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DENVER - Stay relevant or die. That was the takeaway for John McSweeney after the day one of the America’s Credit Union Conference and World Credit Union Conference in Denver. 

After attending a session on understanding millennials and the importance of reaching out to them, McSweeney, director of St. Patrick’s Credit Union Ltd. of Ireland, said most credit unions in his area were afraid to tackle the things that millennials found commonplace, such as mobile banking. 

“We’re learning, we’re learning fast,” McSweeney said. “It’s grow or die. We need to change and communicate properly with the younger people so that they – what’s the challenge? To become relevant. That’s what we need to be.” 

McSweeney was among the more than 3,000 people who attended the conference in hopes of learning something that can be implemented upon returning home. While credit unions have the advantage of “old-fashioned trust,” he said, they are also having to learn combine that with other things such as technology.  

Anthony Walsh, also from St. Patrick’s Credit Union, said he is focused on technology while at the conference. 

“(We) didn’t realize how important it was to use mobile because most of our members are older members,” Walsh said. “Dealing with people our own age group, it’s not an issue. Now we’re dealing with people outside our age group, it’s a problem.” 

To do that, Walsh is taking the time to study American banking apps such as those used by USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union, two suggestions given at the conference as apps to pay attention to and model after. Walsh even went a step further. His team has invited a rep from Navy Federal to give a presentation on the uses of the app and how to develop it. 

For Marsha Tynsky, CEO of the $172 million Trona Valley Community Federal Credit Union, the excitement of the conference was being able to meet so many people from around the globe. The CEO from Green River, Wyo., said she enjoyed seeing where people are from and understanding the different challenges credit unions face in other parts of the world.  

“It’s probably helped us all realize there’s a lot more to credit unions and the whole movement,” Tynsky said. “We’re used to being in our own world and being with our credit union and what we do with our credit union, and now we can see that there’s a whole lot more involved with it as well.” 

Tynsky also brought a large group of employees to the conference so they could cover every session. To her, mobile payments was also a big focus. 

“I’m just anxious for all of my group to attend so many different classes and have so many options,” she said. 

McSweeney said he will also tune into the younger generation using social media; more specifically, people like 25-year-old Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie who is gaining millions of followers online because of his videos. Millennials like PewDiePie because of his authentic nature, according to one of the breakout sessions. By being authentic, using biometrics to better use technology, and being a mentor and giving financial education to younger people, McSweeney said he hopes his credit union will stay relevant and avoid that untimely death. 

“I think we have a long way to go, but at least we know it,” he said. 

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