Planes, Timeshares, And Big Data At NACUSO

Alchemy and innovation at CUSO conference shows a movement on the move.

CUSOs are involved in a diverse range of traditional and leading-edge business ventures, and this week’s gathering at a Disney venue in Florida really showcased the creative energy that’s running through our industry right now.

The scheduled events at the annual NACUSO conference were useful as always. A highlight was the Big Idea Contest that included presentations on new ideas for security, employee performance, business lending, and big data.

But casual conversations really stood out, too. For instance, one CEO told us about the $400 million real estate portfolio they’ve built at his credit union in timeshares. Guaranteed loans and not a single loss on the books in a product often considered volatile in even the best of times.

Another says his credit union gave a big line of credit to its new CUSO that then used it to take on leasing a commercial aircraft. The CUSO draws on the line to pay the lease and the credit union gets interest income from the deal. The same CUSO also just did a lease deal for 28 state police cars. Behind it all: a leasing manager the CUSO brought on board who has spent a career doing deals like these.

That’s making the most of opportunities in niche areas that credit unions can serve like no one else. And it’s that almost weird alchemy that makes CUSOs so special and valuable and this conference so fascinating.

That mix of players was there in force this time, looking for deals and opportunities and partnerships to be forged among forward-thinking credit unions with the solid business savvy to make these things work. They were interested in our business, and there were no doubt some great ideas being bounced around.

Innovation and collaboration are not theoretical concepts at NACUSO, the conference websitesays. They weren’t kidding.

Jay Johnson is executive vice president at Callahan & Associates and a NACUSO board member.

April 17, 2015

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