The President's Perspective
by Jeff Olson

Photo above: Dakota GAC attendees will see a familiar face in the convention hall this year as Jeff Olson's "Eyes Wide Open" picture is prominently displayed on a banner. 


Opening ceremonies at GAC take place today in Washington, D.C. - Tune in on CUNA's Facebook Page! 


Greetings from our nation’s capital! I’m in Washington D.C. this week along with 35 other credit union advocates from the Dakotas who are here for the 2019 version of the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC).


This year marks my 10th trip to this national conference, and it is my personal favorite credit union event each year. The GAC is by far the largest and most impactful credit union conference, and the one event that all credit union advocates and leaders should consider attending. This year, there are more than 5,000 advocates attending, with representatives from 37 state leagues covering all 50 states – including our group of 35 Dakota credit union leaders and advocates representing 17 unique credit unions.


Many of you have heard me say repeatedly, “Effective advocacy is about changing the conversation and defining the debate on our terms.” Therefore, the CUNA GAC is the most significant, exciting and consequential event in the credit union movement. Here, credit union leaders can network and share with their credit union peers, and actively engage with regulators and our elected officials in Congress on issues that are impacting their credit unions and members back home. This week, there will be more than 600 meetings with members of Congress. There are state-specific advocacy briefing books that will be hand delivered to our elected officials. The conference also houses the largest exhibition hall of any financial services event, where attendees can gather information from cutting-edge vendors. But perhaps most importantly, at the GAC you learn how to be a part of the fierce CUNA/League 360-degree advocacy approach all year round.  


Even if you can’t be here, you can catch the opening ceremonies and CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle’s opening remarks by tuning in to the CUNA Facebook page – where it will be live streamed starting at 9:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m. CT). 


Guess the Special GAC Guest and Win $50 Gift Card!


As I attended some pre-conference events on Friday, I was let in on a little secret. On Tuesday this week, there will be a “Special Guest” appearance at the GAC. This was such exciting news, that I want to run a little contest. If you would like to take a guess at WHO the special guest is going to be, email your answer to Shawn Brummer by the end of the day TODAY.


Q: Who is the mystery speaker at the GAC?

  1. Presidential Candidate Senator Bernie Sanders
  2. President Trump
  3. President Barack Obama
  4. Former VP, Joe Biden
  5. VP Mike Pence
  6. Presidential Candidate Senator Kamla Harris


One person with the correct answer will win a $50 gift card! If more than one person is correct, we will hold a random drawing to select one winner from all the correct answers. We will announce the winner in the Memo on Wednesday!


Besides the “Special Guest,” we are all very excited to hear from several inspiring keynote speakers this week. Last night, we heard from opening keynote, the famous mountaineer Alison Levine. Today, we will hear from former Secretary of State John Kerry as part of the opening ceremonies. Later, we will be able to experience author Malcolm Gladwell, and former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. Quite an impressive lineup! The many breakout sessions this year include on-going compliance challenges and the recent update on CUNA’s revised study on the cost of regulatory burdens impacting credit unions today. Americans value the credit union difference, and as a unified voice and force, we are reinforcing that they want financial service alternatives that offer real choices and that continue to put them first.


Stay engaged with the Memo and CUAD’s social media this week.


To keep you informed on what’s going on during the GAC this week, the Memo will focus on activities and news from the conference, including daily updates from CUAD staff attending. We also hope to provide you with behind-the-scenes photos and interviews with Dakota attendees so even if you’re not here with us, you can experience this premier conference through our media and communications outlets. Be sure to stay tuned to the Memo, CUAD’s Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter @CUADMemo to stay abreast of the latest from the Dakota delegation.


Busy weekend for Dakota leaders prior to the official GAC kickoff.


Besides myself, many of our Dakota credit union leaders arrived over the weekend and were in engaged in pre-conference committee meetings and roundtable discussions. Briefly, this included: Roger Heacock; Fran Sommerfeld; Nick Woodard; Jean Peterson; Paul Brucker; Chad Moller; Jay Kruse, and Amy Kleinschmit. Also landing in DC early for orientation and workshops were Lori Welder, and the GAC Crashers – Lacey TerWee, Joey Rotert, and Rachel Lere. Be sure to check out the related story in today’s Memo for more details about their activities.


A Special Honor Bestowed on Roger Heacock.


Yesterday, on Sunday morning, I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the Credit Union House and presenting Roger Heacock with the Hall of Leaders award. This prestigious award permanently recognizes those credit union leaders who have made a significant impact on the credit union movement. Along with other inductees, his name will now be prominently displayed on the second floor of Credit Union House and viewed by all who visit the facility, including members of Congress, credit union leaders, and thousands of annual visitors. Roger is the first Dakota credit union professional to receive this honor. Be sure to read the full story in today’s Memo, and please join us in congratulating Roger on this achievement.


NCUA Chair McWatters added to CUAD Summit opening day agenda.


We are very excited to announce that we have secured the participation of NCUA Board Chair Mark McWatters at the 2019 CUAD Summit. Mr. McWatters is a lawyer, accountant and the Board Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). He will provide comments and answer questions from Dakota credit unions during the opening session on Tuesday, April 30. McWatters was appointed by President Donald Trump on June 23, 2017, to serve as the tenth Board Chairman of the NCUA. McWatters was previously designated by President Trump in January 2017 to serve as Acting Chairman of the NCUA. In January 2014, President Barack Obama nominated McWatters as the Republican member of the three-member board of the NCUA. We are honored that he will be traveling to Fargo to meet with us. This year’s Summit is going to be one of the best ever!


Looking for Summit Crashers!

CUAD is once again offering an opportunity for young credit union professionals age 35 or under to attend the Summit and receive additional professional development and networking along the way. Crashers will not only participate in the general sessions, but will have special activities designed to enhance their Summit experience and create opportunities for networking among their peer group. Best of all, those chosen to be a Crasher will receive their Summit conference registration for free! If you have a young professional at your credit union that has passion for our industry, I hope you will encourage them to apply. You can learn more here.


Directors College a “Must Do” event for credit union volunteers and leaders.  


If there one education event that Dakota credit union volunteers and senior management should attend this year, it is the CUAD Directors College. This one-day seminar will be conducted by industry leaders and credit union regulators on April 11 in Fargo. This high-level workshop will focus on director expectations, including BSA requirements, cyber security concerns, succession planning, interest rate risk, and other critical issues impacting credit unions today. To learn more, or to sign up click here.


We continue to advocate for you!


This week, as we navigate through the 2019 GAC, you can be assured that CUNA and CUAD are united partners advocating for the entire credit union movement. We stand firmly in your corner, here in the Dakotas and across the country. We will work fiercely so you can better serve your members. As your strongest advocate, we promote, support, unify, and advance the credit union movement, this week, and every week!


Thanks for all that you do.




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