The first question I expect to hear when I arrive in Las Vegas for America's Credit Union Conference & Expo is "why did you change the name?"
Then might come a string, such as:
Q: "Was it because of low attendance?"
A: "No. We had the strongest attendance at our final Future Forum last year in Orlando than in any year previously."
Q: "Was there something wrong with the old name?"
A: "No. It was good enough--but it just ran its course."
Q: "How can you change names of your conference so easily?"
A: "Well, times change rather easily, don't they? We need to be just as flexible as the times..."
And so it may go...
The fact is, the America's Credit Union Conference & Expo (getting underway this week at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas)--presented by CUNA--is itself borne from something old--the CUNA Future Forum. But it is so much more than a simple name change. In my eyes, I feel it is the one educational experience that every credit union leader should attend for help in dealing with a myriad of issues facing the movement.
Over the past several years, the Future Forum established itself as an innovative learning experience for credit union leaders, who look forward to its informative content as well as the opportunity to exchange ideas and insight with peers from around the country. The programming, curriculum, and service levels that are associated with this event have always received very high marks. And while I felt the former name reflected the innovative element to a certain extent, that is only one facet of what the event is truly about...and the vision I see for it in the future.
I felt the name needed to be more representative of the depth and scope of CUNA's membership base, as well as the successful history of the conference, which is attended by nearly all of the nation's leading credit unions. Additionally, this event provides a national forum to discuss and examine the issues and challenges our members want to know about. In short, America's Credit Union Conference & Expo demonstrates not only our commitment to our members' success, but the cooperative spirit of the movement itself.
After all, it is their opportunity to come together and tackle a wide range of business challenges, from those typically thought to be top-of-list--such as compliance, regulation, and legislation--to the issues plaguing all cooperative financial institutions operating in the complex, demanding market that is representative of today's business environment. Our aim is to help credit unions address these prevalent issues--including membership growth, increasing competition, member retention, serving immerging markets including young adults, and sales and service--proactively, with progressive ideas that adhere to the time-honored value of putting people first. It also affords an opportunity for leaders to exchange ideas with their peers and to better prepare their credit unions strategically for the years ahead.
Further, I say the event is intense because it offers a caliber of high-quality programming and cutting-edge subject matter that is second to none. Take our three keynoters, for example. Christopher Gardner, whose rags-to-riches life story inspired the major motion picture, "The Pursuit of Happiness"; business author Daniel Pink, who will discuss how inventiveness and empathy will help organizations thrive as the business world shifts to a new paradigm; and Pulitzer-Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, who uses the lessons of history to provide insight into current events. These folks take innovation to a whole new level and demonstrate the out-of-the-box thinking our conference will inspire in all of its attendees.
We also included new Thought Leader Sessions providing in-depth coverage on some of the industry's most challenging topics. These "thought leaders"--or individuals, companies, and credit union executives that have developed a reputation by their accomplishments or careers for being among the leaders in areas of direct interest to credit unions--will inspire attendees with stories and ideas that will benefit credit unions and their members.
For example, John Weiser--author of Untapped: Creating Value In Underserved Markets and expert on using business strategies to achieve business and social goals--will provide practical tools for engaging consumers, workers, and suppliers to address organizational and community needs. And Chuck Underwood's presentation on generational marketing and advertising strategy will outline each generation's unique core values and attitudes and the influence their values have on consumer, career, and lifestyle decisions, helping credit unions to better anticipate members' needs throughout their life cycle.
I am also mindful that credit union professionals have precious little time, and I always challenge the staff at CUNA to seek new and better ways to maximize each experience you have with us. They answered my challenge with the inclusion of two preceding full-length conferences and various affiliated organizations' on-site meetings held in conjunction with the ACUC&E. Further, the two conferences--the Business Lending and Services Conference and the Strategic Planning Institute--were chosen based on their relevance to many of the conference attendees and the complementary nature of their topics. Going forward, we will search for additional opportunities to help busy credit union professionals maximize their learning experience while minimizing travel time, preparations, and cost.
Like CUNA itself, the conference is committed to providing continuous improvement and high-level learning to help those who serve the nation's 8,800 credit unions and their nearly 90 million members around the country. I am personally committed to ensuring this conference takes education to a higher level than ever before, with knowledge shared in a setting that will invigorate and energize attendees. Our goal, as always, is to help our member credit unions run their organizations more efficiently and effectively. We will continue to seek out ideas and answers to credit unions' most pressing challenges, and raise the bar to provide an even better conference each and every year.
So, another name change? Yes--and more. But definitely worth it. If you are at the ACUC&E, you will see how. If you are not with us this year, we'll see you next year--June 29 to July 2--in New York City!