Up and running in Belfast

The first full day of #CUinBelfast kicked off with the third annual Fun Run. The last time I ran a 5K was at the first one 2 years ago in Gold Coast, Australia and it was great to chat with a few who had done that one too. 

Then it was the first keynote session which started with a panel on advocacy featuring the CEOs of the three largest credit union systems ( Australia, Canada and the USA) and moderated by WOCCU CEO, Brian Branch.

Some great comments from all including Martha Durdin, CCUA who acknowledged there is lots of work to be done at the national and global level. I appreciated the analogy shared by Jim Nussle, CUNA: “Just like a choir, you can sing different parts but you need to sing together!”

The keynote address was Ian Goldin, a professor at Oxford who has worked at the World Bank and advised Nelson Mandela.

He spoke on what the future was bringing in terms of massive shifts in the world economically, technologically, environmentally and demographically by 2030. It was very compelling but was so large in scale that, during the Q&A, I asked him to give us some advice at the local level. I appreciated his answer that we have to build on the trust that we have with members and continue to help combat inequality. 

The rest of the day was sessions and networking. Not surprisingly, as they are all talked a lot about, 10 trends highlighted in one session were:

  • Redistribution of economy
  • Accelerated consolidation
  • Increased regulation
  • New entrants and innovation 
  • Payments transformation 
  • Internet of things
  • Big data = core competency
  • Blockchain 
  • Serving new consumers (millennial and businesses)
  • The race for talent

    It’s a big list and needs lots of cooperation to tackle.

    Two events closed out my day: World Credit Union Foundation reception, at the beautiful Belfast City Hall, and a WYCUP dinner. It’s these events that really solidify the learning into relationships across the system and they were awesome!

    Also, I’d be remiss in mentioning that our credit union rebranded to become Kindred Credit Union today and I sported the new wear. Big shoutout to the team at home that has worked so hard on this.


    #CUinBelfast2016 begins

    The World Credit Union Conference has started in Belfast, Northern Ireland and I am quite blessed to be participating in the WYCUP program and speaking on engaging millennials for the future success of the credit union movement.

    Today, the WYCUP program started early before the conference officially got going. Around 70 young people (35 and under, or so) gathered for a fantastic day of networking and leadership development. To give you some sense of the mix, my table of eight was comprised of leaders from Kenya, Ireland, Poland, Russian Federation, Romania, and Canada (me, of course)!


    After an entertaining ice breaker featuring marshmallow and spaghetti tower building, our keynote was everyone’s favorite Canadian credit union neuro-leadership expert, Sandra McDowell.


    While I have been fortunate to be part of her sessions before, there is always something new to hear or remember and she certainly didn’t disappoint in talking through how to be a mindful leader, by understanding the physiological and behavioural aspects of how our brain operates.


    Huge thanks to CUNA Mutual Group, Servus Credit Union and WOCCU (especially the incomparable Will Harris!) for making the WYCUP program happen.

    Then it was the opening ceremony which featured the flag ceremony from many of the over 100 countries that have credit unions (57,000 of them!). I had the honour of helping with those that were missing a representative to carry the flag – in this case Peru, a system of over 160 credit unions and 1.4 million members.



    The Irish League of Credit Unions was a gracious and entertaining host (fantastic step dancers and drummers!) and we learned about the view on Brexit and the passion of the credit union system here from several politicians and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla (by video).

    Anne Cochran, Board Chair of WOCCU, also gave greetings with a shoutout to young leaders and the encouragement for older leaders to listen and work with them.


    We took a Canadian young leader pic too!


    I’m missing a lot in this post but it was getting long. Stay tuned for the next few days. Should be a whirlwind!

    PS – The weather is simply lovely…hope it continues.




    Day 3 – Presenting…The Future

    Even though the day was busier (and really awesome) than most, this will be a shorter summary than previous posts. Let me do it a little different…announcer style (with whatever voice in your head fits).

    (drum roll)

    Presenting…The Future.

    In the future, the Canadian credit union system has a smooth and efficient payments ecosystem through the, Australian styled, cooperatively owned – perhaps even with non-cooperatives – PayCo!

    Young and old love it (actually they probably don’t notice it, because it’s taken for granted that fast, efficient, easy-to-use, globally connected payments work)!

    imageIn the future, young leaders have transformed the system by building:

    • data insights (Adam Thome, Affinity)
    • people improvement processes (Steve Marquis, Copperfin)
    • change and project management systems (Amie Warkentin, North Peace Savings)
    • credit evaluation excellence (Tara Vande Pol, Valley First)
    • deep community relationships (Richard Lange, Servus)

    In the future, the credit union is better for the world because of living wage, B-corps,a nd social responsible investment innovations (first presentation).

    imageIn the future, impact investing is available everywhere at a retail level (second presentation).

    In the future, everyone sings karaoke!



    Day 2: Prototyping for an UnReal World

    I’ll start Day 2 by saying I completely forgot to mention the “A Taste of Saskatchewan” reception on Day 1 that opened the conference. great food, conversation, and welcomes from CCUA, sponsors, and those who call Saskatchewan home – some for thousands of years.

    In the NextGen, Day 2 was a morning of prototyping and presenting.  In introducing the way to prototype I was struck by how some brands have really involved their customers in the process and the ownership that they feel from the experience. It made me think about how we can get our members to participate and be able to say “I helped them build that!”

    Without members in the room, it was up to each group to take the idea we had started on in Day 1 and build them into something we could talk about and walk people through. In a couple cases, groups weren’t excited about their concepts so they threw them out and got excited about something else that connected with their target member.

    I don’t have much detail but there were some amazing concepts presented, including:

    • employee platforms for training and change management
    • a financial “escape room” educational experience
    • CUFit and CU$ucceed apps that connect members to their goals and financial health
    • a video game for 8-12 year olds that introduces them to credit unions and financial literacy
    • and a 24/7 “talk to advisor” platform called FACES

    While this was just about learning the innovation process, some (if not all) of the prototypes are certainly worth exploring further.


    After the conclusion of NextGen it was time to hear the keynotes!

    Scott Stratten, co-founder of UnMarketing, delivered an impactful, humourous and insightful message on the emotional impact of stories in branding and how responsive, intentional relationship building is key. Google “Joshie Ritz-Carlton” for a great example of this.

    A number of quotes I appreciated from him:
    “we share emotions” “community is a verb”
    “social media is good for community, conversation and customer service – not sales”
    “‘millennial’ is just an allowable bias – age is only a problem when we make it one”
    “we don’t expect perfection, we expect accountability”
    “you can’t teach staff to care about members”
    “context is everything, numbers are just numbers”image

    CCUA had also arranged for Scott to be able to give away 100 free signed books and I was one of the last in line to get one (I think I was 94th)!

    The conference day concluded with Pierre Cleroux, from BDC, presenting on Canada’s economic outlook. Much of it was not a surprise: the US economy is growing (even Greece is growing now!) and Canada is projected to have modest growth an oil will rebound a bit.

    Even though this is encouraging from a business perspective, I couldn’t help feeling that still depending on 20% of our exports being oil is not as diversified or sustainable as we need to be. Should we be setting Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador up to fail again?

    When does climate change actually start impacting the economic forecast? Clearly, it’s not in the next 2 years which was about as far as Pierre went…

    Another stat I liked: China added the equivalent of the entire Canadian economy last year. Scale is a beautiful thing!

    That wrapped up the conference and it was social time after that. Stay tuned for Day 3 – I’m speaking at two events!

    Day 1: Bias toward action

    And we’re back (after a year).

    The 2016 National Conference for Canadian Credit Unions kicked off with a busy day for the young leaders. This marks the 4th NextGen event put on by the National Young Leaders Committee and on day 1 we jumped right in!

    Each NextGen event has attracted a sampling of the system’s most passionate, innovative, thoughtful, and committed young leaders from across the country. This year features the largest yet at 65 attendees and continues the tradition of focusing on a different aspect or framework for leadership.

    With a fantastic facilitator in the passionate Tansley Stearns , Chief Impact Officer at Filene Research Institute the crowd was glued to her message focusing on their patented innovation process.


    Enter a caption


    Tansley did a great job of pacing our time, combining speaking, video, group discussion independent writing and drawing and having tables full of toys to keep our hands busy and minds open.


    Some of the take-aways included the challenge to generate 10 insights every week and to share those insights with others and the empathy map exercise.

    Each table group defined a target member and developed a profile complete with name and backstory. At our table we focused on the question of “How might we get Gen Y to join credit unions?” and generate a huge stack of ideas. On Day 2 we’ll focus on one and start the prototyping process.



    At the end of our session, some messages shared by the leaders in the room about how to demonstrate leadership in innovation included:
    – be intentional
    – keep an open mind
    – communicate, communicate, communicate
    – create time and space for ideas

    While, in themselves, these aren’t revolutionary, when you are with a group of such talented peers, it’s important to encourage each other that change is possible when there is a “bias to action.” We’ll see what those actions become!

    Alisdair Smith and David Gouthro also came and invited all the young leaders to be facilitators for the Issues Forum on Wednesday. They feel that this is a clear way that young leaders can listen and contribute to this pivotal time in the future of the system. The conference theme “Framing Our Future” is not simply a nice catchy title. Credit union members, boards, and employees across the country have a real opportunity to evolve the system to make communities, Canada, and the world more equitable and sustainable.

    A Next Gen event would not be complete without a Human Library “bridging generations of leadership” by matching CEOs and senior leaders with young people interested in their stories and advice. Always a highlight.

    The finalists (and jury) of the National Credit Union Young Leader Award had a very full day as they completed the interview round and rehearsed their presentation for Tuesday. As a jury member it is a real honour to listen to their ideas and insights into the current and future states of the system.

    And, at these events, we can’t stop (believing) and continuing to build relationships at a social event hosted by the Saskatchewan Young Leaders. They are an amazing group and it is awesome to be working with them for this conference. If you are at the conference, come visit our co-hosted booth (#39).

    A full and inspiring day to start the conference. Can’t wait for the rest!

    Reconciliation: A Day of Beginning

    Originally posted at https://hofemergencyfoodassistance.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/reconciliation-a-day-of-beginning-day-1-of-12daysforgood/

    It’s a real honour to be blogging on the first day of House of Friendship’s 12 Days for Good campaign! Over the next 12 days, you’ll see an outpouring of generous, thought-provoking, and inspiring messages and good deeds  by your fellow community members here in Waterloo Region. We invite you to join us by signing up to be a “do-gooder” and challenge yourself, your friends and family, your co-workers, your neighbours(!) to share your stories and be part of it. Together, we can inspire others to get into the true spirit of the season, and make a BIG difference in our community!

    Each day has a theme. Today we’re talking about #Reconciliation.

    I have a lot to think about when it comes to reconciliation. What does it mean for me in my personal life? How do I help our community foster spaces where reconciliation is possible? How do I participate in a world that desperately needs more reconciliation to take place?

    I’m a Mennonite. Thus, I am part of a “radical” Christian group that is part of a peace church tradition. You may have seen a variety of Mennonites in our community, from politicians to farmers, Old Order to Chin – we’re a diverse crowd. For many of us, peace-work is what we believe we are called to do and that certainly influences how I think about reconciliation in my life and work.

    At home, I’m a husband to a wonderful wife and father to four awesome children. They remind me every day how challenging reconciliation can be! “It takes two to tango” as they say (or in our case 6!) so, today, I’m going to try to better understand and own the ways I have caused conflict within my family, listening to them and attempting reconciliation. Mostly, this will be in the small stuff, when we bump into and disrupt each other – the inevitable misunderstandings. I hope you’ll attempt something similar today too!

    In my work, as the Stewardship in Action Advisor at Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU), I have the privilege of working with many organizations that work towards peace every day. Today, I’ll be facilitating a peace incubator group at the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement at the University of Waterloo. The incubator is a mix of amazing initiatives that are already doing great things but are learning how to grow. A great example is Peace Camp, who visited over 120 elementary classrooms this year, teaching conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills throughout Waterloo Region. They are seeding reconciliation!

    I’m also going to connect with Community Justice Initiatives (CJI), a world leader in restorative justice approaches, about sharing the STRIDE story through film. STRIDE programs help women in prison build informal networks of support that assist them as they reintegrate into and reconcile with the community.

    There are a ton of other organizations doing amazing things (please highlight them in your comments/tweets/posts today!) but I would be remiss in failing to highlight the impact House of Friendship’s addiction treatment programs have in enabling people to take huge steps towards reconciliation in their lives.

    Outside our community and around the world, today marks International Human Rights Day and launches  a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights. Indigenous peoples and refugees, among many others, are fellow community members I have much to learn from in order to be an ally.

    In the spirit of reconciliation, today I acknowledge my complicity, through inherited legacy of privilege and silent assent, the continued oppression and destruction of peoples, cultures, and the environment around the world. I commit to being part of the reconciliation process.

    Coming from someone who is white, middle-class, North American, Christian, straight, male etc. this is a long road. As concrete steps, I will spend time on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada site (please join me!) and extend friendship to some of my indigenous neighbours.

    I will also be connecting with a number of organizations who are helping our community settle “new Canadians” coming as refugees. (You might anticipate tomorrow’s theme: “Belong.”) It’s great that we are part of some solutions but we are also part of the problem. We need to participate on both ends to foster the ability for there to be reconciliation in the future.

    While this will be a busy day, #12DaysforGood is only a short campaign. If I (we) am to take reconciliation seriously, I (we) have to be committed to a long community process. I hope you will join me!

    Let us know how you are taking steps towards reconciliation in comments, tweets, and posts.

    Happy Do-Gooding!

    Day 4 – And the winner is…

    “Winning” is often not what we think it is. In any number of definitions of “win” you’ll find “success or victorious in…” (sorry, I usually hate using the dictionary to make a point and I’m sure you were wanting me to jump into the recap – bear with me). We usually think of “victorious” and then define “success” as being victorious but that’s too simplistic. There’s a good reason for the “or” in the definition. When you claim what success means to you and then achieve it, you win. If you exceed what you were hoping to achieve, chances are you’ve won for more than just yourself.

    Okay, to the recap.

    The morning session was an issues forum.  The issue at hand was the broader implementation of wholesale finance tools in the Canadian credit union system. While normally, not a piece of the movement I’d like to spend time talking about (because it’s a bit too “businessy” for me) it’s an important element of the current financial environment and the striving for sustainable profitability. I appreciate the CFOs, senior management, and boards that have to work with this challenge and the need for creative, efficient solutions.

    But, I think we are just kicking the can down the road again. These are not solutions to the underlying issue. They are simply dealing with the symptoms. The core issue is our system does not attract or encourage member savings that are sufficient to fund our business. The cultural/societal influences on our members lead them (in aggregate) to take on more debt instead of investing in a system that supports them. This is not going to change any time soon and it certainly won’t be better if our system gets younger (which we keep saying is important for long term longevity). I don’t see younger people saving more than they borrow. Though gross income for credit unions should increase, “economies of scale” and “efficient processes” aren’t going to solve the issue either.

    But, I’m a simple idealist, so what do I know. Maybe I’m missing something. At any rate, it was a good thing to talk about.

    That was not so true of the afternoon keynote which offered nothing of substance on the topic of leadership (or anything else) and may not have even warranted this sentence. We had a bit of break after the keynote so I ventured downtown to enjoy the snow and find some great things to bring home.

    Snow descends on the Banff Springs

    Snow descends on the Banff Springs

    And now, I finally get to what you were wanting to read about! The awards.

    Through the course of the evening, the National Credit Union Awards were given out to very deserving individuals and credit unions. Affinity Credit Union received the Community Economic Development Award for their Business for Good Social Challenge, Vancity received the Innovation Award for their payday loan product Fair and Fast Loans, and Assiniboine Credit Union received the Credit Union Social Responsibility Award for their Asset Building Program. I think it’s interesting to note that these are the only three Canadian credit unions that are part of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. I know it’s a coincidence but they are clearly leading in a compelling way.

    I was very pleased to see Scott Kennedy among the three recipients of the Hall of Fame (the other two were Loretta Elford and Myrna Bentley). Scott had presented me with the WYCUP scholarship in Ottawa and it has been great getting to know him just a little bit over the last two years. A wonderful man who challenged us to continue to grow our impact. It was because of Scott that I remembered to wear my pink tie in support of the Global Women’s Leadership Network!

    Sporting my pink tie in support of cuwomen.org

    Sporting my pink tie in support of cuwomen.org

    The final awards of the evening were the Young Leader Awards and scholarship. Getting to know this amazing group over the last week has been a real privilege and the future is bright for our system with them in the mix. Which brings me back to my point about winning. While all of them, of course, would have loved to have received the scholarship, I was pleased to find that they all genuinely found the process of  being nominated, expressing their stories and opinions in essays and interviews, and finally being forced to present together in coopetition, as an incredibly mind-opening and career-defining experience. In many cases, they achieved more than they thought they were going to. This is what success and winning looks like!

    I say all of this because I believe it is strongly in line with the sentiments of the scholarship recipient. It was awesome to see portions of the room rise to their feet at the announcement that Ryan Gobolos, Director, Treasury at Servus Credit Union in Alberta, was the final award winner of the night! Praised by his peers for his authenticity and thoughtful intelligence, we all look forward to seeing this humble young leader share his gifts and talents to impact the system. He was surprised to achieve more than he expected and in doing so has won for more than himself. Congratulations Ryan!

    And congratulations to the Canadian credit union system. With new relationships and learnings, “our time is now” to move forward from this fantastic conference and implement our shared vision of cooperative finance changing the world for the better.

    The winner is all of us!