NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Tom Davis acknowledges that there are so many issues of pressing concern in the industry, NACUSO can’t possibly address all of them but he’s hoping the trade group’s mantra of collaboration and innovation can help tackle the hot priority ones.

“We want to be pulled by the future not pushed by the past,” said Davis, president/CEO of NACUSO taking a line from Dr. George Land, a noted anthropologist. “We don’t want to look at all the things that are wrong with the future.”

To push its efforts forward, NACUSO relies on annual dues from members, which range from $250 to $1,250 and contributions and sponsorships from its more than a dozen Platinum Partners. In fact, PSCU Financial Services recently donated another $50,000 to NACUSO’s Center for Innovation and Collaboration. Last January, the CUSO provided $50,000 seed capital to launch the center, which helped to create NACUSOMatch Directory, a collaborative Web-based networking tool that allows members to communicate service offerings and investment opportunities for credit unions seeking strategic partnerships. The funding also helped to launch NACUSOMatch Forum, an outlet for members to give and receive feedback on a number of topics ranging from financial services to technology.

“[PSCU Financial President] Dave Serlo is very supportive,” Davis said. “As a piece, the funds would be used to fund our overall plan. I always try to base where we’re going on our vision and the critical issues facing the industry.”

Part of that latest $50,000 contribution was used to hire Dollar & Associates, LLC, a consulting firm founded by former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar, to ramp up the organization’s political agenda and advocacy. NACUSO’s advisory boards are planning to meet with Dollar to create a political action agenda that contains areas of concern for CUSOs, Davis said. The advisory boards are comprised of financial services, operational services, business services, and consumer lending. A regulatory action committee will make recommendations to NACUSO’s board.

NACUSO will continue to work with credit union trade groups and NCUA on CUSO matters of interest. Working with Dollar is an extra step to “make sure our needs are being met,” Davis added.

At NACUSO’s Business Services Collaborative in November, a handful of CUSOs contributed $25,000 to NACUSO’s “Buy CUSO” campaign. The message behind the marketing plan was to encourage credit unions to “first look within the industry” for services rather than going to banks for solutions, Davis said. Beyond Marketing, LLC, a marketing CUSO, is scheduled to roll out the campaign this spring that will include direct mail pieces and Web exposures.

Davis said NACUSO has earmarked funding for several online projects. Starting in April, the association will reintroduce its monthly Webcast series on industry issues. Randy Karnes, president of CU*Answers, a data processing, computer support, marketing and teller training CUSO, will speak on “opportunity networks.” NACUSO is also hiring a “blog maestro” to create and manage weekly, blog digests.

Clearly, NACUSO is a cheerleader for CUSO collaboration but the association is not so myopic that it doesn’t recognize and embrace the benefits of working with other entities including those outside the credit union industry, Davis said. Near press time, Davis was preparing to fly to Chicago to meet with members of the Filene Research Institute’s i3 group, several credit union representatives, and Karnes on strategic ways to launch a pilot for the newly created Flex One Account. Created by leaders from $498 million Vantage CU, $64 million Billings FCU, and The Members Group, a technology and solutions CUSO, the account pools all of a member’s accounts–savings, loans, mortgage, share draft/checking, credit cards–into one account. The Flex One Account concept is based upon an innovation begun in 1997 at the Royal Bank of Scotland, which has since grown to more than 800,000 accounts.

“If our vision is to be the catalyst for innovation and collaboration and growth of credit unions and the pressing needs for the industry, we need to create a unifying direction and vision for the industry,” Davis said. “We need to work together with other trade associations and others to help define that.”

To that end, a fifth NACUSO advisory board for critical thinking, innovation and implementation that will focus on educational opportunities with universities, innovation models both inside and outside the industry, and strategy execution techniques.

NACUSO has three annual meetings. They include its annual conference, a business services collaborative, and a CEO collaborative. Davis said the association is working to improve its meetings by having more topics and speakers related to collaboration and innovation and “creating economies of scale. The best speakers are those that “can talk about best practices in collaboration.” In 2007, 385 people attended NACUSO’s annual conference and 140 attended the two collaboratives. Based on feedback from attendees, NACUSO is intending to also incorporate smaller regional presentations to maximize reach and enhance face-to-face networking.

Davis was recently appointed to CUNA’s new third party due diligence task force. The 16-member group aims to provide credit unions with resources and model procedures for assessing, controlling, and monitoring the risks associated with third-party vendor agreements and performance.

“These things that we are doing aren’t just for today,” Davis said of NACUSO’s initiatives. “We encourage membership but more so, participation. We define ourselves as an open system. We want to work with people inside and outside of NACUSO, members and non-members. There are benefits to working together to generate greater value, which goes back to the members.”

–msamaad@cutimes.com