MAXX Speakers Deliver on Cybersecurity, Diverse Markets, Digital Collaboration, and Economy

Conference keynote speakers are recruited for their ability to energize an audience and to deliver information relevant to the industry represented. At NWCUA’s MAXX Convention in Boise last week, the all-star lineup of keynoters exceeded those expectations in droves. Approximately 800 credit union professionals, directors, and business solutions providers were treated to high octane energy, humor, and most importantly, tangible takeaways to make the Credit Union Movement more successful.

Shore up Cybersecurity

“Hunt the threats before they hunt you,” said Eric O’Neill, a renowned cybersecurity expert. The dark web, he told MAXX attendees, is the third largest economy in the world. He would know. O’Neill is a former FBI agent who helped the government catch and imprison Robert Philip Hanssen, a notorious double agent who spied for Russian and Soviet intelligence services. O’Neill caught Hanssen by tapping into his technology, a feat so easy that today, he said, 85% of credit union employees’ usernames and passwords are on the dark web.

“The bad guys are stepping it up because they know credit unions are in a high-pressure situation – and no one re-evaluates security in a high-pressure situation,” Hanssen told MAXX attendees.

His recommendations for credit unions:

  • Upgrade technology and adopt a “zero trust” policy so that every person or machine trying to access data is revealed
  • Have strong “access management” policies, allowing employees access to only what they need
  • Require multifactor authentication to protect credit union and member data

Reimagine Collaboration

“We think we have collaboration down, but it’s harder than we think,” keynote speaker Erica Dhawan said in her address. “We need to reimagine collaboration.” Employees, she noted, are wasting up to four hours a week wading through unclear communications and attending unnecessary meetings.

Dhawan, a nationally acclaimed expert on digital communications, shared examples of how credit unions can unlock “connectional intelligence” to avoid duplicative work, share ideas, create a more inclusive workplace, and better connect with members.

“As we think about this moment in time, how are we reimagining how we reach our members?” Dhawan asked, relating her connectivity message to the business credit unions are in.

She provided actionable steps towards more intentional inclusion in the digital space including valuing colleagues’ time by starting each meeting with a clear agenda, definition of what success will look like, and acknowledgment of individual differences. She also shared examples of digital tools to facilitate productivity, shorten email chains, and eliminate needless meetings. Those resources include TaskRabbit, a task delegating tool, and Quora, a platform to ask questions and gain insight.

Insights from the “Bowtie Economist”

“I believe now is the beginning of the end of COVID,” Dr. Elliot Eisenberg told MAXX attendees as he launched into his economic keynote address. That optimism was welcomed with applause, and it got better from there.

Using most of the same data, flow charts and other collateral economists use in economic analysis, Eisenberg, known as the “Bowtie economist,” took a more energetic approach, walking through the audience, mixing humor and facts.

“Don’t look to Wall Street thinking they’re smart. They’re idiots,” he quipped.

Eisenberg walked attendees through trends in the jobs markets, noting that while “2.5 million employees friggin’ quit the labor force,” he doesn’t see employment generating “massive wage inflation.” As people return to work, he predicted employees’ leverage to work less and earn more will decrease.

With regards to the housing market, Eisenberg noted there are far fewer homes in forbearance now than there were at the onset of the pandemic 18 months ago.

“I don’t think there will be a massive increase in bankruptcies in 2021-2022,” he said.

Attract Diverse Markets

Recognized inclusion expert Risha Grant shared the story of how she found inclusion in her own life. As a young black girl, she thought her only career option was to be a maid, until her grandmother set her on a course to attend college. Her cousin coached her to develop her athletic ability as a basketball player, which grew her own confidence, and earned her respect and scholarships. Since then, she’s made it a life mission to listen to and speak with people from all walks of life, including people who at first made her uncomfortable.

Diversity and inclusion can be an uncomfortable topic for many people to understand and lean into, but through a high energy and humorous presentation, Grant encouraged the audience to recognize, own, and confront their “B.S.” – bias synapse.

“We don’t have diversity problems. We have people problems,” Grant said. “I’m the problem. You’re the problem. What is really causing the issue is our unconscious biases.”

She then made a business case for inclusion, noting that some 60% of marketing budgets don’t focus on reaching multicultural markets, yet nearly 40% of consumers are more likely to engage if the advertising features people who look like them.

“You’re going to have a lot of people who don’t look like you, who are looking for markets to place their money,” Grant said.

The Promise

Closing MAXX 2021 was Jason Hewlett, in inspirational speaker who also has comedic talent and an amazing ability to impersonate singers from ‘80s rock stars to jazz greats. MAXX attendees laughed and sang along as Hewlett led them through a series of funny, high energy musical performances, and moving testimonials about “the promises” we make to audiences such as our teams, our families, our communities, and perhaps most importantly, to ourselves.

“My promise at this time is to still be joyful,” Hewlett said, sharing his personal struggles to balance a busy life as an author, speaker, husband, and dad.

In making and keeping “signature” promises, Hewlett recommends that leaders identify their audiences, clarify the promise they can make, and magnify the talents of the people around them.

Hewlett is a member of Mountain America Credit Union, and when the pandemic caused all of his speaking engagements to be canceled, he turned to Mountain America for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which helped his family get through the toughest of times.

As he closed, Hewlett circled back to credit unions’ “why.” He encouraged them to “#BePresent” for their members – always.

“We want them to feel we kept a promise to them as to why they chose a credit union,” Hewlett said.

Mic drop. And a standing ovation.

Editor’s note: NWCUA is already planning MAXX 2022 in Spokane, Washington, Oct. 25-27. Mark your calendars. We want to CU there.

Posted in Keynote Speakers, MAXX Annual Convention, Speakers.