Derek Smith - Taking the YP Program to New Heights in Nebraska
Derek Smith, Financial Coach at Family Focus Federal Credit Union in Nebraska was recently selected to CRASH the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington DC. Derek is now a two time CRASHER, having CRASHED the first ever CRASH THINK last year. We were able to chat with him about his experiences, him being newer to the Credit Union Movement, his role within the industry, and what is next for Derek!
GAC is a lot at once, and a ton of information is packed into a few short days, tell us about your experience?
Derek: GAC was an eye opener. I am just starting my second year in the CU movement and already had gained a tremendous respect for the dedication and enthusiasm from those who have devoted their careers before me. GAC showed me that I had not even began to see the full breadth of what there is to appreciate about the industry we are part of. The level of commitment from my fellow crashers and the individuals we met along the way, it truly blew me away. Cannot be more excited to be part of this community.
Any key take backs from GAC?
Derek: I have a hard time narrowing down a specific thing or things I am taking back with me. I find myself thinking through things and pulling hidden nuggets out from those we had come speak to us in the general assembly, our individual crasher sessions, and talking amongst other attendees that I didn’t necessarily think was revolutionary at the time, but in reality extremely useful. I think the biggest thing I came away with was that you never know who is going to help you solve the next problem that presents itself. So long as you listen and ask questions, you will have that knowledge to draw from in the future and more importantly people to ask for feedback from going forward.
You got your first experience CRASHING as the first group of CRASHERS at the THINK Conference last year, now a two time CRASHER – what message do you want to give others and how are you using these experiences in your day to day?
Derek: My two CRASH experiences could not have been more different. You have the GAC, which shows you the heart and spirit of the movement, and the political advocacy that happens to keep this movement alive. Then you have THINK, that shows you who and how those experiences are necessary for the modern user to help them come to life with the tools you already have available and where to find the tools if you do not have them. Both experiences have been invaluable to me as I help to design and implement new programs and procedures to bring our member experience to another level and exceed all expectations of what our services level is capable of being.
We know you stay heavily involved in developing young professionals in Nebraska, tell us about the program, any struggles you have come across, or things people in the YP group have struggled with?
Derek: I sit on the board and as a regional advisor for the Young Professionals Credit Union (YPCU). We are a Nebraska Credit Union League (NCUL) chapter to help set and retain young professionals in the credit union movement to keep ourselves moving forward. This has been a very important strategic goal for both the NCUL as well as individual credit unions throughout the state. As a whole, the movement has a huge problem retaining young talent and developing it to where someone in the beginning of their professional careers is able to see the CU as a viable long-term career with trajectory that fits their desires. As a group, we build out professional development opportunities, mentorship, networking events, and opportunities to serve our communities while also spreading the passion we all share.
One of the struggles we face is finding those young people. In smaller credit unions, all but a few in Nebraska, there is a fear of “stealing” talent and have that person leave for another CU. As a result, we have trouble getting current leaders in Nebraska Credit Unions from being advocates for getting involved in the YP organization whether due to that fear or due to it being a small part of what is on their minds while leading their organizations. As YP’s we are eager to overcome this hurdle. We are currently working through a rebranding that is going to launch soon to be more appealing by today’s design standards. We are also taking this opportunity to make a very hard push to get our presence into every credit union we can. Going in and meeting credit union employees at all levels to get their buy-in and encourage their involvement in the organization.
One of our most successful programs is our Mad City Money Events where we go into schools and clubs to provide a fun and engaging game for people to interact with which develops their financial health knowledge and teaches basic budgeting using real world scenarios. We have events in both the Lincoln and Omaha region, soon to be launched in Northeast Nebraska, and spreading to Western Nebraska steadily after that. This event has proven to be an excellent opportunity for YP members to get their feet wet and a springboard their activity in the group.
You have had a very busy time in your two years in the credit union industry and you have accomplished a lot, what is next for you and your growth?
Derek: I am looking forward to helping Nebraska Credit Unions as a whole compete more evenly with market competition. Being a rural state, technology tends to be in the backseat of any conversations when discussing where to go next for an organization. Technology is thought of more for support rather than an enabler of better service. I am excited to be a voice in the conversation for Family Focus FCU and showing what is possible to do when you do not have an unlimited budget. I will be continuing to seek and develop programs that bring the member experience higher at every opportunity available. To show that there is no better place for our members, and future members, to trust for their financial well-being than their credit union.
CUltivate is people helping people with our mission to spread the word, connect the people, and give an outlet to share your stories. Know someone in the industry we should interview? Drop us a line at CultivateYP@gmail.com #CUltivateTheMovement