One week of my work year is a rush like none other, when I join thousands of fellow industry professionals from across the globe at the World Credit Union Conference (WCUC).
And WCUC 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia provided an even bigger jolt of adrenaline than any previous version—setting records with more than 3,000 attendees, nearly 100 speakers and over 40 educational sessions.
But beyond the numbers was an energy and enthusiasm that was fresh and palpable. And for me, personally, the 2023 World Credit Union Conference offered my most treasured moment to date in nearly five years with World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).
I’ve been to a lot of conferences, both as a member of the credit union industry and during my time as a journalist. If there is one thing I know (and I think you know it too), it is that so many conferences feel exactly the same.
WCUC 2023 was different. Keynote speakers like Riaz Meghji and Kim Lear presented new insights on fresh topics that many in our global movement had yet to consider. And they made direct connections on how their messages could be applied to make direct impacts on credit union performance and operations.
The stellar WOCCU Meetings and Events team scheduled twice as many breakout sessions as ever before to accommodate the larger crowd, giving more credit union professionals the chance to share their expertise on topics ranging from open banking and climate finance to digital marketing and the future of work.
But it was one speaker in one specific breakout session that I didn’t even get to attend who both renewed my already strong sense of purpose and made me realize that you never know how you might impact someone else.
It started with a podcast interview
This story begins in November 2022, just before registration opened for the 2023 World Credit Union Conference. WOCCU co-hosted WCUC 2023 with the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA), so I decided to reach out to our partners about interviewing their new CEO Jeff Guthrie, who also sits on the WOCCU Board of Directors, for my monthly Global Credit Union Podcast. But I also wanted to find out if CCUA could recommend someone with a Canadian credit union that was working to truly expand financial inclusion to vulnerable and marginalized populations.
CCUA recommended I speak with Mani Sheppard-Luangkhot, Manager of Financial Access Programs at Assiniboine Credit Union in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In her role, Mani focuses on the financial inclusion of indigenous, migrant and other underserved populations in the communities ACU serves. As we spoke for the podcast, it occurred to me that the work Mani does is extremely unique for any credit union in any part of the world.
When we finished, I recommended she apply to be a breakout session speaker at the 2023 World Credit Union Conference. Mani decided to go for it and ended up being accepted. While I saw her name on the list of speakers earlier this year, I didn’t really think about it as the conference got closer—as WCUC always means 14-hour workdays for me, and I have to focus on specific sessions and events. Unfortunately, my busy schedule did not allow me to attend Mani’s breakout session, a panel discussion on “Growing Prosperity Among Members and Delivering on Credit Union Purpose”.
So, it was quite a nice surprise when I stepped out into the hallway during the WCUC 2023 closing party to see Mani standing there. We exchanged glances and both immediately got big smiles on our faces. We launched into a discussion about the conference, Vancouver and, eventually, her breakout session.
Then, Mani said something that took me aback. She told me that she never imagined talking about the work she does at ACU on an international stage, in front of credit union professionals from all over the world. Mani went to say that if I had not contacted her about the podcast, done the interview with her and then recommended she apply to speak, she not only would have never been part of a WCUC breakout session, she also wouldn’t have recognized the special and unique nature of her work and how it could provide an example for others to follow.
As I write this, I get the same goosebumps I did when she told me that on July 26. It was such an amazing reminder that we can all get so bogged down in our day-to-day work, we often forget about or take for granted the special things we do, chalking them up to simply being “part of the job.” I know now that I helped Mani appreciate the impact she makes every day, and she made me appreciate the very same thing in return.
It is a good lesson for all of us in this industry of people helping people: don’t forget to stop and take a moment to remember the ways you are helping people too.