No News at America's CU Conference May Be Good News
Credit unions were founded to serve the working poor who were often neglected by the banks in the early part of the 20th century. Their work to help these very people is what assisted the push to create a federal charter for credit unions after the bottoming of the Great Depression in the United States. Artifacts from the history of credit unions stood tall in the main hall outside of where the general and breakout sessions were held.
The busy executives taking the time out of their day to hover around these bits of credit union history were juxtaposed against the equally busy executives bustling to the convenient cybercaf? to check their e-mail or scroll through their BlackBerries while hurrying to their next session.
The breakout sessions were informative. Topics were on-target, ranging from issues that credit unions are currently wrestling with, such as net worth concerns or key examination issues and exploring where credit unions are heading with sessions delving into why Gen Y is so important and transitioning to a new CEO. However, many of these dry but necessary offerings (granted, I couldn't attend all of them, but more on that a little further down) could stand to be spiced up-a lot.
Additionally, some subjects did not jibe with the title of the presentation, which may have led participants astray.
Too many breakout sessions were piled up at the same time and then not repeated. I was there with one reporter, and we struggled to split our time between four sessions at once. We ended up missing at least half of each of those sessions; meanwhile, there were six to seven going on at once.
Especially given that credit unions likely sent fewer people this year, fewer breakout sessions at one time would be helpful.
This could easily be solved by eliminating the "thought leader" sessions. Good motivational speakers, like Life is Good's Bert Jacobs who headlined the conference, definitely bring something to the table at a conference. His talk actually had many take-aways for executives, from being a socially responsible company to the power of word-of-mouth advertising to making employees want to come to work everyday. However, I found the thought leader session I attended entertaining but particularly devoid of substance. My time, and I think CUs' time and money, would have been better spent attending some of the more educational breakout sessions that were all jammed in at the same time.
I also thought that CUNA's attempt at a Q&A during the general session was admirable. It was disappointing that more participants didn't get up to ask questions or make comments and observations to stir debate. Perhaps it would have worked better with a smaller crowd.
From Credit Union Times' perspective, one thing that conferences, and not just CUNA's, have been lacking for sometime it seems is any type of news coming out of them. It seems like it used to be that CUNA would announce a new program or an NCUA Board member would float the idea of a proposed regulation. Maybe the credit union movement can't handle any more excitement in the news at this point.
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