BECU draws up to 700 members on average to its annual Member Summit. Thousands more live stream or watch a recorded State of the Credit Union online.
Buying a home and retirement planning are the two most popular breakout session topics.
CU QUICK FACTS
Data as of 12.31.18
HQ: Tukwila, WA
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.9%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.9%
In 2016, BECU ($19.6B, Tukwila, WA) changed the format of its traditional annual meeting and launched its first-ever Member Summit. Beyond simply reporting on the business of the credit union, BECU designed a meaningful event that provided useful financial education.
Here, Rachel Van Noord, director, community outreach for BECU, offers insight about the genesis of the Member Summit and advice for credit unions interested in incorporating financial education into their own annual events.
What brought about BECU’s Member Summit?
Rachel Van Noord, Director, Community Outreach, BECU
Rachel Van Noord: Prior to creating the Member Summit in 2016, there was not a lot of member interest in our traditional annual meeting. We wanted an event members would want to attend, and we wanted to create awareness that BECU is a co-op that exists to help members. We surveyed members and discovered they wanted more of a financial seminar or workshop not another meeting. With this feedback, we created the Member Summit.
Where does BECU hold the event?
RV: We have many great venues in the Puget Sound area. We’ve held the Member Summit at the Museum of Flight, because of the Boeing connection, and at a performance space in downtown Seattle. This year, we are holding it in a conference center in the northern part of Puget Sound.
With the workshop format, it’s important to find a space that can accommodate multiple breakout sessions and other elements of the event.
How do you structure the event?
RV: We initially had a financial education workshop followed by a brief business meeting. Now, we sandwich the business meeting between two financial education breakout sessions so members can attend multiple workshops.
Last year’s Member Summit took place from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on a Tuesday. It included four financial education breakout sessions, some of which were repeated, and an Executive Forum.
The Executive Forum is an opportunity for members to engage directly with our executives in an open QA session. They ask about membership, programs, and the overall business. It’s quite popular.
Click here to download the agenda of BECU’s 2018 Member Summit.
What do you do about other aspects, such as food and activities?
RV: We have food, of course. That’s always enticing to members. Additionally, we have an expo space where different groups from BECU have tables and talk about the work they are doing. For example, our HR team talks about careers. Our Financial Health Check team also has a table and encourages members to register for that program.
We’ve included small business members in the expo and have seen moderate success with that. We are still exploring how to best highlight local businesses in the spirit of the member-owned cooperative.
We added a Community Impact space last year where members packed welcome home kits for people coming out of homelessness and moving into their own apartments. That was well-received by members, and we plan to do something similar this year. The space also included an installation where members could tell us how they give back to their community. We saw nice engagement there and are looking at how we can build on that success.
How does BECU gauge member interest in specific topics?
RV: Forward-looking topics around planning for the future and building wealth over time retirement planning and home buying, specifically are the most popular. The first couple of years we asked members to pre-register for sessions. There were pros and cons to that approach. We like to know what the interest level is for the various sessions, but there are multiple ways to get that information. It’s great for members to say Yes, I’m interested in this topic, but we give them a lot of flexibility the day of the Summit in terms of which sessions they attend.
In addition to surveying attendees on what they found most helpful after the event, this year we’re using a member community to help us determine the topic for one of our breakout sessions. We try to cover something current and relevant every year and want to know what financial topics are on our members’ minds. Last year, we had an expert talk about the implications of tax law changes, which really resonated with our attendees.
We give members a lot of flexibility in terms of which sessions they attend.
What is BECU planning for this year’s event? Is there anything new in the works?
RV: This year, we’re thinking about how to engage with social media influencers and setting up a place for members to engage with those individuals. We’re still solidifying the details for our 2019 Member Summit in April, but we’ve been working on a pilot program with four area digital influencers the past several months. Basically, we want to support them with the resources they need to achieve their financial goals and make BECU’s financial expertise accessible to a wider audience.
We’re always looking for ways to make the meeting more accessible to our members. We average 500 to 700 members in person at the physical event. Thousands more watch the online live stream or State of the Credit Union portion. We want to continue to expand our reach and deliver financial education to more members.
What advice do you have for credit unions looking to incorporate financial education into their own events?
RV: The idea for the Member Summit evolved out of our desire to deliver valuable financial education. As we’ve gone down this path, we’ve realized the breakout sessions don’t all have to be conducted by BECU employees. We bring in outside experts like realtors, local non-profits, and others from our community to address our members’ needs.
My advice to other credit unions would be to identify topics that will resonate with members and partner with your local community to deliver meaty content. It’s all about making financial education a value-add to an existing event.
This interview has been edited and condensed.