Gaining a Sense of Purpose and Understanding

2023 GAC: A Crasher’s Look Back


As someone with a stint spanning only seven months in the credit union world, I was humbled and surprised to have been nominated by my leadership to represent not only Triangle Credit Union as a GAC Crasher, but if selected, to have the opportunity to represent the great state of New Hampshire as well.

‘Crashing the GAC’ is an experience to be had in the first person; narrating it might not do justice to its deep richness. However, I will take a crack at conveying the feeling I had and continue to, since The Crash.

For beginners, calling the crash program a development and networking opportunity, as it was initially marketed in some initial conversations, is clearly a disservice to it, as it encompasses significantly more than that. It is an opportunity to connect, bond with and brainstorm with likeminded emerging leaders from not only across the US, but also from other parts of the world (in our case, we had representation from Australia and Kenya).

As part of the program, the crashers are treated to wonderfully curated sessions conducted by panels of speakers and presenters, spanning the credit union community, which includes c-suite executives, partners, CUNA and CUNF leadership, as well as past (read: founding) crashers.

The week spent in D.C. can be a blur, as passionate crashers shuttled from one engagement to another, finding themselves being welcomed with open arms at each event. The program striked a fine balance between focused sessions exclusively set up for the crashers, as well as opportunities to attend other meaningful happenings across the greater GAC floor. The busy agenda kept the young leaders on their toes as they pivoted between crasher-only sessions, local credit union league mixers, vendor-hosted engagements and legislative briefings.

A unique element of this grander-than-grand event in the nation’s capital is its laser focus on advocacy. The happenings of the entire week culminated in ‘Hill Hikes,’ a distinct opportunity to march up to Capitol Hill and get much needed face time with congresspersons and senators. Long lines were a common sight outside congressional and senate office buildings, as individuals representing credit unions, chapters and leagues alike, lined up to visit their respective legislators to advocate on behalf of their members back home. The energy of these advocation efforts were felt reverberating across the ornate marbled corridors of Washington D.C., as passionate credit union employees advocated for the causes near and dear to their local communities.

As a two-decade veteran of the banking industry and a ‘recent convert’ to the credit union movement, I found myself in awe of there being no walls and no reservations as credit unions from all over the country came together to cooperate, connect, and champion on behalf of their members, truly embodying the spirit of people helping people.

There was an otherworldly sense of purpose and engagement as folks from credit unions big and small, state and federally chartered, united for a common cause. The partnership and energy around a common goal was infectious, whether you found yourself sitting as a crasher in Salon F at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, tucked away from the large crowds, or roaming amongst the 6,000-plus people on the floor of the general session.

The Filene Research Institute and the Cooperative Trust have painstakingly put this unique program together to afford attendees a peek into the inner workings of the credit union movement, and a golden opportunity to interface with the visionaries that are leading the effort.

As I traveled back to New England, I brought with me unbridled enthusiasm, a sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of why the credit union movement is critical to preserving and enhancing the lives of members and communities across America.