CU Water Cooler

A Prairie Girl goes to Nashville

Jill HulsComment

It has been a week now since I returned from the CU Water Cooler in Nashville, which was a fabulous experience from my view. All week I have had questions about the view of the Cooler experience, what I learned, who I met. Thought I would share.

The first thing I learned at the CU Water Cooler is that borders and countries are pretty irrelevant—credit Union people are awesome everywhere. So, I missed booking my hotel room in Nashville. With concerts and sporting events overlapping the Cooler, rooms were tough to come by and a wee bit on the pricey side. Sara Dyer (whom I had never talked to nor met before) ended up working some magic and absolutely went above and beyond by hooking me up in the conference hotel and at the conference rate. Hadn’t even made it to the Cooler yet and there it was in action: people helping people. Thanks again Sara!

After making it to the Cooler and having a place to sleep, within 24 hours I learned cool stuff and met cool people in an open, engaging environment where speakers and participants engaged in constructive and challenging conversations. Here are five things and people that come to mind.

1. People helping people

On the night before the conference, dinner with the Currency crew and Young & Free supporters opened my eyes even wider to some really passionate CU’ers across North America working with Young & Free. Did you know Young & Free partnerships have been a part of growing 125,000 new young members in the CU system over the life of program? Pretty cool. We also learned that evening that karaoke is serious business in Nashville, at times creepy, but serious. I can only imagine how creepy the nude karaoke would have been. Only one of our crew had the skills to sing with the stars. Uhhh, the Alabama girls were great singers too… in their own wonderful way. Roll Tide Roll.


2. William Azaroff, period

Ok, I guess I should say a bit more. William was first speaker of Day 1. Disclaimer: I had been looking forward to hearing William sharing the vision of Your Member and What Matters. From my view, he did not disappoint. William told his story with passion and clarity around how Vancity works to connect with members and be transparent to their goals. It was really hard to narrow it down, but here are my top 3 takeaways from William:

  • Do the right thing and the business will follow.
  • Charity is not equal to reciprocity. Giving money with no impact is bad business and bad strategy. Without strategy for community investment, all money goes to kids, cancer and dogs. Which isn’t bad, but may not actually be able to multiply the impact of the investment in other ways.
  • Anyone can be true to their values and market, this isn’t a Vancity secret. What’s your heritage and history? Focus on it today with clarity and transparency to differentiate your credit union for your members. 

Here are a few great slides:


3. Tim Vandenberg has game

Tim shows that Monopoly changes lives. So, Tim loves Monopoly. The short version: Tim used Monopoly to develop a math curriculum for 6th graders which built skills, helped them be math geniuses, and taught valuable life skills. Why you ask? Tim says because all he cares about is changing lives and outcomes for his students. Wow. Google it, super impressive. Message: How could helping kids with super charged math skills and life skills help with financial literacy? Guessing there is a connection there. Could CUs help? 

Also made me think about how connecting differently, changing the way we interact and learn, and gamifying learning produces different outcomes. 

Check out these six slides:


4. Jimmy Marks has moves

And he shared some thoughts on trust. First, don’t trust Jenny McCarthy. Vaccinate your kids people! The three Jimmy soundbytes for me…

  • Trust. Back it up with repetition of action and transparency and clarity of behavior.
  • Trust your members first. 
  • Find the group in your community who need the most help and entreat them not to leave you. Help them. 

And these six slides:


5. Andy Janning believes in heroes and villains

A really thoughtful and engaging conversation which for me quite simply and beautifully laid out reward and recognition and crucial conversations. Many of the Cooler guests shared stories of immediately trying out Andy’s formula for communicating impact of behavior for development and recognition. I also found the three signs of burnout Andy shared to be insightful: depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, lack of personal achievement. A really great story teller. 

Some slides:


So within 24 hours, I knew that the Cooler was worth the investment and time spent. Stay tuned for what I learned in the second 24 hours of the 2013 CU Water Cooler Symposium.


Jill Huls is a branch manager with Conexus Credit Union in Saskatchewan, Canada. She's a member of the Saskatchewan Young Leaders Committee and was a top five finalist in the 2012 CUES Next Top Credit Union Executive competition.