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21 posts categorized "Conferences and Seminars"

October 23, 2013

Just One Presentation Taught Me Five Lessons


by Jimmy Marks

Recently, DigitalMailer sponsored the CU Water Cooler Symposium 2013. We went to Nashville to meet lots of cool people and see so many great presentations (I made one of my own, but I'm not bragging…there was a whole lot of great stuff on that stage).

The talk that really stuck with me? One that had nothing to do with credit unions or even with the finance industry...well, not the real finance industry, but a banker is involved.

The speaker was Tim Vandenberg, a teacher from Hesperia Unified School in Victorville, California. His talk? All about Monopoly. No, not a business monopoly - the game of Monopoly.

Tim Vandenberg - Monopoly Academy: Winning the “Game” of No Child Left Behind

Tim's talk was all about his use of Monopoly to teach math to 6th graders. His approach has turned dozens and dozens of kids from below-average learners (some of them counted on their fingers) into some of the highest-scoring students in the school, and even in his district. He's a passionate guy and his work speaks for itself. The night after his presentation, however, someone pondered aloud "What did that have to do with credit unions and finance?" The more I thought about it, the more profound Tim's talk became. I realized it wrapped up five lessons every credit union should consider.

  1. Regulation is tough, but it doesn't have to be a progress-killer - Tim developed his Monopoly-themed course as a way of challenging students and raising their math scores simultaneously. His school, like many in America, was left hurting with the implementation of "No Child Left Behind", an act that has done a lot of damage to American schools by emphasizing the importance of standardized tests instead of "real learning". Tim knew that the math scores would need to increase and that students would still need an intellectual challenge. His Monopoly/Math Camp did both.
  2. Mary Poppins was right - A "spoonful of sugar" helps the "medicine" go down. When I was a kid, I hated math. My teachers showed our class "School House Rock" to help us learn times tables and parts of speech. Songs and stories made it a lot easier to digest. Tim's approach has taught his students many hard-to-master math concepts, such as compound interest, principle, rent and real-estate. Gamification strikes again! And this time, to the betterment of students' test scores.
  3. Kids aren't dumb - Young people are often dismissed in the finance industry. Tim's students learn many important concepts quickly and can stack up against adults…one story Tim shared had a local bank teller come to him in tears, telling him his children were too fast with their math. Several of his students played exhibition matches with Monopoly Grand Champions (yes, there's a Monopoly Championship) and won against them. With proper instruction, kids can learn anything. So why aren't we doing more financial education at a younger age?
  4. "Never trust a smile" - Tim recounted a story in which he played the game with his students and one in particular called him out for taking advantage of a trade. "Never trust a smile," he told his student - a lesson that holds a lot of value, especially in finance. Sure, a friendly demeanor may put the consumer at ease, but if they ignore the terms they could get burned in the long run.
  5. Monopoly doesn't last forever - Apparently, there's a "proper way" to play Monopoly and an "improper way". The proper way takes about 90 minutes; the improper way takes all day, or even a full week. I suspect from my many years playing monopoly that I've never played "the proper way". 

That's five good lessons from one simple talk. Now, consider this - what would happen if you had attended and gleaned five good lessons from every single talk, of which there were thirteen? That would be sixty-five great lessons you could take with you, back to your credit union.

Why didn't you go again? And while we're at it, why aren't you already champing at the bit to go to CUWCS 2014 in Austin, Texas?

February 27, 2013

Filson Calls for Cooperative NCUA


Filson encourages credit unions and their members to sign petition.

by Jimmy Marks

On Monday morning, just as the CUNA Government Affairs Conference (GAC) was getting underway, Chip Filson, Chairman of Callahan & Associates, Inc. was gathering a crowd of CU professionals for a press conference. As the room quickly filled and places were taken in chairs and along the walls of the meeting room, Filson announced a new vision for the NCUA and for credit unions - a vision based on the seven cooperative principles. Filson's proposal would encourage the administration to allow credit unions to have a say in which individuals would be selected for open NCUA board seats.

From the Press Release that accompanied the conference: 

"The cooperative design is foundational to the success of credit unions and their member-owners. Yet there is widespread concern that the Agency is not practicing cooperative solutions," Filson said. "How can credit unions fulfill their special role in providing Americans with real choices for their financial wellbeing if a cooperative regulatory perspective is lacking?"

Filson called on all attendees - and, in turn, all credit unions and credit union members - to sign a petition on the White House public petitions website, asking the Obama Administration to fill upcoming NCUA board-seat vacancies with "leaders who understand the shared economic value for people and communities created by the Cooperative model". As of this writing, the petition has received 549 signatures and needs 99,451 more to be considered formally by the White House. The 100,000 signature benchmark must be met by March 26, 2013 for the petition to be considered.

When asked whether or not the petition would hold any real significance, Filson seemed adamant that the petition itself was an important example of the openness of governance and leadership, whether the 100,000 signature goal is met or not. NCUA board members are currently appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Filson's release also served as his declaration of candidacy for the upcoming board seat. Planks in Filson's platform include:

  • Reestablishing cooperative principles as the foundation for the credit union regulatory system
  • Providing credit union members and leaders an opportunity to demonstrate their support for leadership based on the cooperative principles
  • Advancing the vision of a 21st century cooperative regulator.

Filson has a long history of working with credit unions, CUSOs and other finance-based businesses. Between the years of 1981 and 1985, Filson served as the Director of the Office of Examination and Insurance and the CEO of NCUSIF for the NCUA. He was a co-founder of Callahan & Associates, an organization he now serves as Chairman, and sits on the board of several organizations, including DigitalMailer, the owners and operators of this blog.

Remarks and response in the conference room were positive, with some mild confusion about the tone of the message and how to best convey the sum of the ideas expressed to credit unions and their members. Simply put (at least from the writer's viewpoint) - credit unions should want to have a hand in choosing the people that regulate them and the direction the NCUA takes in the future. Members should understand a desire to use a democratic process to choose their leaders - it's a part of the American experience.

If you're interested in the petition or the finer points of Filson's campaign, go to

How do you feel about a more cooperatively-minded NCUA? If not Filson, who should take the seat, if credit unions get to choose? Talk to us in the comment section.

February 20, 2013

Your GAC Getting-Around Guide, 2013


by Ron Daly

Yes, it's that time again - the Government Affairs Conference (GAC) is only a few short days away and we here at the CU Soapbox couldn't be more excited. This is the one time of year when everyone eschews the warm, calming comforts of a casino or a far-off resort in paradise for the chilly, wind-swept streets of Washington, DC. But even with the sub-arctic blasts and the almost-being-hit-by-a-motorcade, GAC attendees always seem to be in high spirits. 

We're looking forward to being there this year. If you want, swing by the Filene Charging Station from 12:30 to 1:30 on Monday and you'll see me and Jimmy Marks. Feel free to drop by and have a chat while your phone, laptop, or tablet is charging.  I'm happy to sign autographs on any of my merchandise you might happen to have with you (kidding, of course). We'll also be bouncing around town in our usual whirlwind of lunch-having, drink-buying, event-attending and, yes, even Thunder-punching.

In the interest of making your GAC go a little more smoothly, I went a grabbed some light reading for the plane, train,  or automobile ride there. I also threw in a few notes about GAC, the Washington Convention Center, the surrounding areas and our favorite restaurants and bars for all your nightlife needs. 

Organizational Must-Haves

Here's a link to the Official GAC Schedule. Bookmark it, instagram it, make it the lock-screen on your iPad...whatever makes it easy to remember. There's also a full breakdown you can download as a PDF and save in your e-reader, if you're so moved.

Here's a quick link to the street address of the Washington Convention Center so you can quickly map your way there while mobile. Enter your starting address and it should get you there. One note about Googling for this address: the "pin" is dropped at the rear of the convention center - it's accessible from right in front of Mt. Vernon Square and this is probably the entrance and exit you'll want to use to get to the Chinatown area where most of the nightlife happens.

If you plan on exploring the greater DC area while you're in town (assuming you have the free time), you may want to go to a Metro station and grab a Metro card. Embark is an app that can help you navigate the often-confusing (and sometimes delayed) Metro. You can grab the Metro at either the Mt. Vernon Square OR Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stops, both a short walk away from the Convention Center.

If you're in need of cash, there are two ATMs that are part of the Co-op network. This map shows the convention center and the two ATMs closest to it (GSA and Justice, just fyi). These are marked on the map with a red pushpin. 

Good Eats

You have a multitude of options for food in the GAC area. On the map above with the red pushpins for ATMs, we've added yellow pushpins for places to grab a bite

High Class Dining

There are three restaurants we really like in the Chinatown area. Matchbox does great pizza and American cuisine and has a great cocktail selection. The 901 Restaurant and Bar has a chic style and some tasty food. Acadiana is the most pricey, but the cuisine - a kind of Creole fusion - is to die for.  

Good, Fast, AND Cheap

Need something speedy that doesn't cost a bundle? There's Chipotle, Fuddruckers Burgers, Five Guys, Potbelly and Chopp'd (a salad joint, if you're into that) all in the same block.  

As far as bars go, just walk toward Chinatown and you'll see them in the same area as your dining spots. There are too many to mark and our map's crowded as-is, but there's Fado's (Irish pub), RFD, Rocket Bar...the list goes on. 

And coffee? There's always a Starbucks around, including one right inside the Convention Center. Fear not...there will be caffeine.

Good Reads 

Go ahead and save these articles to your Instapaper or Evernote apps, or throw down a bookmark. There's a lot of good food-for-thought here and it'll help you get through your travel. 

5 Places to Spot Washington Celebrities While at GAC

Who to See at GAC

CUSOs Look to GAC to Step Out of the ‘Vendor’ Category

“How to Hike the Hill”, a CUNA Mutual Group Instructional

GAC – Traditional Media & Social Media…Hand in Hand

May 24, 2012

GUEST POST: Mark Arnold on Becoming Your Members' PFI


Mark Arnold, CCUE, is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner. Mark speaks regularly to audiences around the country on branding, marketing, strategy, leadership, personal growth and generational issues.  With over 20 years experience in the financial services industry, Mark’s breadth of knowledge covers areas such as marketing, business development, human resources, training, and sales. You can follow him on Twitter [@jmarkarnold] or via his blog at




“Credit unions must see themselves as relationship managers. As relationship managers, credit unions better position themselves to become members’ primary financial institution.”

—CUNA E-Scan 

While there is a big rush today to get more new members, one marketing strategy your credit union may want to focus on is getting more from your existing members. Most marketing experts estimate it is eight to ten times easier to expand a relationship with a current member than it is to acquire a new member. Just think about it: what would happen if every one of your members just added an additional product or service per household? Odds are, your net income would skyrocket.

Credit unions must get their members to go beyond just having a savings account and strive to become their members’ primary financial institution. “Financial institutions that make retention one of their top three priorities often enjoy deeper relationships, steadier growth and clearer focus on the core business,” says CUNA’s E-Scan.

According to CUNA, here are the odds of your credit union losing a member based on product usage:

  • 2 to 1 of losing a member if they only have a saving account
  • 10 to 1 of losing a member if they have savings account and a checking account
  • 20 to 1 of losing a member if they have savings account, a checking account and a loan
  • 100 to 1 of losing a member if they have savings account a checking account a loan and any fourth product

Product penetration and member retention are directly linked together.

Two steps your  credit union can take to going beyond just having your members’ savings account are:

1)      Offer relationship pricing

2)      Get sticky products in their hands

Continue reading "GUEST POST: Mark Arnold on Becoming Your Members' PFI" »

March 15, 2012

The Pre-GAC Reading Round-Up


It's coming - the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) kicks off on Sunday, March 18 and everyone is gearing up for a whirlwind week of learning, hill-hiking, happy-houring and hanging out with folks from every side of the credit union sphere. 

The crew here at DigitalMailer always gets excited for GAC because everyone comes to "our neighborhood" (DC and its surrounds) for a few days. Bearing in mind that this might be the first time at GAC for some and the first trip to DC for others, we wanted to pull out a few insightful articles we've seen on Twitter and Facebook this week that are related to GAC.

From CUNAVerse: "Coming to GAC? Get Ready to Work"

The Senate is presently considering a bill that is generously being referred to as a jobs bill. In reality what this legislation does is relax a set of investor protections in the hopes that businesses will use the savings they receive from reduced regulatory compliance to hire new workers.  No one has estimated how many jobs this might create.  Yet, the bill passed the House of Representatives with almost 400 votes, and the Senate is poised to act perhaps as soon as next week.

What better time to have 4,000 credit union advocates in Washington, DC?

For Hill-Hikers, an article from "CEO Interview: Watch For Unintended Consequences"

CEOs can't wait to see what happens. They can't leave it up to the trade associations to handle this with lobbyists. Much of the proposed legislation has good intentions, but lurking is the menace of unintended consequences, which could really hurt credit unions, especially smaller ones.

And again, from "Lobbying Dos And Don'ts"

Even if you are passionate about an issue - and most people who see us are - don't be confrontational. We are dealing with thousands of bills in a short time and sometimes we haven't yet heard of your particular point of view. Expect some back-and-forth, because we want to get to the heart of issues, but don’t be afraid to say you don't know the answer to a question and that you will get back to us about it - you don't want to make up answers or numbers on the spot and end up giving legislators misleading information.

These are all helpful to those brave folks who are determined to go meet their leaders in government and speak on credit unions' behalf. 

For advice a little more on the practical side, keep these tips in mind when in DC: 

  1. COFFEE - An army marches on its caffeine jitters. There's a Starbucks in the Washington Convention Center (where much of GAC takes place) and plenty more coffee shops in Chinatown, which is a short walk away. 
  2. TRANSPORTATION - There are plenty of cabs in DC and they're pretty affordable, but if you want to get adventurous and take the Metro, Gallery Place/Chinatown and Mt. Vernon/7th Street-Convention Center are your stops local to all the action. Go to the Chinatown Metro stop and take the Red Line to Shady Grove, then jump onto the Orange line for the Smithsonian stop if you've got time for sight-seeing. We're assuming you'll be too busy, but if you have an extra day, visiting the Mall and the Smithsonian museums is a great way to spend it.
  3. FOOD - Again, Chinatown has plenty to eat and a little something for every palette, ranging from McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts to La Tasca and Matchbox Pizza (which, for our money, is one of the best pizza/American cuisine restaurants in all of DC). Trust us, you shan't go hungry. 
  4. RUNNING - We know there are a lot of runners in the CU crowd. While DC does have a great many runners in its midst,  the city can be unfriendly to pedestrians of any stripe. Keep your eyes peeled for crabby drivers who wouldn't hit the brakes if their mother was wheeled in front of them in a wheelbarrow full of dynamite. They're out there, so be careful.

    That said, there are some good suggested running routes on This one, in particular, has some lovely views along the way. If you're up for your morning run, hop on the Metro and head toward Farragut North to give this a shot. 

Have you got a good read for "pre-GAC"? Let us know in the comments. 

June 08, 2011

Soapbox Special Edition: The MAC Conference Recap


Jimmy Marks, DigitalMailer's Creative Media Director, attended the Marketing Association of Credit Unions' Annual Conference in San Francisco. We asked him to write up a recap of the events. Here's what he come up with (that is, what he could remember). 

Tuesday, Pre-Conference: 

I took a little walking tour around Market Street and over to O'Farrell. Took lots of pictures, they're included here: 

The city was buzzing with people, some from the MAC conference and some going to WWDC a few days later. There are really cool pictures of the Apple logo being applied to the building from my view at the hotel Westin. 

I had dinner with the always-awesome Jill Nowacki from MAPS and Chris Giles, the General Manager at CU Wireless. If you're ever in San Fran and you like Indian food, you HAVE to go to Amber. It's amazing. 

A fun first day/night after a long flight, but the real fun started the next morning...

Continue reading "Soapbox Special Edition: The MAC Conference Recap" »

March 28, 2011

What's Taking You So Long? A Sneak Preview "Build a Better Email"


Today, I read an article titled "20 Things Financial Institutions Should Do (But Don’t)". It's the kind of article that seems like it was written just for you. Specifically, because of this part: 

5. Email marketing

It's simply stunning how many financial institutions still don’t utilize email marketing tools. Even today, you still hear bankers say things like, “No, we don’t really collect people’s email addresses.”

It IS stunning. Especially given these statistics from Pew Research*:

  • 94% of online adults use email
  • 62% of online adults use email as part of a typical day
  • Biggest online trend: “Certain key internet activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all ages.” This includes email.
  • 38.5% of internet-supported mobile activity was on email among American mobile users
  • 74% of online adults say email is preferred method of commercial communication.
  • 63% of mobile email users check the account a minimum of once per day. 
  • In 2010 30% of total email time was devoted to commercial emails, compared to 17% in 2005.

When are you going to get into email? More importantly, how are you going to be heard above the din? 

We're here to help with both of those questions. 


Recently,  DigitalMailer issued a whitepaper with helpful tips for email marketers. "Build a Better Email: Tips for Email Marketing Success" is free and available now over at

To give you a taste of the helpful hints in this free whitepaper, we've included a few of them here. Give them a read: 

#2 Divide your messages into numerous discreet programs

Rather than having a single all-or-nothing email list, create four or five sub-topics from which customers can select. Most users will select at least one, so you’ll have a way to reach most online consumers with service-related topics. As shown below, DigitalMailer clients offer up to ten different email topics to choose from.

#9  Don’t botch the FROM line

Although we see it less often now, the biggest email mistake is not including the financial institution’s name in the FROM line. It’s an absolute kiss of death for effectiveness, the equivalent of sending letters without postage. They just won’t get read.

#17 Think of mobile and tablets

How good does your email look on a Blackberry? How about on an iPhone? An iPad? Start looking into the display aspects of smaller, mobile screens. The Internet’s next evolution is, quite literally, in the palm of your hand.

#25 Explain why it was sent

Include a short statement as to why consumers are receiving the message, and how to opt-out or opt-in (for those receiving it from a forward). This typically works best in the footer of the email.

#30 Monitor message delivery

As the battle rages against spam, collateral damage to legitimate opt-in marketers is increasing. To make sure your messages get through, you should have two test accounts at each major ISP. One account set with filtering on, the other with filtering off. Even if your email vendor monitors delivery, we recommend test accounts as an added safeguard

Get the full list by downloading our FREE whitepaper! Click here!


*Editor's Note: The Pew Research Articles mentioned are:

 Pew Research Center, 9/2/10 – Cell Phones and American Adults 

“View From the Digital Inbox” 2011; data = primary research by Merkle and Pew 9/2/10

From Pew Research Center, 12/16/10 – Generations 2010

March 03, 2011

Tracking Dodd-Frank


by Ron Daly 

We're recovering from GAC 2011, a three-day frenzy of talk, regulation, talk, meetings, and more talk. The Crashers crashed, the Hill-hikers hiked, and the lawmakers got to see first-hand that credit union folks are dedicated, motivated, and united

The one thing EVERYONE was talking (and tweeting) about? Interchange. It's big, it's bad, it's going to hurt, according to this article from the ABA (yes, that ABA).

  • During the first two years, the proposed rules will eliminate $33.4-$38.6 billion of debit card interchange fee revenues for banks and credit unions. As a result, consumers and small business will face higher retail banking fees and lose valuable services as banks and credit unions seek to offset the loss of debit card interchange revenue.
  • As a result of the anticipated increase in banking fees, the number of unbanked individuals will increase. As a result, many low-income individuals will have to use higher-priced alternative financial service providers, such as check-cashers.

Is this what we want? Obviously not. We need to get ahead of this thing and think about what we're going to lose as a result of these changes. We need information. We need action. 

I encourage you and your senior management team to subscribe to the "Dodd-Frank Tracker" on the ABA website. It DOES cover issues that impact credit union, it's pulling in resources from all over the web and condensing them for YOU. The more you know, the more you can fight against interchange regulation - or react to the fallout. 

Click here to go to their blog directly, or click here to go to their FeedBurner Feed where you can subscribe to their email updates. Read the articles, act on the information. 

November 08, 2010

"Cool" and the Gang: What I Learned at the CU Water Cooler Symposium 2010


Special Guest Author: Jimmy Marks, Creative Media Director

Jimmy was in attendance at one of the most talked-about, blogged-about conferences of the year, the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Fishers, IN. We asked Jimmy to recap some of the bigger takeaways from the conference and to share them with you, our readers. Here's what he discovered. 

You can always read more about Jimmy on our company blog or the sister blog, Click.Connect.Communicate

The CU Water Cooler Symposium first came to my attention early this year. Organizer/Editor/All-Around CU booster Matt Davis called me up to talk about it. Months later, it was a reality, and tickets were really for sale. I got my ticket, I booked my plane, I packed a bag and I headed for beautiful Fishers, Indiana and Forum Credit Union. 

When I got there, I expected people to behave a certain way. Anecdotally, it seemed the crowd had an average age younger than that of most CUs, but that's not difficult seeing as most credit unions have an average age of around 48 (fact check me, Internet). As a young person working in and around and for this industry, I assumed our topics wouldn't drift too far away from marketing and creative discussions and the discussion of social media. 

I was only correct for about two hours. 

After that, the conversation turned to sales, credit cards, business analysis and planning, banking (yes, the word "bank" did get uttered and no one had a freakout about it), advocacy and the future of the credit union. 

A few things about the conference itself I really liked: 

True Dedication - Everyone that was at the CU Water Cooler Symposium ( or CUWCS, as it was abbreviated for Twitter) wanted to be there. It wasn't some shlubby marketing conference or biz. dev. conference that someone got forced into attending...everyone wanted to go. Some so desperately that they paid their own way and bought their own hotel room. That's dedication. And while some folks had to sneak away to catch an early plane home (it happens), I'd wager a good 70 - 80% of attendees stuck it out to the very end. Again, that's anecdotal, but it seemed that many stuck around. 

Make-Your-Own Name Tag - Because you might be the person that hates name tags and doesn't want people knowing who you are. On the other hand, you might be the person who wants everyone to be your friend (guilty). It saved the conference from having to print name tags and let people get creative. 

Talkback Sessions (and, at times, talk DURING sessions) - Crowd participation was a big deal. Many people wanted to air their feelings at the conference and they did. Some waited patiently to say their peace, some jumped up and shouted. All were welcomed to talk and encouraged to share. 

Open Laptops, Open Minds - Everyone was blogging and writing and tweeting and emailing throughout the conference. You couldn't stop us (or me, for that matter) from chiming in and writing in and commenting online. As the editors pointed out, we blew up Twitter

Canadians! - Yes, we got cross-cultural at the CUWCS. Lots of our neighbors to the North came down to share their experiences and concerns. Vancity's Bill Corbett gave an AMAZING talk about culture creation and nurturing, one that left me hoping for that same fire to spread down here in the states. By the way, I'm an honorary member at Mt. Lehman CU in the mystical, far away land of British Columbia. Thanks, Gene Blishen (who's everyone's favorite guy in CUs - a great guy with a true passion for what a credit union does and is. He's like Dumbledore, but if Dumbledore cared about interchange fees and board member involvement). 

Yes, the atmosphere made a big difference. The conference itself, a series of talks about credit union issues, was the real draw. Mostly because the people speaking were all describing different parts of this great, gray elephant and how they relate to the larger whole. 

I'll try to sum up every great thing I learned, but I'm sure you'll want to object/interject/add-to/throw on more. So, there's a comment section that serves that very purpose. Put your belly on the bar. 

What I learned around the Water Cooler: 

  1. There are two kinds of social media users in the CU-sphere - the players and the parrots. The players are people who are actually doing things and use social media to broadcast and discuss those things. The parrots are the people who squawk about social media like that's actually doing something. The cold, hard truth? It isn't. Better banking practices and better business acumen will matter in the long run, not followers or friend counts or retweets. Relevancy is important, but nothing is more relevant to members and potential members than a CU that knows its business and can provide solid, secure technology to keep up with an increasingly mobile and time-pressed population. Watch any and all videos of the talks by Robbie Wright, Ed Brett or Robert Falcone, watch them - you'll be amazed. 
  2. Apathy is over! (If you want it) - Jason Lindstrom of Belvoir FCU gave a terrific talk about advocacy and the role of the member in  saving the CU from extinction. He drew parallels between the members of an organization like AARP and the members of a credit union and pointed out that CU members should be just as passionate about saving credit unions as the people whose jobs depend on their continued presence. But they're not. What will it take to wake up the member and convince them it's time to take up a CU's cause? Silence won't work. One of my favorite quotes from The Simpson's springs to mind: "We've tried nothin', and we're all out of ideas!" Jason also made me a little misty at the start of his speech - a talk from the heart beats the tar out of a sales pitch. Keep that in mind. 
  3. True collaboration starts with an acknowledgement of faults and shortcomings and a rejection of envy to make services better - Jon Hernandez is the CEO of Mattel Credit Union. And Downey City Employee Federal Credit Union. And CalCom Federal Credit Union. Why? Because he's good at his job, those CUs wanted him and he's willing to help all three get their groove on in the LA communities they serve. He works with three different cultures and three different boards to make these credit unions run as they should. They don't get snippy with one another, according to Jon, and he doesn't feel pulled in all directions. He wants all three to succeed and gives each a share of his time. And there are still some CUs that don't even collaborate internally? Mind-boggling. 
  4. Sometimes, asking is all you have to do to get something going - Ondine Irving (pronounced "on-DEEN", not "AHN-dine") asked Suze Orman to look at the deals CUs were offering on their credit cards. Orman did. Then she talked about Ondine's organization and website on Oprah and CNN and so on and so on and so on. Ondine, feeling lucky, asked Suze to speak out on behalf of the NCUA, which Orman did. No one from NCUA ever contacted Orman to talk about what the NCUA is in relation to deposit insurance. It was Ondine that made the difference. Because she asked. Talk about your "net promoters", huh? 
  5. Maya Bourdeau should be cannonized in the CU Marketing World as Our Lady of Realistic Expectations - This talk, I can say quite honestly, breathed new life into me. In one thirty-minute session, Maya Bourdeau laid to rest the ideas that:
    1. Credit unions should expect people to be eager to switch from a bank to a CU (TRUTH! they shouldn't expect them to want to switch whatsoever)
    2. Credit unions should tout the values of membership in advertisements (TRUTH! people don't understand or care and won't respond well to the process of explaining it in print, so don't lead with "member", "non-profit", "co-op" - talk about what you do for people and don't make the text any harder to read than you would for a ten-year-old).
    3. One credit union can create an ad that will inform non-members about the CU difference (TRUTH! they can't, it'll take a national concerted branding effort, so we need to get off our duffs and work on that). 
    4. Credit unions should bash banks (TRUTH! They shouldn't. It makes non-members feel bad about banking with a bank and it tarnishes a CU's reputation. So knock it off.)
    Maya Bourdeau is a very interesting lady who sees a lot of the flaws and shines light on them to try to make the industry better at promoting itself. Here's a copy of her report, go get it. Very good stuff.
  6. You'd be surprised how many businesses are actually co-ops - Like Cabot Cheese in Vermont, for example. Paul Hazen of the NCBA gave a great talk on co-ops and how big an economic impact they actually have. Go here to learn about the NCBA and what they're doing for co-ops. And why it SHOULD matter to you.
  7. Storytelling is important - What's your story? How succinctly can you tell it? Do you have "inside jokes" you could tell to/with your members? Paul McEnany had something to share from way outside the CU comfort zone. And maybe the best part, as far as I was concerned? The fact that overgeneralizing about your target market can alienate a whole group of consumers that actually might want what you're selling. Who have YOU cut out of your member base because you thought they wouldn't want you around?
  8. "Your sons and your daughters, they're beyond your command"...but not beyond your guidance - These few years have been trying for our industry. We have to move forward with an eye toward change and a desire to survive. We need to foster a community that's nurturing of young talent and respectful to the veterans. We need to stop looking at each other as "young know-nothings" and "old fuddy-duddies". That approach will kill us from within. Young credit union members and employees want to be involved more than you think, and older folks have a lot to offer to the generation that's CERTAIN they know everything. Let's focus on training a generation of people that will keep the mission on the rails and start promoting it like their lives depended on it. Let's stop approaching it like we hate each other. 
  9. Forum CU is an awesome conference site with an awesome staff - It's a beautiful place with a very friendly, very helpful staff of people. If you get a chance, swing by and get a tour. Worth your time. Which brings me to my last point...
  10. If this happens again and you don't go, you're crazy - sure, it's around a whole year away, but keep an eye on their website and listen in on the podcast for your opportunity to attend next year. If you're unconvinced thus far, let me remind you that some of the industry's biggest credit unions, CUSOs, media outlets and talents were in attendance. Almost everyone was kind and very easy to get along with. Some folks were an absolute blast to meet in person. It was a steal at twice the price. So go. 

How did you feel about the CUWCS? Tell  us about it in the comment section. 

April 29, 2010

NACUSO Annual Conference Wrap-Up


by Ron Daly 

Just got back from this year's NACUSO Annual Conference and happy to see that the attendance was up. Even more glad to see a number of new CUSOs and first-timers at the event. Many of my contemporaries, collaborators, business partners and friends were in attendance to share their thoughts and feelings about the current state of credit unions and CUSOs. The theme of this year's conference was "Big.Bold.Smart." I think the description fits. These three simple words sum up what credit unions need to be in the coming months and years. 

  • Big - We need to drive up investments, membership and assets across the board to keep ourselves alive.
  • Bold - As we've talked about before (in the wrap-up of the NACUSO Regional Meeting), CUs need to start drinking a little of their own Kool-Aid and acting like the super institutions we know they are. 
  • Smart - In the course of being bigger and bolder, we need to stay smart and do right by our members and our bottom line. 

In my opinion, the conference did a great job of bringing together industry professionals to talk about ways to grow CUSO and Credit Union "opportunity share" through networks and collaboration. Interesting the difference between market share and opportunity share and how a small networked revenue piece of opportunity share could surpass the revenue brought in by large market share bought with a low-cost pricing model. 

Couple of questions that I jotted down that successful organizations ask themselves and might be worth your time to answer for your shop 

  1. What is your value proposition? 
  2. Why Me? AKA - Why should a customer or partner choose you for the service you are selling?
  3. How does your value proposition help you compete? 
  4. How can you switch your offering to compete for a share of the opportunity vs. a share of the market?

Some of the highlights that we wanted to share with our loyal Soapbox readers: 

  • NACUSO has put a list of presentations from the conference online on their website. Take a look at presentations from Jeff Russell (TMG), Guy Messick (Messick & Weber), Dennis Dollar (Dollar & Assoc.), and George Hofheimer (Filene)
  • NACUSO's Twitter feed had some great highlights - follow them and give it a read.
  • CUInsight offered up some YouTube videos of Interviews (including one with yours truly!). Click here to view.
  • CUInnovators' blog has a detailed wrap-up with even more links and info. Click here to read, and don't miss the interview with Robbie Wright on the aforementioned CUInsight video page.

Congratulations to our partner Ongoing Operations for winning CUSO of the year!