ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (4/13/11)--Entertained and educated by a slate of speakers selected to support the theme, “Real Issues, Real Answers,” more than 450 attendees participated in PSCU Financial Services’ 2011 Senior Leadership Workshop & Member Forum April 6-8 in San Antonio, Texas. Peter Orszag, a member of President Obama’s cabinet and former director of the Office of Management and Budget (2009–2010), discussed budget-related issues and the U.S. and Chinese economies. The current agreement to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year illustrates the compromises that will have to be made by both parties, he said. “Democrats must agree to extensive cuts in spending while Republicans must drop their opposition to federal funding for organizations that deal with morally charged issues such as abortion,” he said. Orszag said the U.S. has the advantages of a diverse labor force, rich natural resources and the ability to develop and implement new ideas and new technologies. “If the Congress can implement a long-term plan to gradually decrease the deficit, the U.S. will be in a good position to retain its hold as the world’s leading economy,” he added. Even in the best case scenario, the gap between the U.S. and Chinese economies can be expected to narrow over time, Orszag added. Steven Levitt, bestselling author of “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics” and a tenured professor at the University of Chicago’s Economics Department told attendees that it’s dangerous for credit unions to conduct marketing promotions without testing or tracking results. Levitt consulted with a large electronics company that spent billions annually on marketing for seven years but did not track results for its TV or newspaper flyer campaigns. Marketing managers were not eager to report inefficiencies because it would impact their position with the company. “It’s important to provide incentives for managers to evaluate results and ensure that marketing efforts produce an acceptable return on assets,” Levitt said. Chris McWilton, president of U.S. markets for Mastercard Worldwide, recommended that credit unions equip consumers with Web-based tools for electronic tracking and budgeting for card purchases. “Members can use the tools to see how much they are spending in key areas, such as gas, groceries, restaurants and retailers,” McWilton said. “They can also set spending budgets by category and see at a glance whether they met or exceeded their goals. This one-stop management tool motivates members to make a credit union’s card platforms their primary choice.” Erik Qualman, social media/technology expert and author of “Socialnomics” advised credit unions not to view social media as a technology play, but as a tool to build relationships. “Social media is a new form of word-of-mouth communication that can generate consumer interest in credit unions or other businesses,” he said. “Social media is an avenue that should be monitored because it’s a great way for credit unions to listen to what others are saying about them, to interact with members or prospects, to resolve any problems and ultimately to build a stronger member relationship.” Topics of best-practice breakout sessions included successful tactics for improving credit, debit and prepaid cards, establishing risk management goals, promoting e-commerce platforms, dealing with the interchange proposal and maximizing call center effectiveness.