The 2019 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference concludes today in Washington, D.C. Over the course of four days, thousands of credit union advocates from across the country heard from diverse speakers.
Advocates also had the opportunity to network with their peers, meet face-to-face with federal lawmakers, and explore regulatory compliance and other pressing industry matters.
The conference kicked off for New York advocates on Sunday when the New York Credit Union Association hosted a “Let’s Connect New York” reception. The gathering took place at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse where New York attendees had the opportunity to network with credit union leaders from throughout the state.
Alison Levine, a history-making polar explorer, mountaineer and New York Times bestselling author, presented a keynote speech on Sunday to attendees. Levine’s presentation focused on leadership tactics, such as creating cohesive teams, taking responsible risks and developing leaders that can succeed in times of uncertainty. She said the only reason she was able to achieve her goal is because she had tasted failure and learned from it, a lesson she said that society at large could learn from. “Because of that previous failure, I knew a heck of a lot more about my pain threshold, my risk tolerance, what it felt like to get the living snot kicked out of me high up on that summit ridge in the storm,” Levine said to the audience. “In general, we’re not a very failure-tolerant society, which is really too bad, because a lack of failure tolerance really stifles progress, innovation and prevents people from taking risks.”
The general session kicked off on Monday morning. Association President/CEO William J. Mellin and Association Board Chairwoman Marie Betti, CEO of Western New York FCU, carried the state’s flag during the opening ceremonies.
Following the opening ceremonies, CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle took the stage to offer his opening remarks and insights. Nussle’s entire speech is available on CUNA’s Facebook page.
Former Secretary of State and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a presidential nominee, then addressed the audience to share his extensive experiences and insights into his lifetime of public service with attendees. Kerry also shared his knowledge of the political arena and discussed his passion for humanitarian causes.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of five New York Times bestsellers and named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine, presented on the second day of the conference. Notably, Gladwell explored challenges faced by established institutions and companies, such as the U.S. Marine Corps., RCA and Toyota. According to Gladwell, credit unions can use lessons learned from those organizations as the movement looks to expand and reach more consumers.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence whom CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle described as “a friend to credit unions,” also made remarks during the second day of the general session. Pence’s comments touched on the importance of credit unions to communities and the economy. “Credit unions are a part of everything good happening in cities large and small across this country,” said Pence, who went on to state that “American credit unions have no greater champion than President Donald Trump.”
He concluded his remarks by discussing the credit union philosophy. “I’m a small town guy from southern Indiana, I know the difference credit unions make,” he said. “… It has always been touching to me that credit unions don’t have clients, they have members.”
The second day also featured a legislative briefing for New York attendees led by Association President/CEO William J. Mellin. During the briefing, Mellin updated the group on key federal legislative priorities that should be discussed with lawmakers during legislative visits, including data security, marijuana banking, housing finance reform, regulatory relief and more. Attendees also heard from John McKechnie, CUNA’s former chief lobbyist and a former senior aide at NCUA.
The day also included breakout sessions focusing on regulatory and litigation threats to credit unions; payments and cybersecurity issues; flood insurance; credit union leadership; the economy and credit union operations. New York credit union advocates also met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and senior staff from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office.
The third day of the session featured the final keynote speaker of the conference. Dana Perino, a political commentator for Fox News and a former White House press secretary, discussed her political expertise will GAC attendees. Perino offered a key piece of advice to attendees, telling them that stories are powerful. “Who are the members you represent and their stories?” she asked. “Statistics don’t stick. The stories you tell are what really make a difference.”
Finally on Wednesday, attendees took their message to Capitol Hill for a full day of lobbying House members on a range of important credit union issues.
“The CUNA GAC is the premier event for credit union advocacy at the federal level, and New York’s credit unions were once again well represented at this year’s conference,” said Mellin. “The Association is committed to building positive relationships with our members of Congress. But when credit union employees and volunteers meet with their members of Congress, they have the opportunity to connect on a personal level and share unique stories about their credit union’s impact in the lawmaker’s district. These personal connections are vitally important to our overall advocacy efforts, and I’d like to thank each and every New York attendee who took the time to discuss our legislative priorities with lawmakers at the GAC.”