SCE FCU’s Javier Velasquez Wins 1st Place in ‘The Pitch’ at REACH

SCE FCU Director of Branches Javier Velasquez (center) with his $10,000 check and stakeholders that hosted and participated in “The Pitch,” including Champions (judges), Visionaries (fellow credit union participants), and others.
SCE FCU Director of Branches Javier Velasquez (center) with his $10,000 check and stakeholders that hosted and participated in “The Pitch,” including Champions (judges), Visionaries (fellow credit union participants), and others.

The Pitch — a first-ever Shark Tank-like game show during the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ annual REACH conference — spotlighted SCE FCU Director of Branches Javier Velasquez as first-place winner of $10,000 after he and “Visionary” contestants from other credit unions pitched their mission-driven ideas to a panel of “Champion” judges in front of a live audience.

(View/download conference and event photos from the REACH 2022 Photo Gallery)

Velasquez unanimously won votes from all four Champion judges, as well as a majority of the live-audience’s vote (48 percent). He will use the $10,000 check awarded on stage by Leagues President and CEO Diana Dykstra to kickstart his “Amigos” community hub — an innovative concept that has the potential to be blueprinted at SCE FCU and replicated as a fun, unique, philanthropic model for other credit unions across California, Nevada, and the nation.

“I am honored to receive these funds to jumpstart ‘Amigos,’ and I’m inspired to be up here representing passionate ideas with my fellow colleagues to make a difference in each of the communities we serve,” Velasquez said. “We all want to inspire every individual in credit unions to move beyond thinking, to be brave, be courageous, to share your ideas with your team and your credit union — and most importantly, to make change happen.”

The Leagues would like to thank the National Credit Union Foundation for donating $10,000 so The Pitch could be successful. In the months leading into this inspirational hour-and-a-half on-stage production, credit unions small, medium and large were asked to encourage dedicated credit union movement employees to submit their “pitches.” All submissions were reviewed to pick the top contestants who would travel to REACH to make their case, including Kinecta FCU Human Resources Analyst Kie McCann and Compliance Analyst Johanna Laos (Combating Homeless Youth presentation) and AltaOne FCU Brand Manager Chris Lowe and CEO Stephanie Sievers (Community Nonprofit Workshop Development Kit presentation).

“Congratulations to all of you,” said Dykstra as she also applauded Kinecta FCU and AltaOne FCU participants and pledged $1,000 toward their inspirational concepts for their best-efforts. “Today, we celebrate all of these ‘Visionaries.’ We want to inspire others to do great things for their local communities and members through their amazing ideas and commitment to our movement’s values and shared vision. You are an inspiration to all of us.”

The judges (or Champions) included Tony Boutelle (CEO of ORIGENCE), Todd Clark (CEO of Co-op Solutions), Danielle Brown (engagement director for the National Credit Union Foundation), and Mike de Vere (CEO of Zest AI). Each judge had critical questions, constructive comments, and positive responses as they dissected the pitches presented to them, just like a live-reality TV show.

Pitches were contestants’ unique ideas for making a meaningful impact on credit unions, credit union members, or their communities. They were about building stronger communities and changing peoples’ lives for the better through financial education, wellness, social responsibility, mentorship, or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

In prior months, applicants submitted pre-pitch two-minute videos with their submission form, summarizing why they should be selected to be on the main stage during REACH. Industry professionals who understand credit unions’ mission and commitment to improving the lives of members and communities submitted forms, as all of them were eager to turn a great idea into reality.

Only time will tell, but Velasquez’s “Amigos” concept is poised to have energetic momentum as he works on putting the idea into play. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy, commerce and travel, credit unions adapted across California and Nevada to still provide essential financial services. However, many credit unions to this day still aren’t using their entire headquarters, office, or branch space to their full capacities as they did before the pandemic.

That’s where Velasquez sees a huge opportunity. These empty spaces — as well as computer/monitor infrastructure, internet access, tables, chairs, meeting spaces, office supplies, and other study-work materials — could be offered to credit union members, neighborhood members of the community, and even local schools to foster a quality and comfortable environment for meeting up, working on projects, studying, and even receiving financial education and advice from the credit union or community nonprofits on various life-management, household, and community services topics. The “Amigos” hub would function as a nerve-center, connecting working individuals, residents, kids and parents with free credit union activities, advice, and valuable assistance from local nonprofit organizations that are also mission-driven.

The credit union’s staff would maintain any needed operations to serve members and the community while they are utilizing the space, with employee time, the actual space, and any infrastructure or materials either partially or fully donated by the credit union ongoing.

While all three pitch presentations served as an invaluable experience for REACH attendees and the Visionaries and Champions on stage, each stakeholder respected each other’s ideas and comments as they sought to encourage the audience in front of them.

“We can play a vital role in the success of our members and the communities around us, and strengthen relationships,” Velasquez said as he environed taking his idea to the next level with judges listening on stage. “It aligns with our philosophy of ‘people helping people,’ and it also makes members and others aware of the many great financial benefits that credit unions offer.”

Stay Engaged During REACH
Attendees and League staff will be sharing photos, comments and memories through Twitter (@CUatREACH), LinkedIn (#CUatREACH), and the REACH 2022 Photo Gallery. 

REACH is one of the credit union industry’s premier annual events, attracting leaders and system partners from across California, Nevada and the United States. This year it’s held from Nov. 1 – 4 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, CA!

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