In the run up to Fintech Talents North America, we are speaking to credit unions and community banks across North America to gather their views on how they see the future unfolding in their corner of the financial services sector.
This week we hear from Kelly Wagner-Grull, Director of Innovation at the Credit Union of Colorado and Fintech Talents Steering Committee member. Looking ahead, she notes that ‘credit union and community banks’ traditional income streams will be tested and require innovative thinking and leaps of faith on creative solutions… ultimately forced change will come from pressures of non-traditional financial service providers and sophisticated/nimble FinTechs.’
Kelly also points to fascinating trends to which credit unions (along with all providers) must respond. Read the full interview below and also find out how the credit union of Colorado feels about it members. It will make you 😊 – I promise.
What community does your Credit Union /Community Bank serve?
Credit Union of Colorado has the great pleasure of serving 146,000+ people, from all walks of life, who enjoy the benefits of membership in a credit union that is worth over $1.63 billion in assets. Founded in 1934, and formally known as Colorado State Employees Credit Union, we continue to welcome and support our broad and diverse membership. With more than 80 years of experience, we’re proud of our strength, stability, and history as a member-owned financial institution and equally excited for what’s next.
Do you think the role of credit unions/ community banks is changing?
The financial landscape is evolving rapidly, and I anticipate our industry will look very different in five, seven, or ten years from now. The weight of technological disturbances, growing consumer behaviours, rising non-traditional providers entering the industry, competition for business, and amplified regulatory demands will force redefinition of our financial ecosystems and business models.
Credit union and community banks’ traditional income streams will be tested and require innovative thinking and leaps of faith on creative solutions. Lending channels continue to be vulnerable to disruption and ultimately forced change will come from pressures of non-traditional financial service providers and sophisticated/nimble FinTechs.
This is already in motion within the payments space, where digital payments (and the future of cryptocurrencies and tokenization) may be table stakes to most FI’s ongoing existence. The financial commitment to deploy technology that will satisfy members, explicitly to meet the younger member’s expectations, will naturally require many of the smaller FI’s to conform into more niche offerings, mergers or risk-forced acquisitions.
What are some of the challenges you face in what is a fast-changing industry?
It is no longer novel to say consumer’s expectations are growing, as the new norm has an upward trajectory with no limits in sight. These elevated expectations create inherent challenges for any financial institution to keep pace with experiences being offered by large tech-based organizations, such as Amazon. Credit Union of Colorado understands that our technology interactions with our members must be intuitive, easy, and consultative experiences. Levering data is and will continue to be a key tool necessary to be able to create meaningful, actionable and memorable member insights.
The financial landscape will continue to change, and the name of the game will be to anticipate the growing needs around product features, self-service options, and leveraging regulation as a competitive advantage. Millennials and future generations are already redefining how money works within our ecosystems. Their approach to autos and home ownership looks very different than that of previous generational borrowers. Their desire to be less debt driven and open to a more collaborative consumption model where autonomous vehicles, “uberization” of services and goods are all key indicators to how we need to evolve our business model beyond “a checking or loan” provider.
What are some of the challenges you face in what is a fast-changing industry? (Continued)
Our future creative lending solutions become the decree of member service with on-demand access to autonomous vehicle services, diverse multigenerational housing loans supported and have vast resolutions to increasing student debt balances. Above all, being “always open” to provide services seamlessly and customized to each member is obligatory. The differentiator becomes the level of sophisticated algorithms and automation invested in, ensuring members have superior decision making and problem-solving tool. This will assure the partnership between member and CU priceless and sustainable.
How has the pandemic impacted the way you operate and your future strategy?
The pandemic has reinforced the importance of our core values and strengthened our commitment to be a safe, secure, and stable financial partner with our members. The current times allow our corporate social responsibility to shine in how members and our larger community are supported. Creating trust and relationships with our members is who we are and even when we come across hard times, we continue to do the right thing.
For times when job losses arise, death, or other traumatic life challenges occur, we will continue to operate in consistent, safe and relevant ways. Ensuring that our members can access these services in a remote way is required and was highlighted by the current pandemic. In many ways, the pandemic is a great example of being able to capitalize on some of the pre-work which was already in play with our remote work strategy, digital service improvements, and adaptability to shift resources based on member demand.
Is working with partners part of your strategy?
Given that many credit unions and community banks do not have endless technology budgets, partnership is a key strategy to meeting rapidly increasing member’s technology interaction demands. The collaborative credit union industry allows for many credit union service organizations (CUSO’s) to thrive and leverage a buy vs. build mentality, which can aid in staying in step with the pace of the industry.
Credit Union of Colorado continues to build relationships with start-ups, FinTech’s and will consider use cases where outsourcing and/or alternative third-party solutions can enhance our ability to experiment with options to move more nimbly. This includes prototyping, piloting and iterative design of solutions.
Digital channels or branches – which is more important?
Tough question… Physical branches in my opinion will always have an important role and may shock us at how relevant they are in, say 10 years. While saying this, becoming a fully digital delivery channel must compliment the branching model. The gift of choice between branch and digital will become one interaction, with a seamless cross between channel, resulting in a “hybrid” member. Measurement of success and longevity will come from the ability to offer superior end-to-end experiences, without a human interaction, yet if needed is one button (or branch) away.
The best thing about being part of a credit union/ community bank is….
We love our Members- like really love them! At the Credit Union of Colorado, our members are co-owners and their voice, needs and trust matters. I believe our lasting commitment to offering personalized service, without heavy sales pitches and unfulfilled expectations, are balanced by our honest transparency, commitment to community needs, and ultimately the ability to do the right thing, in all times.