Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Discovery Conference 2018: How an Economist Sees the World

    By Eric Nelson
With Discovery Conference 2018 fast approaching, CUNA Mutual Group’s own Chief Economist Steve Rick shed some light on the global economic outlook, and what credit unions need to be thinking about now and into the future.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to join us today, Steve. Can you describe your role as Chief Economist for CUNA Mutual Group? What sorts of factors and indicators are you constantly keeping an eye on?
My role is tracking the economic, regulatory, technological and competitive factors impacting credit union operations now and into the future. Interest rates are the price of money, which is the most important price in any economy.  So it’s very important to keep an eye on the factors that move both short-term and long-term interest rates which have a direct impact on credit union’s net interest income.  Job and income growth along with inflation are also important economic indicators to track to see how the overall economy is performing.

Q: No doubt there’s been a lot in the news lately about the changing dynamics of global trade. Do you see the fall-out impacting credit unions? And ultimately, members? If so, how so? 
On a macroeconomic level, tariffs will lower economic growth and raise inflation, both of which are detrimental to credit union members.  Nobody wins in a trade war, so hopefully, all negotiating parties will back away from a full-blown trade war.

Q: Last year, CUNA Mutual Group moved the Discovery Conference up to August to give credit unions time to implement lessons learned into their strategic planning cycles. Why is this critical?
Many credit unions begin their strategic planning cycle in August and September with their planning retreats in October and November.  By moving the Discovery Conference up to August, credit union management teams will have enough time to be able to absorb and then incorporate the information from the conference into their annual plan -- and also their multi-year strategic plan.

Q: Can you give readers a preview into what you’ll discuss at Discovery Conference 2018?
I will be discussing how we expect the economy to perform over the next 2 years and when the next recession may occur.  Then, I review how this will impact credit union loan and deposit growth as well the credit union earnings.

Q: You’ve participated in many previous Discovery Conferences over the years. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with attendees to make the most of their experience? 
Monitoring the external factors impacting your credit union is becoming more important as the pace of change in the business environment accelerates.  The Discovery Conference offers an excellent opportunity to track the most important trends that will impact your credit union in the next couple of years.

For more information or to register for Discovery Conference 2018, go to