If you ask most credit unions to list their biggest competitive advantage that other financial players don’t have, you will likely hear about their ability to meet the needs of members or stay focused on the people they want. they serve.
Conversely, if you asked them where they felt the need to improve, you would often hear about the need to add new technologies or other innovations to their product lines.
What is interesting, however, is that the pursuit of digital transformation by credit unions is more likely to be successful when approached by personal service and relationship forces.
It’s the view of COOP Financial Services CEO Nick Calcanes, who told PYMNTS in an interview that every aspect of his company’s new digital ecosystem is designed to serve credit union members, where and how they need it.
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âIt’s very human-centric, and it will continue to be, because that’s how this industry started, and it continues to be about people helping people,â Calcanes said. âWe keep this in mind at all times as we try to create cutting-edge technology products and services within our ecosystem. “
Calcanes should know this better than anyone, because CO-OP’s own digital transformation journey began several years ago, long before anyone heard of the word “COVID-19” or anticipated the need for it. a complete transition to digital banking services.
When Calcanes first joined the company in 2017, CO-OP was determined to move from being a reseller of third-party products and services to being a technology leader for credit unions with its own innovative products and services. Calcanes said this was an evolution that required CO-OP to transform the way it does things internally.
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Because credit unions themselves have a human-centric approach, Calcanes said it makes sense for CO-OP to follow the same path.
âIn my experience, it’s critical to closely link the people and talent who build the technology with the people who use and deliver it every day,â he said. âWe build our technology with a human, user and limb centric approach. [As we build it,] â¦ We understand that our customers will use these technologies to deliver to their members every day.
For a human-centered approach to work, it is essential to have the right talents in place. CO-OP, at the start of its own digital transformation, put a lot of thought into its talent acquisition strategy. The company took a forward-thinking approach to where its employees wanted to live and how they wanted to work, which meant allowing people to work remotely years before the pandemic forced everyone to do likewise.
âThese steps we took four years ago have positioned us well for when we had to move all of our workers home during the first two weeks of the pandemic,â Calcanes said.
He explained how CO-OP still adheres to the same human-centric ethos when guiding its clients – the credit unions themselves – on their own digital transformation journeys. When it comes to designing and implementing solutions that can help, he said the focus is always on their members and how they should interact in their financial lives.
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âIt needs to be transparent and secure, and it needs to not only respond to what is happening every day so members can transact, but also make sure it happens in a user-friendly and frictionless manner. “
To this end, CO-OP encourages credit unions to embrace the mindset that payments are central to their members’ way of life, and the way credit unions thrive is by enabling transactions. digital and secure every day. The people-centered approach, combined with a strong emphasis on the ethical application of its technology, is key to building that trust among members.
And with this high degree of trust, CO-OP is able to collect massive amounts of transaction data that can be used to serve credit unions and their members.
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âApart from our employees, our data is our greatest asset. We are able to use that data and things like AI to protect members from a fraud standpoint, âCalcanes said. “When something happens, [if a disputed transaction arises,] we are able to use these tools and data through our CO-OP Resolution Center to help members navigate a difficult situation either virtually or digitally. So they don’t have to go to a branch or call anyone. Things like this are a critical aspect of an individual’s financial life.
From a credit union’s perspective, it’s just as critical to know exactly what they intend to accomplish as they embark on their digitization efforts.
âObviously we’ve had our bottom line, but we’ve also had results in customer experience, expense management, and internal associate satisfaction,â he noted.
With those goals set, the next step is to create a strategy that leads you to them, and then execute it relentlessly against that strategy, with those results serving as a guide, Calcanes advised.
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Finally, Calcanes stressed the importance of educating people on the changes they need to implement. He said that in his experience, while people aren’t necessarily against change, most find it difficult and uncomfortable. Therefore, the people CO-OP is asking to implement the changes are a high priority, he said. It is essential to explain to them why and where to implement a new technology.
âIf they understand the why, I think people can be really good at delivering because they’re member-driven and they care about their credit unions,â Calcanes said. âSo we’re just as focused on the people who execute the strategy. People are essential, and that’s why we tirelessly interact with credit unions and their members – to understand what they need to be successful in their financial lives.