Young credit union professionals network at the 2019 New York Credit Union Association's Young Professionals Conference. (NYCUA photo)

NYCUA hosts young CU professionals for two-day conference

August 5, 2019

The 2019 New York Credit Union Association’s Young Professionals Conference featured young credit union professionals and volunteers networking and hearing insightful speakers at the Brook-Lea Country Club in Rochester. The conference was held in conjunction with the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, a tournament on the LPGA Symetra Tour.

The lead organizer and conference emcee was Richard Sellwood, vice president of member services at Reliant Community CU, Sodus, N.Y. and former chairman of the association’s Young Professionals Commission.

The two-day event kicked off with a luncheon followed by opening remarks from Mike Valada, president/CEO of The Summit FCU, Rochester, N.Y., and chairman of the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic.

Sellwood moderated a panel discussion with three golf professionals, who are also young professionals, to discuss what they do and how they manage financially, personally, emotionally and from a business standpoint in a season where there are 24 tournaments across the U.S. and only three weeks of breaks.

Grace Gonzalez of the Bonadio Group was the next speaker and discussed understanding the financials and the business of credit unions to attendees. Following her presentation there was an open forum and roundtables summarizing thoughts on the first day’s speakers.

The second day of the conference kicked off with Kendra Rubin, NYCUA vice president of governmental affairs, who discussed the importance of advocacy in the credit union industry to young professionals and volunteers.

Alvin Cowans, CEO of McCoy FCU, Orlando, Fla., took to the podium next to explain his journey from high school to the Florida Gators to the Washington Redskins to credit unions. Cowans is the CEO of one of the largest credit unions in Central Florida, with $565 million in assets and over 65,000 members.

He has a football background which includes growing up in Virginia and being a member of one of the famous high school football teams in Virginia that was the subject of the movie “Remember the Titans.” Cowans explained his playing days with the Florida Gators and the Washington Redskins after high school. 

Additionally, Bill Cheney, president/CEO of SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif.,shared his story and career path, including his time as president/CEO of CUNA before moving to a very large credit union.

“The speakers were simply outstanding and extremely informative,” said Cassie Fortney from Sunmark FCU, Latham, N.Y.  

The second day also included a lunch with New York credit union executives, who were available for questions and general conversation with attendees.

“It was amazing to hear from credit union executives to discuss their career paths and how they have grown in our industry,” said Ryan Burley from The Summit FCU.

The conference concluded with a Credit Union Night at the Strathallan Hotel in Rochester where food and beverages were provided.

“This was an awesome opportunity to interact with other credit union young professionals from across the state,” said Khadijah Sanders from Family First FCU, Rochester, N.Y.