I recently had the opportunity to attend Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, D.C. The event is the credit union industry’s premier event bringing together leaders from across the movement to rally around a united case – to tell policymakers how their lawmaking affects credit unions and their more than 130 million members.
This year nearly 6,000 attendees made the trip to D.C. and hundreds of exhibitors were ready to share their technology and collaborate. Fintechs providing for credit unions use this as the main event to stay atop of current trends and issues in the industry, as well as to network with industry leaders.
Here are some numbers from CUNA regarding GAC 2023:
- Representatives from nearly 1,000 credit unions in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and nine countries
- 33 U.S. credit union leagues
- More than 300 providers and system supporters
- 60 young professional “Crashers”
- 200 speakers
- 336 exhibit hall booths
- More than 600 meetings with members of Congress and other officials
The conference includes a variety of breakout sessions and panels, networking time in the main exhibit hall, lunches, dinners, and hikes up Capitol Hill to petition lawmakers for their support of the credit union difference. Credit unions openly shared testimonials and success stories, advocacy tactics, emerging technology plans and fintech leaders supplemented the content with innovative strategies.
One of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address by Sekou Andrews, a GRAMMY-nominated artist who has redefined public speaking. He is known as the creator of Poetic Voice (the speak category that fuses inspirational words with spoken poetry, think of “Hamilton”). His speech focused on the importance of ‘breaking waves’ and taking risks to achieve success; it was a creative perspective on embracing failure and encouraging unconventional thinking. It seems especially relevant as credit unions continue to innovate to reach more modern generations – as an industry we need to collaborate and create together to produce great new things.
Another session that particularly stood out was a panel discussion called “The Power that Fintech has in Unifying the Credit Union System.” The panelists included, Brian Kaas, president and managing director at CMFG Ventures, Ronny Chapman, SVP, Fintech Solutions at CUNA Mutual Group, Chad Collier, founder & CEO at CarSaver, and Sarah Martin, CEO at Pulsate. They discussed the need for credit unions to leverage fintech to scale and grow the reach and impact of not only each organization, but of the system as a whole. The APIs available today are the great unifier for enabling credit unions to connect, share data and functionality, ultimately creating a more streamlined and interconnected ecosystem aimed to better serve consumers in their moments of need.
Another session discussed the role of credit unions in promoting financial inclusion. Panelists shared various strategies for reaching underserved communities and providing access to affordable financial services. Other key themes and topics included the state of the economy, the challenge of project fatigue, the need to grow loans and deposits, embedded finance and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Overall, my experience at the CUNA GAC was incredibly invaluable. The show is an who’s who of the credit union industry, offering time to catch up with my fellow fintech and journalist friends, and networking with credit union executives and industry experts. It was inspiring to hear the credit union industry continue to find ways to support its communities.
I recommend CUNA GAC if you’re a credit union representative looking for new innovative technologies or collaborations, a fintech looking for investment or partnerships, and all of the rest of us in the ecosystem who want to learn more about the industry and build long-term connections.
If you attended as well, let me know what other takeaways were most meaningful to you and your business. Also, for more information on tradeshows, download WMA’s 2023 Tradeshow Guide.