Building Stronger Connections

Debra Schwartz, NAFCU Board Chair

Right now is a critical time for the credit union industry. We’re coming out of a year that will be remembered for its unprecedented challenges, only to enter one where uncertainty still lingers. But we’re resilient — as a nation, as a community, and as an industry. I have faith that we will get to the end of the pandemic stronger than we were before, and NAFCU will have played a large role in helping us achieve this.

One of the many benefits of being a NAFCU member is the connections the association provides: to lawmakers, administration officials, regulators, industry experts and our peers. The challenges of this past year have highlighted the importance of these relationships, especially among fellow credit union professionals.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, one of the priorities for NAFCU President and CEO Dan Berger was connecting with member credit union presidents and CEOs. He genuinely cared about how we were faring amid the crisis and wanted to know what NAFCU could do to help.

Our board of directors — consisting solely of credit union leaders — remained in close contact as national and state restrictions took effect to discuss changes to operations, trends we were seeing in members’ financial habits, and what relief we could provide. NAFCU took insights gleaned from these conversations to develop new ways for our entire industry to stay on top of the rapidly changing environment.

While we couldn’t meet in person, the association pursued online options — through new webinars, events and resources — to outline the latest developments. NAFCU brought key industry officials from the NCUA, CFPB, Small Business Administration (SBA) and Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) directly to us during virtual conferences. The association provided us with spaces to share our own insights during virtual roundtable discussions with credit union leaders and industry experts.

It also has a newer line of resources that proved invaluable during this time: NAFCU Networks. Since first launching at the end of 2018 with the CFO Network, the networks have added six other role-specific online communities reaching more than 12,000 credit union professionals. In this virtual environment, our teams can pose questions about issues our institution is facing, share with others our approach and get member-only access to vital resources.

The newest network — CEO Network — launched in October. Throughout the course of the pandemic, NAFCU saw the opportunity to help our industry’s leaders build even stronger connections. With the help of a steering committee that I serve on, we have developed a space for us to take our institutions to the next level.

Access the network, and within seconds you can individually connect with other forward-thinking leaders, seek and share knowledge, work through challenges, discover powerful new ideas, and create the synergy needed for growth.

NAFCU’s leading government affairs team also participates in the networks to share detailed accounts of meetings with administration officials, lawmakers and regulators to ensure credit unions have all the legislative, regulatory and compliance information we need to operate efficiently and effectively.

In tough times, it’s reassuring to know that we have an association fully committed to our success. The NAFCU Networks are built into the association’s membership, with no additional costs, to take advantage of the resources and insights they provide. And with their online access, you can stay personally connected to industry leaders at a time when in-person networking isn’t always possible.

As we kick off a new year, I invite my fellow credit union leaders to participate in the new CEO Network, and to encourage your employees to participate in the other networks that fit their roles. Because we’re stronger together.

Debra Schwartz is president and CEO of Mission Federal Credit Union in San Diego.