As another successful Annual Meeting came to a close, we sat down with four of this year’s participants in the Young Professionals Track to talk about the highlights of the experience, the future of the Credit Union Movement, and why it’s so important that we continue to invest in young professionals.
This is our conversation
Q: For those who were unable to attend, would you tell us a bit about what the Young Professionals track included at this year’s meeting.
Tyler Valentine, President and CEO, Laramie Plains FCU: The Young Professionals program began with a full day pre-conference workshop about Credit Union Strategic planning. The session dives deep into what goes into strategic planning and how processes at every level within a Credit Union might be part of strategic initiatives. Throughout the day, there is an emphasis on the ways that young professionals can contribute to big-picture strategic goals no matter where they are within the organization.
As the meeting gets underway, the Young Professionals served as volunteers for the Annual Golf Tournament, which allows us to give back to the Foundation while also networking with Credit Union executives and vendors.
Brian Lee, CFO, Landings Credit Union: This was the second year we’ve had a pre-conference workshop for Young Professionals that’s dedicated to strategic planning. The workshop offers valuable insight and information about what strategic planning is and how it affects every area of Credit Union operations. Participants get a deep dive into the strategic decision-making process, gaining insight about how every decision should align with the organization’s core mission and values.
Scott Sager, COO, Trona Valley FCU: One of the most amazing things about participating in the strategic planning workshop is that you are able to come up with a strategic plan and presentation in a relatively short amount of time, working with a team of people that you’ve never worked with before. The level of teamwork that comes together right away is impressive. Participating in that workshop exposes you to different perspectives and ideas and gives you the opportunity to exercise leadership and teamwork skills that might not come into play in your day-to-day work.
Sarae Kurth, Outreach Manager, Denver Community Credit Union: There was also a fantastic panel discussion about diversity and inclusion. One of the panelists offered the analogy that diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance after you arrive. I thought that was a really useful way to understand those concepts and think about the areas where we can improve.
I was also excited to hear Susan Mitchel speak. She’s the founder of the Global Women’s Leadership Network, an organization I’m proud to be involved with. I was really inspired by some of the field engagement projects that they do, like building an orphanage in Africa, or helping areas rebuild that have been ravished by natural disasters. It was inspiring to me and something I hope to participate in at some point in the future.
We also had a couple of people attend the meeting from a Credit Union Service Organization and it was great to get that unique perspective from people who work withCredit Unions rather than inCredit Unions.
Q: Why is having a specific program for Young Professionals at the Annual Meeting important?
Scott: To me, it really comes down to the fact that the people who will lead this movement into the future are today’s Young Professionals. So, it’s important for us, as an Association, to focus on how we can build that group up and set them up for success. Current executives and CEO’s have been networking for decades. As they retire and that succession takes place, it’s important for the next generation to have a network that they can rely on to support them as they move the industry forward.
Sarae: This is the second year I’ve attended, and in both meetings, I got so much out of the Young Professionals track. I’ve really appreciated the insight and knowledge I’ve gained from other Credit Union professionals who work primarily in other areas of the Credit Union than I do.
Brian: One of the core principles of the Credit Union movement is cooperation. But, when you’re a Young Professional, you might not have had a chance to build up a wide network of peers that can help and support you. So, the networking opportunities is one of the most valuable things about the meeting.
Also, interacting with so many people that are passionate about their work and the Credit Union industry, sparks a lot of enthusiasm and energy for your work that lasts for months.
Q: What were some of the highlights for you personally during this year’s meeting?
Tyler: There was a great session for Young Professionals about advocacy led by Jim Nussle, the CEO of CUNA . He came in and talked with us about his journey and the importance advocacy. Also, Paul Norgrove, who is the president and CEO of Police Credit Union in the UK, attended this year’s meeting, offering an international perspective. His presence really drove home the message that the Credit Union Movement is global and that the things we do here have international impact.
International partnerships, like the one we have with the Association of British Credit Unions Limited, are so valuable for everyone involved. They are hoping to send people to our meeting on a regular basis and I’m hoping to attend their annual meeting in March of next year to do what Paul did for us by going through their program and offering insight about what Credit Unions are doing in the US.
Sarae: One of the most interesting things for me was understanding how different risk ratios are from one Credit Union to the next. At my Credit Union, we have a fairly low risk tolerance, which also means that our delinquency rates are low. But, I spoke with Credit Union leaders who see higher delinquency rates as evidence that they are fulfilling their mission of serving the underserved. It was so interesting to see how something like delinquency rates factor into strategic decision making.
I also really enjoyed Jim Nussle’s presentation. At a YP breakout session, he emphasized the importance of engaging with our local elected officials. For example, he suggested inviting elected officials to join us if we sponsor a table at a community fund raiser. This gives them the opportunity to interact with their constituents and us the opportunity to engage with them on a deeper level.
Scott: Having attended for the past few years, I can say that the opportunity to build close relationships with young professionals from other Credit Unions is immensely valuable. These are people I can call on for ideas or advice, knowing that I’ll get an objective, unique perspective.
Every year, I come back completely energized about my work and purpose in this movement. The people and content delivered is top quality and highly motivating. I always come back more determined to do good and be a better version of myself and this year was no exception.
Q: What does the future of the Young Professionals Track look like in the coming years?
Tyler: We want to continue to be a fully invested strategic partner in the planning of the Annual Meeting to ensure that we are delivering the best content possible for everyone who attends.
Brian: Young Professionals are the future of the Credit Union movement, so we’re committee to look for ways to fully integrate into the meeting and get involved at an even deeper level.
Q: For anyone reading this that might be considering attending next year’s meeting, what advice do you have for them?
Brian: If you have a passion for what you’re doing and want to be involved in the future of the movement, the Annual Meeting will give you plenty of opportunities to learn and build deeper connections. Work hard to build a diverse network so you can learn from the lessons and expertise of those who have been there before while helping to usher in the future of our movement.
After the meeting, ask to see your Credit Union’s strategic plan because when you understand how your role fits into the overall strategy it will make your job more meaningful.
Scott: Anyone who’s looking for future development or promotion should not only commit to attending next year’s meeting, they should go all in while they’re there. The opportunities to meet people and learn are endless, but you have to invest the energy.
Sarae: The networking is fantastic. The sessions and learning opportunities are great for people in all areas of operations. You will leave with valuable insights that will move you forward in your career and make a positive impact on your Credit Union’s goals.
The caliber of speakers and sessions is very high. Talking with such a diverse group of people from every area of the Credit Union industry has given me powerful insights. In the two years I’ve attended, I left the meeting with several great takeaways that I can implement at my Credit Union to support our growth and the impact we have on our community.
Credit Union professionals tend to be very cooperative and collaborative in nature. But one statistic I heard at this year’s meeting really brought that point home – Credit Unions currently only have 7% of the market share, so we aren’t each other’s competition. We are each other’s allies to grow that market share together so we can help more people. Get involved! We need you!