The chance to network face to face with other credit union leaders is the reason Jim Blaine, CEO of the $15.9 billion State Employees' Credit Union, said he goes to conferences.
"The data and information that a conference provides, that could get to you by e-mail," Blaine said. "But more business and progress and communication gets done in the halls or restaurants of a conference than could ever get done in the meetings."
Blaine, a non-golfer, joked that it had to be the people that brought him to conferences because so many CU conferences are held in "golf prisons." Meeting people off the golf course is one of the things he needs to do, he said.
Exploring New Ideas and Meeting
People Is Key for Cliff Rosenthal
While attractive locations can help draw attendees Cliff Rosenthal, President of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, says that while attractive locations can provide an incentive to attend a conference, exploring new ideas and meeting new people are the most important outcomes from conference attendance.
Rosenthal should know. As president of the federation, he both hosts a national conference each year as well as attends numerous conferences and presents at a few as well. In these capacities, he said, he sees both the organizing and attending sides of the conference.
"Overall I have been very impressed with the seriousness and willingness of conference attendees to attend break out sessions and pay attention to the conference agenda," Rosenthal said. He recalled a NAFCU conference in Hawaii where the federation hosted a relatively early morning breakout session. "At that hour of a Saturday morning in Hawaii, we had a very decent turn out and I thought that said a lot about the attitude of the attendees."
He also praised conferences as places to meet and network with new people. "One of our ongoing efforts at the federation has been to build visibility in the industry about what we do," Rosenthal said. "Conferences provide a unique venue and time for those meetings."
Chance to Dialogue and Learn Lure
Two Executives to Conferences
"I just go to two or three a year of the national conferences, and they are simply ones that I've found in which I learn the most about whatever concerns me at the time," explained Steven Becker, president/CEO of the $363 million Credit Union West of Glendale, Ariz.
For example, "I'm in my third year of the Darden program in Virginia, and the content most recently was on strategic planning," said Becker referring to a topic at the CEO Institute of CUES held at the Darden Business School of the University of Virginia.
"These kinds of conferences can be expensive, but I like the intensity of the learning experience spending as many as eight hours in sessions," said Becker also went to CUNA's GAC earlier this year "because of the political climate." He also will take time in August to attend another CUES management conference in Big Sky, Mont.
For Peter Bruno, chairman of Financial Resources FCU of Bridgewater, N.J., the "networking and the exchange of ideas is really what counts."
Bruno, who is chairman of the National Association of Credit Union Chairmen, does limit his own conference to two a year based on CU bylaws, and he knows of CU directors elsewhere "who simply want the vacation free ride and the cruises and when they came back they say how much they learned, but I don't believe it."
Picking the right national conference where CEOs and directors can have real dialogue and interchange ideas is what counts for Bruno, who has been chairman of Financial Resources for 17 years. One of the best conferences, he said, is a CUES chairmen's symposium and though admittedly expensive being traditionally held offshore in Hawaii or the Bahamas, "it is worth it."
One of the chief topics covered is management compensation and that's valuable to learn from others current conditions, he said.
For this year's meeting, Bruno will be joined by his CEO, Lena Matthews.