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Small CU roundtable was deciding factor for some GAC attendees
WASHINGTON (3/7/11)--For some attendees, the first-ever Credit Union National Association (CUNA) small credit union roundtable was more than a way to begin the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC)--it was the primary reason they came to Washington last week. Sherrie Brooks was one of them. As CEO of $17 million Tennessee Employees CU, Brooks wears many hats. She said she needs a good reason to justify being out of the office for a week--and to convince her board on the necessity of investing a relatively large amount of money on traveling to a conference. “It really has to be geared towards something that will help your credit union,” Brooks said. When she saw that CUNA was having a small credit union roundtable, "it was the deciding factor.” While credit unions at the GAC shared virtually the same concerns--the proposed interchange rule, member business lending, supplemental capital, and protecting credit unions’ tax exempt status--240 registered small credit union roundtable attendees had their own subset of concerns, with topics like compliance, collaboration, succession and regulation dominating the four-hour session. Brooks indicated she doesn’t have a large network to discuss her decisions with on an everyday basis. “This was a re-enforcement of the thought processes I have on some things, like taking advantage of the way the economy is right now. A lot of the credit card companies raised their rate to 21%, so I did a promotion with 6.9% fixed. My credit card portfolio increased 125%. That decision was re-enforced today.” She also believes collaboration offers small credit unions opportunities to extend the services they offer. “About five years ago, I shared a loan officer with another credit union,” she said. Under the umbrella of a larger credit union, she offers her members financial counseling at no cost to her credit union. Just as important, Brooks said she learned about resources and ideas she was not aware of previously, such as League InfoSight, an online compliance resource created by the Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Texas Credit Union leagues in 2003. The small credit union roundtable was also the reason Melissa Marquez, CEO of $10 million Genesee Co-op FCU, Rochester, N.Y, attended the GAC. “I just felt like I had to be here,” Marquez said. “These people are my closest colleagues. We all have the same concerns. And everyone is so willing to share ideas. It’s been very inspiring.” Marquez said compliance was her top concern, but she also learned how collaboration could be used as a valuable tool to grow her credit union. Like Brooks, Marquez said it wasn’t an easy decision to go to Washington. But she was determined to make the most of her time and bring her small credit union message directly to the U.S. Congress. While it can be hard to justify the conference and travel cost, "especially at the end of the month” when the credit union closes its books, Marquez added, "but while I’m here I’m going to hike the Hill.”


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