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WOBURN, Mass. – Great things happen when great minds come together – at least that’s the axiom from which members of the Association of Credit Union Senior Officers (ACUSO) have been working for the past 17 years. ACUSO was formed as a way to offer professional development and networking opportunities to members of the middle tier of credit union management. As the organization heads into its 18th year, it has remained true to form. “Middle and senior management were just starting to evolve at [the time of ACUSO's founding] through the CFO and COO positions,” says George E. Dow, business development officer at EasCorp-one of the nation’s largest credit unions, with $1.7 billion in assets, and a driving force behind the creation of ACUSO. “The founders put together the organization as a way for them to develop relationships and contacts for the betterment of their credit unions.” “Over the years, the senior management role has expanded, the scope of responsibilities has expanded,” Dow adds. “CFOs were encouraged to bring other senior managers from their organizations. Around 2001, the whole level of management had taken on a life of its own, and we expanded membership to other officers, such as marketing and human resource folks, information technology officers.” ACUSO currently has 102 members from 62 credit unions, up from 24 members in its founding year of 1987. Growth has been steady in recent years, jumping from 70 members in 2002, 86 members in 2003 and 100 members in 2004. ACUSO’s efforts are regional in nature, focusing on the New England states and New York. Member credit unions also must have a minimum of $50 million in assets. “It’s pretty exciting,” Dow says about ACUSO’s growth in membership. “2004 was a record-breaking year for us, and the membership continues to grow.” Members meet five times a year at EasCorp’s training facility in Woburn, Mass.-although Dow emphasizes the fact that ACUSO is independent in nature with its own elected board of directors. “We really try to check our corporate logos at the door,” he says. In addition to providing the venue, EasCorp also supplies administrative support to the organization. Dow, who has been involved in ACUSO for the last 3.5 years, assists with the planning and execution of meetings. In addition, he generally serves as master of ceremonies for each meeting. In planning its meetings/executive training sessions, ACUSO works hard to address a variety of subject matters. Recent examples include a program on conflict analysis, cross-cultural encounters and ethical decision making by Joshua N. Weiss, association director of the Harvard Global Negotiation Project. At another meeting, Sydney Finkelstein of the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business discussed his book Why Smart Executives Fail and What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes. The key, however, is keeping programs geared toward the interests of senior executives. “When you look at most of the educational programs the league has at conventions, they’re geared mostly towards CEOs and directors,” says Shirley Laliberte, chairman of the ACUSO board of directors and CFO at Quincy Municipal CU in Quincy, Mass. “There’s nothing geared toward senior officers, at least not locally.” At present, ACUSO is gearing up for its annual “Meet the Regulators” session to be held April 11, 2005-the one session topic that remains constant each year. A personal favorite for Laliberte, “Meet the Regulators” brings together regional banking directors, as well as NCUA and NAFCU representatives, in a panel discussion format. “It’s a great way to get first-hand information from our regulators,” she says. Beyond the education sessions and networking benefits, one thing that stands out in Laliberte’s mind about ACUSO is its extension of the basic credit union philosophy. “You really learn how credit unions are willing to help other credit unions,” she says. -

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