What Did You THINK?

Engaged THINKer: Ie-Chen Cheng

Day Job: Chief Financial Officer, Boulder Dam Credit Union, Boulder City, Nevada

You were a major voice on social media at THINK 14. Was this year’s conference more social than previous ones?

I’ve been Tweeting at THINK pretty intensely for at least four years now, so the social side of THINK isn’t new. But over the last two or three years, participation [in social media] has grown – and it takes the conference to another level. Instead of just listening to what’s being said, you’re engaged with those ideas in real time.

Has your THINK 14 experience inspired you to initiate change?

I’m from Silicon Valley, so I want to move a thousand miles a minute. We’re so steeped in tradition here, that isn’t how things always happen.

It’s worth pointing out that the tradition at Boulder Dam Credit Union isn’t unsuccessful. You have a huge share of your local market.

That’s true: Our penetration rate is really high. [That’s because] Boulder Dam Credit Union is what I like to think credit unions should be. We give everything back to the community. You’ll see our name on the football field, in the basketball gym. Our values are aligned with our community. We’re very lean, and we provide great value to our members. Our fee income is almost zero. And people love doing business with us. Our annual meeting is the party of the year: We sell out a convention center. We are the financial hub of this community.

But you still think it’s important to look forward. Why?

I don’t think our industry is ready for the changes that are happening. We’re going to be competing with companies like PayPal, Google Wallet and Wal-Mart. There’s an urgency that I don’t think everyone senses.

Last year [at THINK 13] I had the chance to speak with Margaret Heffernan. She told me, “Ie-Chen, you have to speak up. You have to talk about the things that you’re concerned aboutbecause they might be the only chance to save credit unions.”

To paraphrase Gandhi, you are the change that credit unions wish to see in the world – motivated, talented, ready to move. What should credit unions be doing to engage young leaders?

We want to work somewhere where we can move the needle. This generation has a lot of ideas and energy. We want to put them to work.