Our Recap and Highlights from the 2019 CUNA GAC
It was a pleasure to attend the CUNA GAC in Washington DC in mid March! For those unfamiliar with the event, it’s the Credit Union National Association’s annual Governmental Affairs Conference. Credit Unions from around the nation attend, as well as industry service and technology providers. With over 5,000 attendees, 200+ exhibitors, and an incredible speaker panel set in the nation’s capital, the CUNA GAC is a must go-to credit union conference to add to your list.
From the opening ceremonial procession of attending states celebrating their legislative accomplishments, to discovering the Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union campaign, and most importantly – talking to credit union employees on the Exhibition Hall floor – we gained an even deeper understanding of credit unions, their mission, their positioning in the financial marketplace, and their needs.
The conference general session opened with procession of states’ legislative accomplishments from the past year. This included advancements for consumer protection, financial literacy, fraud protection, stopping the expansion of payday loan lenders, expanding rights for members, tax exemption, and stronger cyber security measures.
We heard a lot about the great work credit unions do everyday to be trusted financial partners of American citizens. Jim Nussle, President of CUNA dove deep into the heart and soul of credit unions, reminding the audience of the seven cooperative principles of credit unions:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Members’ economic participation
- Autonomy and independence
- Offer education, training, and info
- Cooperation among cooperative
- Concern for community
Credit unions from around the country shared inspiring stories of times they stepped up to serve a community in need through natural disasters, financial crises, and times of individual hardship. The conference honored outstanding credit union employees, and described the qualities that set credit unions apart from banks.
What we loved about the CUNA GAC
We loved meeting and speaking to the “Crashers,” the young attendees of the GAC. We love that CUNA recruits young credit union professionals from around the country and provides a special place for them at the GAC. They are, afterall, the present and future of credit unions.
Location, Location, and Food
The location of the GAC is a reason to attend in and of itself. Held in the nation’s capitol of Washington DC, there is plenty to do and see during down time, including visits to:
- The National Mall
- Capitol Hill
- Smithsonian Museums
- National Portrait Gallery
- Up and coming neighborhoods such as Shaw, Dupont Circle, NoMa, and Downtown
- Eastern Market
- U.S. Botanic Gardens
If you’re a foodie, attending the GAC in DC will be right up your alley. Our favorite restaurants in the vicinity of the Washington Convention Center where the CUNA GAC was held include:
- Succotash – traditional southern Dixie plates with an Asian fusion
- All Purpose – some of the best pizza pies and antipasti you’ll ever have!
- Chaplain’s – modern take on ramen with creative cocktails
- Espita Mezcaleria – a modern Southern Mexican cantina featuring mezcal & mole
One of the great things about CUNA GAC is that exhibitors are invited to attend all of the sessions. This year’s conference featured speakers John Kerry, Malcolm Gladwell, Alison Levine, and a surprise visit from Vice President Mike Pence.
In the closing session, we heard from world-renowned pop culture and popular social science author and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell presented the CU audience three stories of people or organizations who defied the odds against them to rise to the top. Gladwell shared the stories of the US Coast Guard, RCA, and Toyota who all overcame setbacks and times of adversity to earn back the public’s respect and trust. Gladwell likened this experience to the challenge facing credit unions as they strive to increase consideration among fierce competition from banks, fintechs, and other disruptors in the financial space.
Last but not least, we loved meeting hundreds of credit union professionals (like you!) who stopped by our booth to chat and play our “one question” game. Curious? Swing by our booth at other trade shows and events we’ll be attending this year! Or drop us a line to start the conversation. We look forward to meeting you. Cheers!