Meet this year’s Top 15 judges

Over the last eight years of the Next Top Credit Union Exec competition we’ve consistently made efforts to make it more interesting, more equitable, and more valuable to all participants.

Previously, our Top 15 members were all voted into place. However, we felt that applicants from smaller credit unions or with smaller networks sometimes were overlooked, despite having great project ideas. We made changes, and now the ten people with the most votes move on, and a special judging panel adds five other applicants to make up our Top 15.

We choose our three judges for the panel from amongst our alumni of former NTCUE finalists. This year, 2013 winner Amanda Brenneman-Brown, 2015 winner Jimese Harkley and 2015 finalist Kris Wanner took on the role of judging all of our applicants. We caught up with them to ask some questions about their experience as a Top 15 judge. We’ve blended their responses below.

1. Why did you agree to judge the Top 15 this year?
The idea of paying it forward in a way that impacted other developing leaders and our system was key. I also viewed it as a great opportunity to continue my own development, learn from these applicants and see another side of the competition. 

It feels good to give back to the processes and organizations that have given me so much. The entire experience of NTCUE positively impacted my career and I recognize how valuable of a process this can be to others.

2. What was the most surprising thing about the judging?
Every year the ideas seem to get bigger and more impactful.  Watching the innovative ways the applicants are affecting their communities and CUs continues to inspire and push the envelope.    

What surprises me the most about judging is the creativity involved. The projects never cease to amaze me. There’s no lack of talent in the credit union space, just watch some of the videos to see what’s being done in credit unions around the world.

This opportunity offers so many valuable rewards! I'd love to see more people submitting video to promote their wonderful ideas and catapult their careers. 

3. What was the most difficult thing about the judging?
The initiatives presented are so wide-ranging in scope, size and juncture that it can be a bit challenging to compare. Compound that with some very engaging applicants, it made for a very challenging decision just to pick 5.

Passing on an innovation because the presentation should have been stronger (was difficult). I tried to provide a well-rounded score and some ideas were great, but the lack of preparation for the video was evident. 

4. What was the best part about the judging?
The best part about judging is seeing young professional share their ideas for change in the industry. The smiles in these videos are heart warming because each applicant tried, no matter what the outcome. This industry has great people and this contest gives them a voice!

Seeing the passion, drive and engagement from every applicant come through in their posts is far and away the best part. Channelling those drivers to their projects and connecting it to the community and CU impact provides great examples of why the cooperative system continues to grow.

5. What would you say to others who are asked to judge the NTCUE Top 15 in the future?
If you’re ever asked to be a judge—just do it! It’s not a big time commitment and you get front row seats on what’s going on in credit unions across the world. Perhaps there is a project you’re currently dreaming about or working on and another credit union has already implemented a variation—why not connect with them to learn best practices? That’s the cooperative spirit!

People helping people is more than a tag line applied to our financial lives, it also represents our commitment to help each other thrive and retain the best and brightest. Don't pass on an opportunity to help someone. 

You have an opportunity to be part of the development of many future innovators and advocates of the CU system – don’t pass it up.  You’ll learn more than a thing or two yourself!

The Top 15 have now been through a second panel of judges, and a Final Five were announced on August 24.  Look for a future blog post where we’ll introduce the Final Five judges who will play an integral role in helping select the 2017 CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec at the CEO/Team Network conference in Las Vegas.