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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – July will mark two years since four western state Leagues joined to organize CU Association of the West, a regional “umbrella” trade group, and so far its users say the organization is proving useful particularly where it comes to education and technical programming. CUAW has developed an extensive calendar of seminars, classes and Webcasts combining service activities once the domain of the four Leagues in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. At the same time, CUAW has strived to eliminate duplication saving on both expenses of the Leagues and individual member CUs. “Look, it’s worked out just fine for our credit union since I’ve been able to send our people to conferences in two states that I would not have previously known about,” commented Michelle Trekas, training specialist at the $349 million Weyerhauser Employees Credit Union in Longview. In the past, she was only familiar with the offerings of the Washington League, “but now I can see what is offered in Portland on some of those soft skills like compliance training that some of our 140 employees might need to attend,” explained Trekas referring to the now combined CUAW programs which in the past were put on solely by the Oregon League and available only to Oregon credit unions. In addition, she added, “the new kinds of network opportunities for us have been just great.” Byron Edgett, chairman of the Washington League and president of Spokane Federal Credit Union, said CUAW has already meant greater efficiencies in League programming “which translates to less cost and overhead” passed down to individual CUs. That means, he said, CUs subsequently gain favorable pricing for their staffs when they attend conferences and seminars. “These Leagues aren’t competing with each other, and that is a very good thing,” observed Edgett. Another example of CUAW advantages, he said, is the annual CEO management meeting, previously held in varying formats by individual Leagues but now combined into a single conference. The first one held last fall in Seattle and drawing CEOs from all the states was considered highly successful. This year’s conference is slated for September at Lake Tahoe in California. “Our Seattle summit was a very productive meeting, a top-of-mind way for CEOs across the region to brainstorm, to come together and discuss the issues affecting the industry,” said Edgett. Mark Klinkert, vice president of professional development for the California League, said one educational session receiving considerable attention-and getting lots of member signups across the region-is a “Legal Update Seminar” slated for March 11 in Seattle to be led by San Jose CU attorney Eric North. “Eric has been a popular speaker with the California League,” said Klinkert noting that CUs in the Northwest can hear him discuss trends in compliance and regulation. Another popular one is scheduled in May on “death of a member.” Other “hot topic” conferences planned for CUAW during 2003, said Klinkert, include business services, e-commerce, electronic fraud prevention, account administration, executive benefits and others. Klinkert said the CUAW’s professional calendar now lists more than 70 seminars, conferences and workshops stretching from Seattle to Palm Desert, Calif. In addition, CUAW is offering strategic planning services for individual CUs as well as in-house training of personnel “on a credit union’s doorstep.” That service can be offered “before or after hours, double sessions even Saturdays and holidays,” said CUAW. Last December CUAW conducted what it called a “branding and marketing university” tailored to marketing personnel as a means of “jump starting internal and external communications” within CUs on the branding concept. That two-day conference held in Las Vegas featured a talk by a top marketing executive from TransUnion Corp. Also on the 2003-04 CUAW calendar are those popular Internet Webcasts that allow CU executives anywhere in the region the ability to tune in from the comfort of their home or office. T. Skott Pope, vice president of education and development at the Washington League, said the goal was to have 20 signed up for a web seminar Jan. 7 and “we were happily surprised when more than 40 people registered.” The Washington League said it now has seven of the Webcasts planned in the remainder of 2003, “and more will be considered if participation warrants,” he said adding however that “classroom discussion” still remains the ideal to educate CU professionals. The Webcasts “provide an overview of topics,” he said. One other key area for CUAW growth, said John Annaloro, chairman of CUAW and president of the Washington League, has been group purchasing by providing discounts on services and products. Such a pact on office products, supplies and furniture was unveiled last month with Boise Office Solutions, a subsidiary of Boise Cascade. Under the arrangement-with a nearly identical deal announced by CUNA-CUs can receive price reductions as high as 75% on a core set of 75 items plus additional savings on other products. CUAW officials said they will be studying other service areas where group purchases might be initiated with vendors. Fraud prevention is one area being looked at. “We are looking at a variety of ways to bring economies to the Leagues,” said Annaloro. “We want to look at our service organizations, our back office operations, perhaps combining publications and even awards and recognition.” But working in a “regional configuration” seems to be working well, he concluded. -

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