Monday, April 7, 2008

An Incredible Weekend of Conversation

My brain is still reeling from information overload from BarCampBank New England. What a weekend. The wealth of knowledge that came out of this meeting of the minds was astounding.

America's Credit Union Museumacumuseumentrance

The day started with an tour of the Inspiring, educational, and moving Credit Union Museum. All I can say is wow. The way this movement started is incredible beyond words. As I sit inside a huge building, the understanding that credit unions started as a tin box where poor mill workers who could not get service from a bank deposited their earnings blows my mind. To see the actual house that served as St. Mary's Bank (the literal translation of La Caisse Populaire Ste.-Marie is “Bank of the People,” St. Mary’s) was awe inspiring.

My favorite quote from the tour was when Morriss Partee ( pointed out the fact that, as we stood next to a bench in a hallway, "this is the place". It gave me goose-bumps knowing that I was standing where, almost exactly 100 years ago, the first mill workers waited to deposit their first dollars into the thebench first credit union in the USA. America's Credit Union Museum is a place that every single employee of a credit union, from Tellers to Presidents, should experience. It will literally change the way you see the movement.

Social Media DiscussionGinnycreepy

The first session, proposed by Ginny Brady of UFirst CU, was a great discussion regarding social media and its uses. My favorite quote from the session came from Ron Shevlin, "it isn't about the stories we tell people, but the stories they tell themselves. It is about creating experiences."

This quote came after Gene Blishen described a very unique offering that Mount Lehman Credit Union provides it's members. They have 2 large tents that they offer, free of charge, to their members for genethesage weddings, funerals, and any other large gathering they may be holding. What a great way to connect with members. When somebody associates your credit union with such an emotional event as a wedding, you can bet that it is a bond that will last.

If you can use social media to facilitate the spread of these kinds of stories it has the potential to be a powerful "word of mouth" message.

Current IT Priorities

davedelvecchioNext up was a session started by Dave DelVecchio who brought up the major IT issues facing credit unions now. Needless to say, it was a lengthy list. As tech continues to advance it brings up many security issues, risks, and higher implementation costs.

Which segues nicely into the next topic of mergers.


Christian Mullins of CU Potential led a very detailed and interesting session on credit union mergers. He talked about many of the wrong reasons for credit unions to merge, including growth for growths sake. Huge credit unions gobbling up the small ones just to increase field of membership and assets. The ever insightful Ron Shevlin posed the question, "what are the right reasons to merge?"

According to Christian, when a credit union can no longer sustain itself on its own. To compete with the large banks credit unions have had to make the move to offer similarly diverse options such as online banking, account origination, etc. Many of these small credit unions simply don't have the assets to implement this kind of product and so they lose a competitive advantage and become unsustainable.

Gene Blishen pointed out that at this point a credit union could still try and stay a "boutique", but that is harder said than done.

Wiki's, YouTube, and Collaboration.andylaflamme

Next we moved on to the subject of wiki's, youtube, and collaboration. Despite being incredibly nervous and scattered, I managed to get some discussion going about fostering a community of credit unions. Ron Shevlin again jumped in with some great advice. He started off by asking, "what will you give me for my answer?" Apparently my offer of 75% of a bottle of coke was enough for him to continue. "Everybody will always ask, what's in it for me?" There has to be some value to the individual before there is a sense of community. It is never about the technology, but the purpose, value, and direction behind that tech. Just because you have a wiki or discussion board doesn't mean people see value in using that space.

Charlie Kroll (CEO of Andera) added that perhaps it is a matter of fostering that community and THEN implementing a technology solution to bring them closer together.

Finally, David "Man of a Thousand Tabs" Inverarity demonstrated some of the technology that his credit union is using in Canada. This included showing the group their Wiki site for employees as well as davidmanofathousandtabs their great One Member One Vote campaign. It was incredible to see the new way they are letting the board candidates connect with the membership, share their message and vision, and encourage those that might not see a need to vote.


We ended the day with a session of Rock Band. Ron Shevlin, Morriss Partee, and I rocked the house with a little Boston, Flyleaf, and Soundgarden. Then it was off to dinner at Richard's Bistro, which I would recommend to anybody looking for an incredible meal in Manchester. Plus the restaurant was surrounded by several credit unions...making that much cooler.

Thanks to everybody for making this such an awesome event. Thanks to Morriss Partee for organizing this BarCamp, and a very special thanks to Peggy Powell for letting us crash America's Credit Union Museum on a Saturday. She is the sole employee and does some incredible work. I'm hoping to go back to the Museum soon so I can absorb some of the things I may have missed the first time through.

Here's to many Barcamps in the future!


Anonymous said...

Hey Andy! Wonderful write up!

It was wonderful to meet you this weekend. It's also great to read your concise and well-written summary of the day and to learn that you had the exact same reactions that I had to standing in that historic foyer for the first time.

Mike Templeton said...

What a gathering, indeed. It sounds like you north easterners had some great discussions and uncovered lots of great ideas. It sounds like your turnout and group of participants was outstanding as well.

I hope that I have the chance to participate in such an event sometime in the near future. I love the collaboration and community that events like this advocate.

Anonymous said...

And thanks not only for the great information and conversation, but also for all the outstanding photos and recordings of the day.

Anonymous said...

I move to have Rock Band a requirement at all BarCampBank's moving forward!

Andy said...


Thanks, I had a great time and learned more than my brain can actually hold I think. Still have a couple hours of audio to go through and take notes on.

The museum was seriously awesome. It was like I could almost see the people sitting in the foyer listening to Gilberte play the piano. Almost surreal.

I'm a compulsive photo taker...what can I say. I had a blast and hope to get some of the video up soon. I'm glad I was able to capture even a piece of the energy that was there.


It was awesome indeed. Totally worth the trip. If you ever get the chance, take it, you won't regret it.


Totally agree. Ron, Morriss, and I got into a groove. People should be advised to watch out for Ron Shevlin's mad Bass chops.