Young Credit Union Professionals Crash the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference

Every year, the Association sends a handful of “Crashers” to the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington DC.

Crash events are non-stop, jam-packed Credit Union events for young professionals. They are designed to help each crasher gain valuable knowledge, insights, and connections that will help them develop as a future leaders of the movement.

We sat down with three of the crashers from our Association to ask them about their experience at the Governmental Affairs Conference. Here is what they had to say.

 

Ben Metzger, Staff Attorney for Public Service Credit Union 

Q: Why did you decide to apply to be a Crasher this year?

A: My manager, the General Counsel for Public Service Credit Union, was a crasher in 2016. He had told me really good things about the program that piqued my interest. Part of my job to follow regulations and new developments in the law, I felt that the Conference would be a great opportunity to see how that process works, and get involved in the legislative process for the benefit of Credit Union members.

Q: Did the conference meet your expectations?

A: It exceeded my expectations. The experience was overwhelming, in a good way. The whole thing was non-stop. We’d start the day around 7am and would be on the go until 10 or 11pm. Each day was completely packed with unique information and opportunities. It was great to get to hike the hill with other Credit Union leaders, talk to senators and congressmen about issues facing Credit Unions today, and advocate on our members’ behalf.  For example, I got to speak directly with Mike Coffman, one of Colorado’s representative.

Everything about it, from the crazy schedule to the requirement that all Crashers share a room with a fellow Crasher, is a truly disruptive “crash” experience. They structure it so that in most circumstances, we stand out. For example, on Tuesday, we all wore t-shirts identifying us as “crashers”, and we certainly stood out from everyone else in their business attire.

Q: Is there anything you took back from the conference that you can directly apply to your work as a Staff Attorney for Public Service Credit Union?

A: One of the things that kept coming up in conversations with legislators is that they wanted to hear stories about our Credit Union members. They felt that stories really stuck with them and would drive some of their decision making. This perspective, of telling stories about how Credit Unions are helping their members as a method for advocacy, wasn’t something that I’d considered. But, it’s a strategy I plan to incorporate into my work because I can see how effective it is. It’s easy, in my line of work, to get bogged down in the technical details. But at the end of the day, people remember stories, and stories influence how people think.

Also, one of the most impactful things was interacting with so many other Credit Union leaders and to realize that ultimately, we are all working towards the same goals. It’s incredibly encouraging and inspiring.

Q: Would you encourage other young Credit Union Professionals to apply to be a crasher?

A: Yes! But, only if they can muster up a lot of energy for it. It’s important to be prepared for the fact that it’s a very social week, which can be exhausting for introverted people like me. But, that’s also one of its greatest benefits. I got so much out of all the networking I got to do with other young professionals in the Credit Union movement. So, if you can find the energy to go non-stop for 4 or 5 days, it is totally worth it.

Cooper Scott, Accounting Associate, Arizona Federal Credit Union

Q: Why did you decide to apply to be a Crasher?

A: When I was first introduced to the program, I immediately saw the benefit of getting to attend one of the largest Credit Union conferences in the country and networking with executives, board members and leaders that I aspire to be like in the future. I also hoped to get an inside scoop on some of the biggest issues affecting Credit Unions today.

Q: Did the conference meet your expectations?

A: Absolutely. And then some! The experience is crazy fun and jam packed. We had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. One thing that I really enjoyed was that we got to interact with a lot of the keynote speakers before they went on stage and ask them questions on a much smaller scale. One that really stands out in my mind was George W. Bush. We also got to interact with the CEO of CUNA, who offered insight on several things including a bill that we were all advocating for that was about to be brought to the President.

It’s a unique opportunity to get to advocate for the Credit Union movement on such a large scale – to talk with the people making the laws that affect our day-to-day decisions.

Q: Was there anything from the conference that you’ve been able to take back and apply to the work you do at Arizona Federal?

 A: The conference totally fired me up. I have so much more energy and excitement for the movement. I also learned more than I ever could have imagined. I learned more in those few short days about the Credit Union industry than in my entire career so far.

Another thing that was valuable about the conference was all the new professional relationships I built. I’m in touch with several people I met at the conference on a regular basis. We ask each other for feedback and opinions about all sorts of things. I have access to new ideas and perspectives that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

 

Jesse Jacobs, AVP of Lending/HR Director, Campco Federal Credit Union

Q: Why did you decide to apply to be a Crasher?

 A: In Western CUNA management school, I came face to face with the issue of advocacy and the realization that I wasn’t as involved in helping to further the movement as I wanted to be. I asked one of my instructors for suggestions about how I could get more involved, and they suggested that I start with the Crasher program. When I presented the idea to my CEO, he thought it would be a great opportunity to meet new people, see what the political arena is like, and understand more about the legislative side of it.

Also, Campco had never sent anyone to the conference before, so it was also a good opportunity to be represented there.

Q: What was your experience at the Conference like?

A: You don’t sleep very much! It’s a super intense experience. One of the rules I have for myself when I go to a conference is to never say no to the opportunities that present themselves. If I have to stay up late networking, I’ll do it. I took full advantage of those opportunities at this conference and got to meet with an amazingly diverse array of people.

The whole experience opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many people involved in supporting the Credit Union movement and moving it forward – not just those of us who’ve chosen a career in the industry. I made important connections with professionals from across the country that are a resource to my work at Campco and deepening my involvement in the entire movement.

Q: Was there a particular session that had a big impact on you?

A: Seeing George W. Bush was amazing. His main point was about how to be a leader in high-stress, chaotic, difficult situations. He talked about how important it is to remain calm and clear headed even in the most difficult of circumstances. I know his words will stay with me during those inevitable times when I’m faced with leading others through a challenging situation.

Q: How did your experience affect the work you’re doing now?

A: Being around so many people who are passionate about Credit Unions is contagious. I feel incredibly inspired and excited about the movement and about my work. It’s impossible not to!

I’m also working on creating an advocacy session with some of the young professionals at Campco so that I can pass on some of what I learned, and have suggested that we work hard to send someone else as a Crasher next year. We’re in a somewhat isolated rural area, and I just feel that the more we can do to provide our staff members with the opportunity to see how other Credit Unions function, the better we’ll be.

One of the insights I gained from interacting with people at all different levels of experience, is that I need to pay more attention to how approachable I am as a leader. When someone brings me an idea, it’s important that I consider how I might respond in a way that keeps them engaged and interested in further developing and implementing their idea.

If you’re interested in future Crash opportunities, please visit The Cooperative Trust website.

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