SXSW and Credit Unions Part 1

Kevin and I are attending SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas for the first time this year. It's been on my conference bucket list for at least four years and I am glad to be able to check it off. Being on the other end of the #sxsw Twitter hashtag sucks and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about firsthand.

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Kevin and I are attending SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas for the first time this year. It's been on my conference bucket list for at least four years and I am glad to be able to check it off. Being on the other end of the #sxsw Twitter hashtag sucks and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about firsthand.

If you are involved in or follow digital media and technology at all, you've heard of SXSW (South by Southwest). It is an enormous conference with three parts – music, film and interactive. The interactive portion is attended by 20,000+ people, is spread over five days and has more than 2,000 speakers presenting at venues all over downtown Austin. An attendee can only scratch the surface of possible sessions and topics.

As a newby, I decided to mainly take in large auditorium keynote speakers and interviews with successful start-up founders and venture capitalists. I've always been fascinated with the business side of technology and the social web. I often find myself trying to filter my interest in the tech world through my credit union lens.

I've attended two days worth of sessions and thought I would share my highlights. I've included these very cool Ogilvy Notes that were drawn on the spot by artists from ImageThink.net. The session descriptions are quoted directly from the Ogilvy Notes site.

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Gamify and Socialize

Description: Bing Gordon knows how to spread magic dust: Look anywhere from Amazon to Zynga. A master of disruption, he's blessed with 20/20 vision into all things gaming and social. Go beyond the buzzwords as the former Electronic Arts executive, legendary video game pioneer, investor in online social gaming company Zynga, and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers sits down with Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter Brad Stone to help us understand how both trends are changing the way people engage, behave and consume. Bing explores why gamification and socialization have moved into the mainstream – and into our bloodstream. He explains how these concepts and strategies are relevant to just about everyone, from entrepreneurs to marketing professionals to musicians and students. Bing also discusses how game and social design principles are used to heighten the "wow" quotient in products, services and change consumer experience.

Why this matters to credit unions: Gaming is huge and while gamification is a buzz word that has been hot for a couple of years now, game theory and techniques are starting to permiate everything. From health and fitness to education, technologists are figuring out how to motivate and engage people within their products. With the explosion of mobile smart phones and tablets, financial services is one of the next opportunities to be gamified. Credit unions and the technology vendors they rely on need to get active in this space now. 

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The Start-Up of You

Description: Renowned entrepreneur and investor Reid Hoffman and entrepreneur/author Ben Casnocha present a new blueprint for managing your career. You will learn the best practices of some of the most successful start-ups on the planet (like PayPal and LinkedIn), and how these strategies can be applied to your career – no matter your industry or job function. You will learn how to launch career plans amid uncertainty; how to change jobs based on what you learn; how to generate breakout opportunities; how to take intelligent risks; how to develop real relationships and build an effective professional network. Most of all, you will learn how to think like an entrepreneur when steering the start-up that is your career.

Why this matters to credit unions: The idea of the Internet offers so much promise and opportunity for everyone, especially young, creative and energetic minds. Generation Y now has poster children like Mark Zuckerberg and other self-made technologists to look up to. They are hyper-connected and are prone to hop from opportunity to opportunity.

Credit unions are going to have a harder and harder time attracting, rewarding and keeping top-level, technology driven employees. Credit unions just aren't sexy or compelling. For those young professionals that do have an interest in innovative financial services firms, credit unions will have to do a lot more to stand out. American Express is all over this conference. If you opened a credit card account today and link it to its new Twitter service, you can go to a private Jay-Z concert Sunday night. And, there are rumors swirling here that Kanye West will perform as well. For real. 

This is what credit unions are up against and it's high time that the entire industry take finding the next generation of employees and leaders really seriously. I could be wrong, but I don't think any credit unions sent employees to this conference. That's a shame. The palpable buzz and energy in the air here is amazing. Credit unions need this fresh thinking and energy pronto.

I'll continue with more highlights over the next few days.

Tim