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From the CEO
June 3, 2019

Dear Members:

I recently attended a conference where I had the pleasure of listening to an inspiring speaker named Phil Hansen. Phil is an artist who thought his career was over when he developed a tremor in his hand, preventing him from creating the kind of art he was trained to do. However, instead of giving up art entirely, Phil “embraced the shake” in his hand and used this limitation to fuel new kinds of creativity, leading to masterpieces he had never previously envisioned.

Embrace the Shake: Phil Hansen's TED talk

Phil’s presentation was heartening and thought-provoking. I couldn’t help but think of how his philosophy applies to our industry, as well. Innovations in technology over the past decade have revolutionized the financial landscape, and the sheer scope and speed of this digital revolution is daunting and somewhat overwhelming. And rightly so, as it’s fundamentally changing how we do business and serve our members. How do we as credit unions remain relevant and competitive in a market that is undergoing so much change?

The answer is innovation. I believe that it’s imperative, regardless of your size, to view innovation as part of your organizational framework. Unfortunately, innovation is often a misunderstood process within financial services, despite being an exciting trend with enormous potential. Many institutions try to leverage innovation in gigantic, revolutionary ways, which require significant effort and change, versus practical ways, which focus on smaller (but still impactful) changes. Building a culture of innovation that produces practical, impactful changes begins with a few small steps:

  • Inclusion. Create cross-functional teams with representatives from all areas of the organization, especially personnel from the front-lines and middle management, as these employees often know our members best and can easily identify areas for growth or improvement.
  • Collaboration. Establish a structure for sharing what is learned with others in the organization on an ongoing basis. Together you can walk through a variety of processes to identify areas in need of innovation.
  • Open-mindedness. Approach new opportunities with an open mind, being willing to envision how a change may look in your environment.

Your credit union may think your innovation efforts are limited because of asset size or another challenging variable, but such constraints can actually help fuel creativity as opposed to hindering it. Instead of always trying to think outside of the box, it’s okay to get back into it and start innovation efforts on a small scale, using what we know or what we are familiar with to engage change. As Phil himself said, “learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves.” It’s truly an exciting time for our industry because technological innovations often lead to new solutions and integrations that allow a variety of services to work in unison, creating better experiences for members and streamlined back-end operations.

Melissa Ashley