2020 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Virtual Conference

Marketers ‘find the edge’

Highlights from the 2020 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Virtual Conference Collection.

September 14, 2020

Credit union marketers and business developers learned to “find their edge,” blend branding and data, and unearth positive lessons from the pandemic during the 2020 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Virtual Conference Collection.

Conference emcee Antonio Neves—speaker, author, and award-winning journalist—welcomed attendees to the council’s inaugural virtual annual conference.

Here are some highlights from the event.

‘Find the edge’

Antonio Neves encouraged attendees to “find the edge”—the heart-racing energy that occurs when you’re taking risks and embracing new challenges rather than settling for business as usual.

“When was the last time you had that feeling? It shows you’re pushing yourself,” Neves says. “That’s where growth, development, and resilience come from.”


Antonio Neves
Conference emcee Antonio Neves

He called on marketing and business development leaders to act on their ideas.

“Some of our best ideas are gathering dust in a notebook and in our computer files,” Neves says. “Encourage your staff to do the same. When they win, we win.”

Blend branding and data

This year’s “frightening” pace of change comes with challenges, but opportunities also exist for credit unions to evolve their brands and use data to connect with their members, says Randy Schultz, vice president of marketing for the Strum Agency.

The answer lies in aligning branding with data analytics, he says. “Credit unions that tap into members’ emotions with their brands will be the future disruptors and the future winners. This is about creating organizational clarity.”


Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, vice president of marketing, Strum Agency

Data analytics is a sophisticated way of listening to members, says Lee Allen, director of data analytics for the Strum Agency.

“Data is critical to understanding who your members are and what they want,” he says. “But it’s not good enough just to have data; it needs to be visual. If your data isn’t visible, it’s just noise.”

“Use data to get where you need to go, and build your brand around your data points,” Schulz adds. “Members are telling us what they want and need. If we’re there to help them, we’ll build lasting relationships.”

Pandemic positives

A session on marketing in the “new” real world featured a panel of marketing leaders:


• Ben Bauer, vice president of awesomeness (marketing) for Simplicity Credit Union, Marshfield, Wis.

• Jennifer Topzand, director of marketing for Frontwave Credit Union, Oceanside, Calif.

• Mike Bridges, vice president of marketing & communications for Five Star Credit Union, Dothan, Ala.

• Lorrell Walter, senior vice president of marketing & member experience for Western Vista Credit Union, Cheyenne, Wyo. (moderator).

MBDVC20 Panel

Clockwise from left: Lorrell Walter, Jennifer Topzand, Ben Bauer, and Mike Bridges

One topic the panelists addressed: A positive development that came out of the pandemic.

“We wanted to pump up our mortgage portfolio, and we had a lot of restructurings and refinancings,” Bridges says. “We restructured one member’s mortgage and saved him $24,000. We also refinanced an auto loan for a couple and saved them $4,000. We have a low-income membership, and that’s a lot of money.”

“We weren’t in business lending before the pandemic, and our new chief loan officer got us approved for SBA lending,” Topzand says. “We helped 175 businesses and did something we’d never done for our membership.”

“One positive was how quickly we were able to operate remotely,” Bauer says. “On Friday, March 13, we decided to start working from home the following Monday and we didn’t skip a beat. Our efficiency and communication improved because of this, and two co-workers saved significant commute times. And I don’t know if we’ll ever have an in-person annual meeting again.”

The conference concluded Sept.15.

Visit CUNA News for more conference coverage and view event highlights on Twitter via the #MBDVirtual and #MBDCouncil hashtags. Learn more about the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council, a member-led professional society for credit union executives, at