Young pros network, learn at Association Young Professionals Conference

The 2019 New York Credit Union Association’s Young Professionals Conference concluded last week and young credit union professionals and volunteers networked and heard from insightful speakers at the Brook-Lea Country Club in Rochester.

The conference was held in conjunction with the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, a tournament on the LPGA Symetra Tour. The lead organizer and conference emcee was Richard Sellwood, VP of member services at Reliant Community Credit Union and former chairman of the Association’s Young Professionals Commission.

The two-day event kicked off with a luncheon followed by opening remarks from Mike Vadala, president/CEO of The Summit FCU and chairman of the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic.

Richard Sellwood moderated a panel discussion with three golf professionals, who are also young professionals, to discuss what they do and how they manage financially, personally, emotionally and from a business standpoint in a season where there are 24 tournaments across the US and only three week long breaks.

Grace Gonzalez of the Bonadio Group was the next speaker and discussed understanding the financials and the business of credit unions to attendees. Following her presentation there was an open forum and roundtables summarizing thoughts on the first day’s speakers.

The second day of the conference kicked off with Kendra Rubin, Association VP of governmental affairs, who discussed the importance of advocacy in the credit union industry to young professionals and volunteers.

Alvin Cowans, CEO of McCoy FCU in Orlando, Florida, took to the podium next to explain his journey from high school to the Florida Gators to the Washington Redskins to credit unions. Cowans is the CEO of one of the largest CUs in Central Florida, with $565 million in assets and over 65,000 members. He has a football background which includes growing up in Virginia and being a member of one of the famous high school football teams in Virginia that was the subject of the movie “Remember the Titans.” Cowans explained his playing days with the Florida Gators and the Washington Redskins after high school.

Additionally, Bill Cheney, president/CEO of SchoolsFirst FCU in California, shared his story and career path, including his time as president/CEO of CUNA before moving to a very large credit union.

“The YP conference was a great combination of networking, learning, and inspiration,” said Torii Brawdy, marketing and community relations manager of Western New York FCU. “It was amazing to be with more than 80 other young professionals that are also passionate about the Credit Union movement. The speakers all helped increase our knowledge of how and why credit unions serve their members. Cowans and Cheney inspired me to work hard for our members every single day and always look for opportunities to learn within our credit unions and the movement.”

The second day also included a lunch with New York credit union executives, who were available for questions and general conversation with attendees.

“It was amazing to hear from credit union executives to discuss their career paths and how they have grown in our industry,” said Ryan Burley,  from The Summit FCU.

The conference concluded with a Credit Union Night at the Strathallan Hotel in Rochester where food and beverages were provided.

“The Young Professionals Conference was an outstanding event that brought dozens of young credit union professionals together from across New York State,” said Kaleb Wilson, financial center manager at AmeriCU. “We were able to learn much from the player panel and the guest speakers. One common theme across all of the speakers was that we need to be able to be ready to shift and learn something new for when the time comes and to keep all goals in mind, whether long-term or short-term.”

To view pictures from the event, visit the Association’s Facebook page.

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