However, as Credit Union Times' official Twitteratus, I really have found it to be fun. We're able to provide more flavor from the conference than we can in a straight news story, or post tidbits that may not rise to the level of a story. Of course, we're also hoping to expand exposure; we'll see if that ends up being successful, but after reading and writing about how or whether Twitter should be used, I figured we should try it.
Twitter afforded us the opportunity to respond immediately to something going on at NAFCU's conference, which was great for keeping all of you who were not able to attend informed of what was going on.
We intend to keep the tweets coming, no matter what we're doing, so follow us, along with 99 others as of press time, on Twitter: CookeonCUs.
NAFCU's Annual Conference seemed a bit less fancy than its usual pomp and circumstance. The new Gaylord at National Harbor is clean, polished and modern, so it's a nice place to hold a conference. All the windows accommodate the great view of the boats in the harbor. However, there's not much else unless you rent a car or pay a sizeable cab fare to go into D.C.
NAFCU has always had an excellent reputation for its conferences, which makes it difficult to compete with its past. This year's conference was noticeably and appropriately scaled back. The location was set well in advance, but the event didn't open with anything like the flying fish when they were in Seattle. Instead, it was opened by a remarkably poised (even when audio messed up, he didn't show it) and talented 10-year-old local singer performing the national anthem. And the entertainment lined up, Kenny Rogers, certainly was not the Beach Boys on Waikiki Beach, but then again, who is?
The education sessions I attended were the usual mixed bag, ranging from sales pitch to informative to actually informative, timely and entertaining. In particular, the session concerning the CEO-board relationship was packed. And the presenters, a CEO and a board chairman, were lively and provided excellent advice that was obviously the result of practical application.
One thing I did not expect of NAFCU's conference was the Technology Solutions Theater, which was essentially two hours of prime time on Thursday, scheduled to repeat at lunch on Friday, devoted to allowing vendors to demo their products while providing some educational material as well. As someone who goes to conferences looking for the substance of it, this was not something I want to see, but NAFCU touts itself as being close to its membership, so maybe they know something I don't about what attendees want.
NCUA Board Member Hyland's remarks to NAFCU's audience were fairly pointed about what credit unions must do to sustain the industry: diversify board members, educate members and collaborate. Board diversity is something I've championed but also something that few are willing to openly discuss.
If your board does not represent your broader credit union membership, you cannot be doing the best you possibly can to serve your members. I've heard excuses from nobody's interested to it's expensive to recruit to so-and-so has been on our board 100 years so too much knowledge would be lost. If credit unions with nonrepresentative boards really wanted to, they could attract new board members, but they don't out of inertia, political concerns or management is comfortable already knowing who they're dealing with. Credit unions must do more to market board elections to their members. And, the cold, hard fact is so-and-so will not be able to serve on the board in perpetuity, so someone with some knowledge of credit unions needs to be cycled in. And if credit unions don't market elections to their members, if they don't educate their members about credit unions, then no one will want to serve on the board. You can't make someone care about your cause overnight; they have other issues they support too, so you have to cultivate their interest. As Hyland stated, serving on a credit union board is a privilege, not a right.
In his last hoorah before leaving the NCUA, Vice Chairman Hood vowed to remain an advocate of the credit union movement. He left credit unions with some advice, including items listed above by Hyland but also with a humorous impression. Apparently he told a group of New Jersey credit unions, very tongue in cheek, that Chairman Fryzel loved hugs from credit union folks, opening up the chairman to numerous embraces.
For the fifth year, Members 1st FCU has taken home NAFCU's White Hat award for raising the most PAC dollars. Every year, CEO Bob Marquette explains how easy it is and offered up his marketing staff to answer questions and provide ideas. Congrats to Members 1st, but the rest of you need to realize the importance and give Marquette a run for his (PAC) money.
Also going on during NAFCU's Annual Conference was the confirmation hearing for NCUA Board Chair-Nominee Debbie Matz. While she certainly was not barraged with double-barrel questions, she answered them well, including ones regarding the corporate credit unions' situation. She pointed out that she had not supported the corporate regulation during her time on the board precisely because it did not address risk concentration, which she will be certain to work into any new regs.
The vibe around the committee room packed with credit union people was a positive one regarding Matz and her reportedly imminent confirmation.
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