John Best readily admits he had no idea where the CU Digital Town Halls would head when he launched them in mid-March last year- he only knew he had to do something. Households were moving into pandemic lockdown- taking the economy with them- and credit union branches were being shuttered out of public health concerns.
As CUNA CEO Jim Nussle said at the industry group’s recent Government Affairs Conference, credit unions often do their best when things look at their worst. It’s that spirit of collaboration and “people helping people” that Best Innovation Group’s founder tapped into. He set up a Zoom line, reached out to his industry contacts, and launched an open forum where credit union leaders could brainstorm, share best practices, commiserate when needed, and hopefully identify a path forward amid COVID’s rapidly evolving facts, edicts and perceptions.
The response was immediate and gratifying- CU thought leaders made it part of their weekly routine to actively engage in an hour of moderated discussion each Wednesday afternoon. Early hot topics included securely moving operational functions to work from home settings that until last February would have been unfathomable; effectively serving members conditioned to transact at now-shuttered branches; and determining how to address loan forbearance for members under financial strain. The first round of stimulus checks soon followed, and questions around the contact center deluge of member queries.
John enlisted CU Broadcast founder/host Mike Lawson to co-lead the proceedings- the duo gradually added guest speakers to shed light on timely topics, while retaining the Town Hall’s interactive nature. I doubt either Mike or John expected the Digital Town Halls to still be running a year after their inception, much less that they’d continue to draw dozens of weekly participants- a combination of regulars and newcomers. But as the logins demonstrate, these sessions continue to deliver real-world value.
Last week (on St. Patrick’s Day, coincidentally) the Digital Town Hall celebrated its One Year Anniversary by inviting back three of its high profile guests for an extended session on financial services’ outlook, including plenty of lively Q&A. The discussion aligned nicely with these pragmatic futurists’ recent work. Theodora Lau’s brand new book “Beyond Good” explores how technology can enable purpose-driven finance, a topic central to the credit union mission. The title of Chris Skinner’s “Digital Bank” neatly lays out a credit union imperative, and Brett King’s “Technosocialism” delves into the inequality and AI issues that fuel some of the trio’s lively debate.
These special events are fun mile markers, but the Town Halls will continue on a weekly basis and continue to provide an open forum for industry collaboration and sharing of best practices. Visit the CU Digital Town Hall site for replays of past sessions and to request an invitation for upcoming ones. And thanks for your continued support!