CuneXus Client Symposium: A Different Kind of Conference
By John San Filippo
The annual CuneXus Client Symposium will be held July 18-20 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Themed “Cultivate Success,” this will be the last such conference under the CuneXus name, as the organization will soon change its moniker to reflect its parent company CUNA Mutual Group’s name change to TruStage. The company expects about 150 attendees.
Finopotamus will be onsite reporting on this event. In preparation, we met with CuneXus President Tony Salamone and Senior Vice President Baron Conway to get a preview of the event, while learning what makes the Symposium different from other conferences.
“When I joined CuneXus seven years ago overseeing all of client relations, part of my goal was to bridge the gap and establish great relationships with our clients,” said Salamone, who became president of the company in 2022. “That's how this thing started. I created a client advisory board that governs a user group community that we established, and then established the Symposium to become an exchange of ideas with our customers.” The first Symposium was held in 2017 and was only a half-day event. Due to COVID, the company skipped the Symposium for 2020 and 2021.
Salamone explained that his whole approach to doing business revolves around customer feedback. “It’s always great to hear from customers,” he said. “What are they thinking? What works from them? What keeps them up at night? These are the things that I love to have conversations about.”
He continued, “I want to get their feedback. Here's how I think it needs to work. Tell me what I'm missing. Is that exactly what we should be doing? This is how all these different groups and events came to be.”
As noted earlier, CuneXus skipped the Symposium in 2020 and 2021. The company made a conscious decision not to offer a virtual event those years and continues to resist suggestions for a hybrid conference going forward. “We don't (offer a virtual component) because it's that personal interaction that we want,” explained Salamone. “It's that very intimate setting. I always talk about the CuneXus family, and that family is our employees, our customers, and our vendor partners. I want our partners to be part of this.”
The CuneXus Family
“You have probably been to a ton of different conferences where, as a vendor, you're kind of out there. You can't attend any sessions. You're in the exhibit hall and that's all you're limited to,” noted Salamone. “I have an issue with that. If you are my vendor partner and you are part of my family, I want you in there.” He added that any attendee – customer or vendor – is encouraged to participate in the discussion to whatever degree they deem appropriate.
“It’s a think tank for everyone, not just a select group of people,” he continued. “That really is the whole concept of the Symposium. This is the ecosystem that we are trying to create with CuneXus, that it's not just CuneXus; it's all of our partners, our customers, creating something exceptional.”
Conway noted that whereas most other conferences are primarily geared toward sales, such is not the case with the CuneXus Client Symposium. “There's always this focus on looking for new business. Ultimately, it's about selling something,” he said of other events. “I can honestly say that with the Symposium, it's not about selling. If that's an outcome that someone decides they want something they don't have, that's awesome. But it doesn't actually start with that at all.” He added that it’s all about “engaging, connecting, learning.”
According to Conway, fun is also an important component of the Symposium. “Everything that we do, there's a little bit of lightheartedness,” he said. “Everything we strive to do is to leave people with a little bit of a smile on their faces. We're really trying to bring that to life at the Symposium.”
An Intimate Setting
Regarding the breakdown of attendees, Conway said he expects about 60% to be customers, with the rest made up of vendor partners, CuneXus employees and other TruStage employees. “The Symposium will be very intimate, very focused,” he said. “This allows for some really good, intimate conversations with our credit unions, and also between CuneXus folks and our partners.”
He continued, “With some conferences, they may have 200 or 300 customer attendees, but there's 500 vendors. It's just overwhelming. What we're trying to do is balance that mix. We want to create opportunities for great group conversations and discussions, as well as one-on-one conversations. No matter who you are, we want to pull you into a conversation, make you feel part of something, make you feel part of a family. Intimacy is woven through everything we're trying to do.”
Focus on Best Practices
Finopotamus asked what credit union attendees should expect to take away from the Symposium.
“I think it really is to understand best practices,” responded Salamone. “I don't know that all of our customers fully understand the breadth of the capabilities. We have been spending a lot of time visiting with customers and reintroducing them. What I typically find, and it's been this way in my entire career, you bring on a brand-new customer, you show them the basics of what they can do, but with so much project fatigue, they stay focused on the basics.”
He continued, “I always equate it to a new car. You instinctively know how to start it, put it in drive, maybe put the radio on, hook up your iPhone. But there are so many other things that you can do in that car. And until you spend some time with the manual or whatever, you don't understand all it can do. That this is exactly what I want the Symposium to be. Let me show you what else this thing can do. Let me show you where we're going strategically. Let me show you what other customers are doing that maybe you can leverage. That's what I want them to walk away with.”