Economic Forum Engages Community and Sparks Discussion

L-R: Chris Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, and Nader Moghaddam, CEO of Financial Partners CU
L-R: Chris Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, and Nader Moghaddam, CEO of Financial Partners CU

During a successful milestone that engaged local business leaders and policymakers, Financial Partners CU held its 5th Annual Economic Forum in late September to shed light on Southern California’s economy and discuss “future of work” realities as the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes industry and commerce.

This year’s in-person/online hybrid event came as credit union leaders are seeking answers to some bewildering economic forces impacting their employees and members — namely, a confluence of supply-and-demand oddities in the employment market. Meanwhile, local economies are growing at different rates due to their strengths and weaknesses, and deposits and loans at credit unions mostly continue rising or even hitting new records.

Attracting more than 300 attendees this year, the forum has become an important exchange of perspectives and dialogue among local leaders as they continue examining the long-term effects of the pandemic and how they may adjust their strategies to address opportunities and challenges. Shifting trends in 2021 have increasingly put the focus on a tug-of-war between employers and working professionals in the job market.

“Flexibility is what employees expect after the shock of the pandemic,” said Chris Thornberg, keynote speaker and founding partner of Beacon Economics. “Everyone from urban policymakers to workers will have to adapt.”

(You can view Thornberg’s slide presentation, as well as a commissioned report that Beacon Economics delivered during the event — "Employers, Workers & Lifestyles: What the 'Future of Work' Looks Like in a Post-COVID Economy”)

Financial Partners CU CEO Nader Moghaddam said Thornberg’s presentation provided some enlightenment and insights to ponder. “It was very well received among attendees,” he said. “The lively group discussion following the presentation provided everyone the opportunity to be party to an engaging, dynamic exchange forum. The collaboration and communication that comes from the economic forums is a big reason we continue hosting it every year.”

The goal of the forum — which focuses on both Los Angeles and Orange counties — is to help the communities that Financial Partners serves through “purposeful exchange of ideas” and to strengthen the collaboration necessary for fueling future progress, Moghaddam added. Over the years, information from the forum has been quoted by local officials ranging from the mayor of Downey to the superintendent of the local school district for supporting local initiatives.

“With a workforce that is looking for more flexibility, there are many questions and issues needing address,” Moghaddam said. “How will remote work impact office, retail and residential real estate and land-use? How will it impact hiring decisions, expand reach for talent acquisition, travel patterns, and means of transportation? More importantly, how will remote work impact corporate culture, hiring decisions, and expand reach for talent acquisition? How might it change banking and the transformation to digital banking? How will organizations like Financial Partners Credit Union and others respond?”

He said Financial Partners provides a robust “bank@work” program to many local businesses. It expanded the program in response to the pandemic and now provides both in-person and remote programs.

The credit union also continues looking for ways to provide members greater flexibility and control. Most transactions, if not all (including funding loans), can be accomplished remotely through a member’s channel of choice. Today, members are “far more open” to these types of options — an increasing trend that only intensified during the past year-and-a-half.

The credit union’s economic forum is now a community-staple each year — something notable within the industry. Many credit unions hire a local or state economist to present to their board of directors or senior management privately. But hosting an annual public event is an above-and-beyond accomplishment.

“The goal remains the same,” Moghaddam said. “We want to continue igniting conversation among local business leaders, community leaders, and residents to foster connections, growth, and ultimately financial success.”

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