Last month, the Kansas Credit Union Association formed CUnext: Young Leaders of Kansas, a state-wide educational and networking group for 18- to 30-year-old credit union employees, and it isn’t the first group of its kind.
Young, passionate credit union employees across the country are banding together with the goal of furthering their own careers as well as making a positive impact on the credit union industry. Groups such as the Portland, Ore.-based Young Credit Union Professionals, the Mid- America Credit Union Association’s Young Credit Union Professional Network and the Credit Union Association of New York’s Young Professionals Commission are allowing Gen Y credit union employees to enhance their professional lives through organized events focused on education, networking and advocacy.
CUnext members attended two kick-off meetings in April, the first in Topeka to talk to state legislators and learn about credit union advocacy, and the second at the KCUA annual meeting, where they took part in networking and educational sessions with other credit union professionals.
“We wanted to create opportunities for young credit union professionals to get involved and share their passions,” CUnext Coordinator and KCUA Vice President of Governmental and Public Affairs Haley DaVee said. “This is an important group because these are the future leaders of credit unions in Kansas. We want them to engage in the credit union movement as a whole.”
CUnext member Travis Colibert, 30, who works at the $167 million Mid American Credit Union in Wichita, Kansas, said the opportunity to get his feet wet in political advocacy piqued his interest in the group.
“It’s important to get involved and let your voice be heard,” Colibert said. “And it’s neat to connect and share ideas with other young people.”
Inspiration for CUnext, DaVee said, stemmed from the Crash Network, a national program for young credit union professionals founded in 2009 by Filene Research Institute Young Adult Adviser Brent Dixon. Comprising more than 150 members and eight league partners, the Crash Network facilitates interaction between young credit union professionals through meet-ups, mentorships, development projects and an online community.
Shannon Maloney, 25, the director of marketing for the $114 million Seasons Federal Credit Union in Middletown, Conn., is a Crash Network member who recently formed the Young Professionals Council, a statewide young credit union professionals group that plans to hold its initial meeting in late May. Maloney said the group’s intention is to help educate members about the credit union industry and provide networking opportunities.
“The group will give young professionals in Connecticut a chance to learn, grow and talk, and learn from older people in the industry and use them as mentors,” Maloney said. “I think it lights the credit union fire for young people. I’d like to generate loyalty within the industry.”
Maloney said Young Professionals Council membership provides opportunities to learn about legislative issues that affect credit unions and members will even be encouraged to voice their opinions to lawmakers.
“The group will help educate them about the industry for their own development and for the good of the industry,” Maloney said.
DaVee noted the importance of legislative issue involvement for young credit union employees.
“The things that go on have a big impact on credit unions, and advocacy is important,” DaVee said. “And just because it’s important doesn’t mean that it’s difficult. It could just involve talking to a legislator.”
While membership numbers at the newly formed CUnext and Young Professionals Council are still low, about 165 people make up the Portland, Ore.-based Young Credit Union Professionals, which Matt Goodwin, 28, of the $114 million Old West Federal Credit Union in John Day, Ore., founded in 2008.
Goodwin said he launched the group to provide opportunities for advancement, education and networking, and so far he’s hosted multiple events each year such as philanthropic projects and guest speaker presentations. Speakers have included credit union CEOs, with whom group members discussed job hunting, staff management tips and industry news. They’ve also enjoyed close interaction with credit union association leaders and industry lawmakers.
“It gives us the unique opportunity to be exposed to all sorts of people in the industry,” Goodwin said of the group.
Goodwin added the growth of state credit union association-sponsored young professionals groups demonstrates career dedication among young credit union employees.
“The associations are realizing that they need to strengthen future generations,” Goodwin said. “It emphasizes a need for community in my age group and shows that we want to be connected to the industry. We’ve seen so much traction in the recent past with young professionals groups, and it’s a good sign for the industry.”
One goal of young credit union professionals groups is to encourage more young folks to pursue careers in the credit union industry, group leaders said. Maloney said she believes credit unions would employ more young people if they spread the word about their opportunities in an efficient way.
“Working for a credit union is appealing to the average person graduating college, but there’s a PR problem,” Maloney said. “Bank of America is actively recruiting on campuses, and if we were also there toe-to-toe, our value would be seen.”
What makes a young credit union professionals group successful? Group leaders say it comes down to member dedication.
“If we still have full engagement from all of our current CUnext members one year from now, and bring in new, enthusiastic professionals, that would be a success,” DaVee said. “I want it to be a continuing dialogue.”
Maloney said in order to be successful, a young credit union professionals group should offer a balance of fun and work-oriented activities. Goodwin added that his group will be a success if members actively participate as well as inspire young credit union employees everywhere to do the same.
“We’d like to see other groups form outside of Portland,” Goodwin said. “We want to facilitate involvement not just locally but across the nation.”