LAS VEGAS - It was hard to tell whether it was plain Las Vegas glitz at a fancy new hotel that brought out a record turnout of 1,200 to CUNA Mutual Group's annual Discovery Conference last week.
Or was it a program heavily laden with "learning" sessions, 70 in all, tailored to a myriad of disciplines, coupled with a low (by Las Vegas standards) $179 room rate that brought out the crowds.
One other theory was that credit union executives were curious to see firsthand what sort of changes Jeff Post, its president/CEO, had made in the firm since taking over in January 2005
Whatever the case, the 800 attendance mark for previous CMG conferences was shattered with CMG officials naturally happy about such an event during a time of high airfares and higher gas prices.
"Let me tell you I do lots of things with CUNA Mutual in credit life, disability, and the bond, and I was a bit nervous a couple of years ago about what a cost cutting binge by them would do to my credit union," confessed Michael Valentine, president/CEO of the $1 billion BCU of Vernon Hills, Ill. explaining why he decided to come to Las Vegas this year to check up on conditions.
Valentine said he was eager to see how CUNA Mutual would be positioning its service role and to "gauge their commitment" to CUs.
Similarly, Duane Bruno, chief operating officer of the $713 million Westerra CU of Denver, said though he was a panelist at the conference, he was also interested "in seeing what Post had done. Besides, I like the fact that he's held those listening things" a reference to Post's conducting cross-country meetings gauging CU input on changes he's made in the firm.
But clearly the gambling lure and the swanky hotel, the newest on the Las Vegas Strip, were also attractions.
"I did have my boss tell me there were some sessions on marketing and innovation suggesting I go and so I jumped at the chance and what a place," declared Kristi Van Schyndel, marketing manager at Prospera CU in Appleton, Wis. whose boss, Kenneth W. Eiden Jr. was also a panel speaker.
A CUNA Mutual spokesman said the hotel room rate was a factor, but that the company had negotiated for that price at least two years ago when construction was still under way. Current group rates at the Wynn can range to $275-$300. Next year's conference is slated in Nashville June 20-23 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
Nothing was said by CUNA Mutual officials when there might be a return to Vegas, which continues to be a popular site for CU meetings. -firstname.lastname@example.org