Nichole Fabiois the Indirect Lending Managerfor Hughes Federal Credit Union and this year’s YP Exchange Scholarship Recipient.
The World Council’s YP Exchange brings together a multi-national audience of young professionals for a youth summit. This Summit explores how credit unions in each country are working to expand their relevance with young members, emphasizing the role of technology and recognizing the cooperative principles that set Credit Unions apart.
We sat down with Nichole to ask her about her experience at this year’s Summit, which was held in Brazil.
This is our conversation.
Q: What prompted you to apply for this scholarship opportunity?
Nichole: I initially heard about the opportunity from an email that was sent out by the Association’s Young Professional’s Group. At the time, I had just been promoted to a new management position and felt that one of the best things I could do to set myself up for success was to work on building my network.
I wanted to create a network of peers that I could rely on for answers, insights, and information about how to improve our processes and services for our members. Also, as a young professional, I want to understand the Credit Union industry from as many different perspectives as possible. I thought that this opportunity would help me accomplish that.
Q: Did the Summit meet your expectations?
Nichole: It far exceeded every one of my expectations. I was able to build relationships with the other young professionals in my group that I’m certain will last throughout my Credit Union career.
Our Credit Union hosts throughout the week was Sicredi, and they were incredible. They were prepared in all aspects, taking us on a tour of the city, allowing us to visit several of their branches and their headquarters, and really showing us how they operate.
Q: What were some of the things you found most interesting about Sicredi?
Nichole: One of the most interesting things to me was learning how many of their members attend their annual meetings. Annual meetings are challenging events to put on. But the amount of people who attend Sicredi’s meetings blew my mind. They actually hold several different annual meetings each year because their attendance is too high for just one meeting.
We also learned that they have doubled in size over the past 5 years through successful marketing and opening new branches all over the country. Another way they are attracting new members is through implementation of new technology that serves the needs of their members.
Q: Did you notice any differences in operations between Sicredi and Credit Unions here in the US?
Nichole: Yes, and it was really interesting. One example is that when someone opens a new account, the branch begins the process with the new member, but then sends the documentation to a central department tasked with the sole purpose of completing new account set-up. This allows the MSR working directly with the new member to focus more time on building rapport and introducing them to various products the Credit Union offers that might serve their needs in a more comprehensive way.
Q: Tell me a bit about the Summit itself. How was it structured? What were some things that impacted you over those two days?
Nichole: For me, one of the most impressive things about the whole experience was that the Summit wasn’t just for Credit Union Professionals. It was also open to their members. The members that attended were able to get time off from their job to be there because their employers recognized that the Summit could help them grow their knowledge base and expand their network.
The main theme of the Summit was diversity and inclusion. So, when we first walked in, there were Legos all over the place that were meant to symbolize the importance of building a diverse network. I thought that was a brilliant way of representing the concept because Legos are a common item in every country that was represented there. It was a concept that instantly brought us together regardless of language and cultural barriers.
We got to hear from 10 speakers while we were there and worked on a couple of different activities. One of the activities was to tell a story that illustrates why we are who we are. After sharing our story with our group, we all chose one word to encapsulate the core meaning and impact of that story. It was such a great experience because everyone has a story, regardless of whether they’ve had the opportunity to share it. It really helped us to connect to one another on a personal level.
Another activity was to work with a team to write an article about our experience of the Summit from an outsider’s perspective (“outsider” meaning someone not from Brazil).
This was my first international trip and I really didn’t know what to expect. Prior to the trip, I looked up statistics about how many people in Brazil speak English and was nervous to learn that only about 5% of Brazilians speak a second language. The language barrier was challenging, but everyone was so eager to communicate! Our Brazilian hosts didn’t make us feel like we were a burden for being in their country and not speaking their language. And, because of technology like Google Translator, we were able to carry on conversations and learn from one another.
Q: Why do you think programs like this are important to the Credit Union industry?
Nichole: You know, even though we come from different environments, and might operate differently, we all have the same goal: To increase membership as a way of making a positive impact on our community.
One of the most important things events like this teach is that none of us are going to be able to make a true impact on our world if we aren’t willing to step outside our comfort zone and explore the diversity around us.
Just yesterday, I met with some of the other Summit attendees because we are working on implementing a plan to replicate the Sicredi model of the Youth Committees at other Credit Unions all over the world. As I mentioned earlier, Sicredi does such a great job of including their members at events that are traditionally Credit Union employee only events. None of the other countries that were represented there had seen that before, but we could all see the value in it. So, we are working together to figure out how to implement that idea in our own countries.
The people at Sicredi were so generous with their time and resources. It happened to be my birthday while we were there and they went and bought me a birthday cake, and sang happy birthday to me in Spanish, Portuguese, and English on stage at the Summit.
The last day we spent with them was emotional. Even through the language barriers, we formed such strong relationships. I left there a better person.