New Insights Fuel Optimism for MAXX 2022 Session Attendees
Posted by Katy Wagnon on November 2, 2022
The energy and optimism permeated the meeting rooms and convention spaces throughout the Spokane Convention Center, making MAXX 2022 one of the most inspiring events of the year, according to the hundreds of attendees from the six GoWest member states. They responded in force, flocking to future-focused breakout sessions and roundtables. Many pointed to the vibe created as reinforcing the meaning and purpose they find in working for a credit union:
- “Connecting with people is great. I’ve never been to one of these before, so I’m just absorbing everything. I think it’s all about the relationships to be built from this, to stay connected, and stay in touch with people who are literally fountains of valuable information.” (Cinthya Gomez, Express CU)
- “I feel like we are at a turning point and critical decisions need to be made that require us to come together and learn from each other. We can make better decisions on behalf of our member communities if we do it as a concerted group and as a movement across six states, versus hundreds of credit unions just going it on their own.” (Andrew Downin, Vantage West CU)
- “Grassroots advocacy is really important. Onward and upward! We are moving ahead! Great introduction to GoWest. What power! What synergy! It’s incredible.” (Mark Lodine, Horizon CU Board member)
Though credit unions are distinctive in the financial marketplace because of their cooperative structure and member-driven focus, they face stiff competition and challenges posed by rapidly changing technology, the evolution in cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. There was tremendous interest among attendees to learn more about technology advances and how they could be interfaced with the traditional credit union focus on personalization and trusted relationships with members.
Speaker and innovation guru Sultan Meghji set the tone when he told the group that five to seven percent of operating budgets should be focused on technology, with an additional one to three percent spent on cybersecurity. His challenge to credit unions was met with equal optimism. He said the years ahead can be “the golden age of credit unions (because) the vast majority of customer-facing fintechs are chasing what credit unions already have — a trusted relationship with an affinity group. They are unbelievably well positioned to take advantage of that with technology.
Sultan’s message strongly resonated with attendees, as did breakout sessions on using information technology, blockchain, and cryptocurrency:
- “We are looking toward the future, and feeling hopeful. Change is going to happen, we are a credit union that’s geared for change and we are working those gears. Our role as Board members is to invest in our cybersecurity teams and we are going to commit to that.” (Justin Botajue, STCU Board member)
- “We’re a smaller credit union, so we can’t quite invest in the technology he’s talking about, or bring in our own programmers. But we can partner with vendors. We’ve done collaborative things with other credit unions before, so maybe we can consider teaming up on this issue. People helping people. Credit unions helping credit unions. That’s what it’s all about.” (Eric Woodard, Northern Colorado CU)
- “The session on crypto was one of the best things I’ve experienced! Fantastic! He broke that down not only for the CEO but for Board members to understand it fully in just an hour and 40 minutes. It was so relevant, talking about the future and how it’s going to benefit credit unions.” (John Paul McGee, EvergreenDIRECT CU)
- “As we institute new technologies, it still has to be about interacting with another human. We are more than just a transactional organization, we are creating a community that fintechs can’t because they’re not on the ground interacting the way we are.” (Kathleen Schilb, Horizon CU)
Many of those who attended MAXX said they were inspired by specific examples of how other credit unions were serving their communities and boosting staff morale and talent retention:
- “My main takeaway from Troy Stang’s speech involved his example on housing, just because it’s such a crisis in the Northwest, and how credit unions are stepping into that and helping. I see that as a key differentiator from what we’ve done in the past. We’ve always given to causes, but we haven’t stepped into the housing realm. Credit unions are always so giving, but it was great to hear the specifics.” (Jody Azevedo, Numerica CU)
- “It’s really all about how we serve our communities. It can even be the little things…that story about credit unions paying off school lunch tabs…it was awesome, what a wonderful thing, I wouldn’t have thought of that!” (Cindy Hodges, Clarity CU)
- “I would say the standout for me of this MAXX was the roundtable session on employee engagement. It was so very collaborative, and we learned what worked and didn’t work to keep staff engaged. Something as simple and affordable as a block party with tents and potluck food, where more than 90% of employees came.” (Amanda Reeve, EvergreenDIRECT CU)
MAXX 2022 brought together a diversity of credit union professionals, from member service representatives to operations, finance, and compliance, and from the front line to the C-suite and Board room. There was something for everyone, and plenty of opportunity to share experiences, from the first-timer to the old-timer.
“For me the biggest thing was the community of credit unions, the mingling and the spirit of credit unions,” said Ashley Veal of Salal CU. “I came from banking, where things are cold from the time you walk into the bank. I feel like I found my home in credit unions. GoWest feels like a bigger family.”