Marshall's a good fit. And I think that, as long as the Cooperative Trust never loses site of its goal - to create the credit union leaders and innovators of the future - the industry will benefit from more of this "young blood".

Agree? Disagree? Let us hear about it in the comments.


* I'm not a full-fledged Trust member. I help out with events, do the odd blog post and assist the organization with the occasional project.

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