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CUs go Hollywood
HOLLYWOOD--Legislative advocacy, increasing awareness of credit unions among consumers, addressing demographic trends and a little bit of magic were on display Wednesday at the opening night of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ Annual Meeting and Conference. Attendees flocked to the legendary corner of Hollywood and Highland for the 2018 version of the leagues’ REACH Conference. Read on for some of the highlights from the conference kick-off.
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Dyskstra plugs national awareness campaign
2018 has been “a very busy year” for the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues.

That was the assessment from Diana Dykstra, president and CEO of the trade associations, as she welcomed attendees from the Golden and Silver states. She pointed to the CCUL’s efforts in the California state capital of Sacramento, where the league played defense against “thousands of bills we had to make sure did not hurt credit unions.”

“There was a privacy bill that was going to be really, really bad for credit unions, but we were able to get an exemption,” she said. On the plus side, a bill that was passed and signed authorized prize-linked savings accounts, which will go into effect in January. “This started in Michigan about 10 years ago. With the conjunction of the awareness campaign and prize-linked savings, we can make a really big splash in California and Nevada.”

Bankers “continue to attack us – surprise!” Dykstra continued, speaking ironically. “There was a serious tax fight in Iowa that we were able to fight back, but the banks are not done.”

Dykstra noted the Credit Union National Association has been developing a credit union awareness campaign over the past two years. She said the campaign’s committee was a “brilliant group” of credit union marketers from across the United States.

“We are done doing the research, and now it is a go. I ask you to really, really consider what participating in the credit union awareness campaign can mean to credit unions in California and Nevada,” she said. “Everyone keeps asking what it is going to cost: $1 per member. I can’t tell you how incredibly important this is. I have been in the credit union movement for 36 years, and every year there is talk of a national campaign. It is big and bold. When you get that ask, please put it in your budget. And don’t take it out of your marketing budget, make it an additional. You will still need your marketing budget to reach out to consumers. One dollar per member, you can do it.”
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Under attack (but fighting back)
Credit unions are “under attack from every angle, from aging demographics to fintechs.”

That was the message from Kirk Drake, president and CEO of Ongoing Operations, who will be serving as emcee of the REACH Conference this week.

Drake, who also is founder and author of Credit Union 2.0, told attendees, “Even 20 years ago the credit unions I worked at struggled to keep up with changes, and now changes are coming faster than ever.”
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Outgoing league chairmen look back
Credit unions have always been a collaborative industry, and as the movement grows in size but the number of institutions shrinks due to consolidation, that collaboration is needed now more than ever.

That was the message from Nader Moghaddam (pictured above, right), president and CEO of $1.3 billion-asset Financial Partners Credit Union in Downey, Calif., who is wrapping up a one-year term as chairman of the California Credit Union League.

“This is an era of rapid change in our ecosystem, and for consumer expectations,” he said. “Now, more than ever, we need to collaborate and have a collective response. We need to band together to better represent and advocate for the interests of our members in regulatory and legislative arenas. The cooperative principle of people helping people never gets old, but the way we pursue it evolves.”

Similarly, Rick Schmidt, president and CEO of $172 million-asset WestStar Credit Union in Las Vegas, officially wrapped up a two-year term as chairman of the Nevada CU League at this week’s meeting. He touted the positive impact CUs have had as one of several factors helping the state come together over the course of a turbulent decade.

“It has been an honor to serve as chair of the Nevada Credit Union League. There are only 15 credit unions left in the state, but we are proud to be part of the movement. I moved to Las Vegas in 2010, and friends questioned the logic of moving to the epicenter of the economic downturn. But the resiliency of the people of the state is amazing. When I spoke on this stage last year it was just a few weeks after the horrific events of [the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting]. The community banded together thanks in no small part to the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team. Those of us who live there know how much the Golden Knights helped us by having something to smile about again, to have something to cheer for. Today there are billions of dollars in commercial building projects underway. There are so many changes in Las Vegas from 10 years ago, when we led in foreclosures and had the lowest home values in the country. The Vegas Golden Knights represent everything that has changed. They are emblematic.”
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Magic man
When attendees were introduced to Jason Latimer Wednesday evening, they could have been excused for wondering why a magician was on the agenda at a credit union conference. But he quickly quieted all doubts with a series of probing questions that offered quite a different perspective on what “magic” really is and could be.

According to Latimer, who is a Grand Prix world champion of magic, and serves as Curator of Impossible Science at the Fleet Science Center in San Diego, magic is simply what is possible.

“The right question changes everything,” he said. “No matter how crazy or ludicrous the question sounds, there is an answer. As long as you have an idea, or are passionately asking questions, there is nothing our imaginations can’t derive.”

Latimer said he approaches his act with one goal: to reinspire wonder, because wonder is the same thought process for figuring out a new technology or a cure for a disease. “Everything is impossible until someone figures out a solution. That is why wonder changes the world. When we were young we wanted to know the rules, how things work. Children are insatiably curious, but the illusion of knowledge forces us to give up asking those questions.”

The difference between magic and science is knowledge of the rules, Latimer continued. He noted flight was always possible, but it felt impossible until someone figured out lift. “Had we listened to our answers, we would never have made it to the moon. To prove something impossible you have to prove an infinite number of trials.”

Albert Einstein once said, “Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.” Latimer said in this day and age we need to see beyond the “illusion of knowledge” more than ever before.

“The illusion of knowledge has never been more prevalent. The availability of information through the magic crystal ball of the Internet has made us complacent,” he asserted. “Where is the wonder in the age of information? Remember, we gave the Internet its answers. If the Internet had existed when people thought the earth was flat, no one would be able to search for ‘shape of the earth.’ People thought the earth was the center of the universe, and that was fact – until someone questioned it. Everyone is born with the ability to wonder, so use it, because wonder changes the world.”