Christopher Whalen had a pretty good THINK conference experience. He heard a lot of inspiring, insightful speakers, got to network with other credit union leaders and – oh yeah, he won himself the THINK Prize and went home with a giant check for $10,000. His brilliant idea: Improving and integrating mobile banking into a single genius product, MobileOne.
We were happy to track Chris down at his desk at Connex Credit Union to find out how he was doing after the conference. This might be a stupid question to ask you, but what did you think of THINK? I mean, first: Wow. I’m honored to be the recipient of this year’s THINK Prize. It was a really fun, exciting journey sharing my idea with credit union leaders and credit union THINKers. I really can’t express how thankful I am to CO-OP Financial Services and Mastercard for running such an innovation-sparking program. That has to be a pretty good mood elevator – not just the prize or the money, but recognition from your peers. The whole conference was great. I walked away just really kind of excited -- bubbling with excitement -- for the future of credit unions, and really motivated to keep pushing forward with the movement. And I want to get everyone else as excited about credit unions as I am. In your remarks at THINK, you challenged everyone to go back to work and “Just do it.” Not to put you on the spot, but have you carried the enthusiasm and inspiration over into your real life, now that you’ve been back for a few weeks? It’s interesting you ask that. I was the only one at my credit union who went to THINK. I don’t believe we had been to a THINK conference before. Everyone on the management team was really interested in learning what the THINK conference was all about -- who were the speakers? What insights did they provide? So we’ve been going through all the speakers and talking about all the valuable points and insights they made. I have been thinking about what I learned and how I might take some of the insights and ask, “What’s next?” That “What’s next?” piece is still in process, but I am continuing to talk to colleagues about how we can move the movement forward. Should we check back with you as the year goes on? Yes, you should. Please check back in a few months. I hope we’ll have something to report. One of the great things about talking to you today is that you’re not having re-entry letdown. And even though you aren’t the CEO at your credit union, you seem to have found a way to contribute as a leader that’s really significant. I’m not in a management position. I’m just part of the team. And we’re like most credit unions; we work in a very teamwork-oriented way. I think it’s especially important for young professionals in the credit union industry to get involved. There are a lot of great opportunities on local and national levels to get more engrained into the movement. And if you want to contribute, it’s really about expressing your ideas and sharing insights. You just have to know that if you have an idea to share, it’s worth sharing it. See Chris win the 2014 THINK Prize here. See Chris talking about his prize-winning idea here.