From Crashing to Leading

The Cooperative Trust’s new leader aims to raise the network’s profile.

September 1, 2013
James Marshall was recently named the new leader of The Cooperative Trust. Marshall participated in an Q&A with Credit Union Magazine to dicuss his background and plans for the Trust.
CU Mag: What excites you about working for The Cooperative Trust?
Marshall: The Cooperative Trust is a network of some of the most talented young credit union and cooperative professionals in the world. 
In just my short experience with the Trust, I have been lucky enough to meet and be engaged with a large proportion of the community. This experience has shown me how driven and committed to credit unions our members are. 
How can someone not be excited about working with this group of people? 
I think specifically though, the individual most exciting thing is ‘Crash the GAC.’ As the Trust’s flagship event, we gather the best and brightest and expose them to the premier credit union advocacy event in the United States. 
It’s exciting to see how Crashers learn, develop, and build relationships together over that short week. It is definitely an exciting time.


CU Mag: You’ve been tasked with bringing “sustainability and longevity” to the Trust as well as “increasing its profile.” How do you intend to achieve this?
Marshall: Win the lottery? Just kidding. 
We have a few things in the works to do this. We are looking at a few different membership and sponsorship models to ensure that the Trust continues to develop revenue, which will allow us to engage in our core activities.
In terms of profile, we are looking to publicize our relationships with the Filene Research Institute and the i3 group so that we are recognized as legitimate credit union professionals and dispel any misconceptions that brand us as ‘just kids’. 
This group was born out of 10 years of Filene research around ‘young adults’ and has a valid place in our industry. 
CU Mag: You crashed the GAC in 2013 as a member of the Trust. What did you get out of the experience?
Marshall: Crashing the GAC in 2013 was a once in a lifetime experience, and now I get to do it every year! Excuse the oxymoron.
I would say there are two key things I got out of ‘Crash the GAC’.
First, learning the importance of local credit union advocacy and lobbying. This is more important than ever with the Don’t Tax My Credit Union campaign happening right now. 
Having experienced the GAC first hand, I would implore everyone to reach out to local government and show them what your credit union means to you and your members.
Second, making connections. At GAC, I made lasting friends and connections. I would guess that not many GAC attendees spent five nights in a hostel room with seven others. 
Well, I did; it was a blast. Those people I shared a room with are all passionate young credit union guys and they will be my friends for a very long time. More than that, I know if I need advice, help, opinions, or anything else that those people will always be available. 
CU Mag: As a branding, marketing guy, how would you articulate The Cooperative Trust’s brand?
Marshall: I love our brand. It’s clean, sophisticated and gives our community a badge we can rally behind and that we can be proud of. It brings a level of legitimacy to our Crashers and something that is becoming recognizable throughout our industry.
CU Mag: What does Gen Y mean for the future of the CU movement?
Marshall: As you look around, the obvious is solidified by 10 years of young adult research through Filene.  
Everyone is getting older!  The average age of credit union members is about 48 and growing, much of the workforce is getting closer and closer to retirement and our volunteers are (in many cases) an aging demographic.  
Just as the Trust is working towards sustainability, the rest of the movement needs to be doing much of the same.  In order for our credit union system to survive, we need to be bringing in and retaining younger blood.
From a volunteer and management standpoint, to guide the credit unions to success and from a member standpoint, to aid the growth of a successful business. 
CU Mag: Prior to your new job, you worked as the marketing manager at a CU in London. How’d you go from there to the Cooperative Trust?
Marshall: I attended WOCCU in 2012 in Poland and met Mark Meyer, CEO of Filene Research Institute who encouraged me to get involved with the Trust. Shortly after I joined as a token international member, then was selected to Crash the GAC in early 2013.  
While becoming more involved, I learned that Brent Dixon would be stepping back from the Trust to pursue going back to school, so I decided to throw my hat in to help lead the Trust to the next level.
CU Mag: Do you see any differences between CUs in the U.K. versus in the U.S.?
Marshall: Besides the obvious of regulatory differences that you get between any international type of industry, the credit unions in the US are a more mature and larger system.
Just as you may look within credit unions in the US and see what younger and smaller credit unions do and don’t offer, the UK can be viewed with a similar set of eyes.  
A few months back, myself and a few others from the Trust community actually did a fun view of some international credit union information. 
CU Mag: In your previous job you worked on a variety of projects and campaigns based on increasing the membership base of the credit union and loan application targets. What works and what doesn’t?
Marshall: Show people what’s in it for them. Yes, we are a business and have goals to meet, but without having the member in mind, you lose their interest, and likely, their respect. 
CU Mag: You play the drums, according to your bio, what’s the music you’re most likely to be listening to at any given moment?
Marshall: I do! I am a big fan of rock from the 70's and 80’s. My dad brought me up to the likes of Led Zeppelin, ACDC, Black Sabbath and similar. So they are always on my iPod. Otherwise, more recent stuff, anything by Dave Grohl or a British band call the Arctic Monkeys. 
CU Mag: If you are having a drink with someone at a bar, how do you explain to them what you do for a living?
Marshall: I’m the beauty and brains behind a project that was started by Ed Filene. (Who?) The guy who started the United States credit union system...or...began Filene’s Basement. (Ok....) 
Or, to not get bizarre stares, I’d probably go with: I lead a grassroots group of young people wanting to build a cooperative economy and aggressively pushing positive change from the inside out.