More than 30 credit union and CUSO representatives recently showed up for NACUSO's first regional meeting near Washington to talk shop about collaboration strategies to help fuel growth and sustainability.
To accommodate those who have experienced slashed travel budgets, the Newport, Beach, Calif.-based NACUSO launched the series of one-day meetings to bring industry leaders together throughout the country. On the agenda at the March inaugural meeting, which took place at the $1.9 billion Northwest Federal Credit Union in Herndon, Va., was a discussion on how local CUSOs are tackling problems for CUs. Other discussions focused on making a case for collaboration and how to form a multiowned CUSO.
Kirk Drake, president/CEO of Ongoing Operations LLC, a Hagerstown, Md.-based disaster recovery and business continuity CUSO, attended the regional meeting and appreciated the exchange of information among CUs and CUSOs in the region that expressed interest in collaboration. He said one obstacle, even within the movement, can be a deal breaker.
"There needs to be a lot of trust between collaborators," Drake said. "Some may not be willing to share if they feel their ideas will be stolen or if they are not respected. Camaraderie is probably more important than the idea at hand."
NACUSO President/CEO Tom Davis said several ideas came out of the regional meeting including the creation of an eBay-like network portal where people can post their capabilities to be bought and sold. Jay Johnson, executive vice president at Callahan and Associates Inc., talked about the top activities CUSOs are engaging in now. It was a discussion led by NACUSO General Counsel Guy Messick on why there is a need for collaboration that got the room jumping.
"Guy took the brunt of it," Davis said. "People were very interested in how collaboration could help them, benefit them and how you leverage shared resources through collaboration."
For Drake, one impediment to joining forces lies within some of the medium-sized CUs "who have enough resources to not worry about survival but don't have enough" to grow.
"They suffer from the build-it-yourself syndrome. The attitude should be 'should we do it ourselves,'" Drake suggested.
By far, the information at NACUSO's first regional meeting "was some of the best content" the association has ever put together, Drake said. That said, he is more of a best-practices person, having worked in the CU industry for 20 years. Getting CEOs to talk about what works is always enlightening, he noted. Indeed, the free flow of sharing among the participants resulted in 50 ideas listed on a white board during one of the sessions.
"I'm a firm believer that CUSOs provide a tremendous opportunity for credit unions to rebuild and do things differently than they have in the past," Drake said.
Davis said the meeting mainly attracted people from the Washington area, but there were attendees who traveled from South Carolina, North Carolina and Connecticut. Discussions are underway to have more regional gatherings in Denver, New York and Southern California this year.