Last month we wrapped up our sixth annual InOHvate conference hosted in partnership with the Ohio Credit Union League. As the Midwest's premier financial technology conference for credit unions, InOHvate is always a great time to connect with credit unions, learn about new solutions to help us better meet our members’ needs, and talk to fintech innovators who can partner with us to accelerate our strategic plans. As the name of the conference implies, this year I was reminded how important “innovative thinking” is for solving some of the problems before us and taking advantage of current opportunities. The need to constantly innovate by watching trends and making smart investments not only in our businesses but also by leveraging partnerships is more crucial than ever to ensure credit unions don’t become obsolete.

For example, embracing immediate payments and payments modernization efforts are no longer suggestions for financial institutions; they are imperative if you want to meet members’ expectations. Consumer demand for online financial services that deliver speed, security, and convenience is everywhere. For credit unions, modernizing your payment offerings and providing immediate access to funds can boost everything from revenue generation to member satisfaction and acquisition. Fortunately, there are so many ways to embrace modern/real-time payments that the innovative thinking about how to apply various business/use cases is almost done for you. Business to consumer, consumer to business, bank to bank, bank to consumer – the list of opportunities goes on and on. Analyze where you need to focus, determine the need in your business, and apply the use cases accordingly. 

Planning for current and future human capital is another area where innovative thinking is crucial. As the overall workforce keeps shrinking, thinking differently (and more creatively) about the recruitment and retention of employees is a must. Staff hiring and succession planning should become strategic business initiatives because these areas will impact what we can achieve for years to come. I discussed this topic in more detail last month, but to briefly summarize, here are a few ways my human resources staff and I are trying to mitigate these challenges, all of which involve innovative thinking:

  • Improving current business processes via technology/automation/AI. If your organization doesn’t have the capacity or budget for developing or purchasing its own in-house solutions, there are many excellent fintech providers to partner with.
  • Thinking more flexibly about employee recruitment and development. Prioritizing an applicant's growth mindset traits, such as curiosity, adaptability and positivity, rather than an overly long list of technical knowledge and specific skills, is the new metric for success. We also need to look for employee growth opportunities internally, identifying future leaders and investing in developing the knowledge and skills they will need in the future. 
  • Valuing human capital differently. Retention of good people (i.e., engaged employees) is more crucial than ever, and we need to view our human capital as valuable resources, listening to them and partnering with them to achieve business objectives.

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the challenges each credit union faces, it’s important to keep pushing ourselves and our industry to think innovatively about how to address these issues. Uniting consumer demand with seamless digital experiences, rethinking the traditional ways of hiring and recruiting good talent, aggregating resources by partnering with fintechs -- the opportunities and benefits that can and will result from these strategies are promising, and I’m looking forward to all the new and improved ways we will be able to successfully serve our members both now and in the future.


Melissa Ashley

Did you know? Statistics from InOHvate 2022 driving the need to innovate: 

  • 40% of credit union members are interested in real-time payments.
  • Post COVID-19, more than 50% of consumers ages 18-34 will go online or use mobile apps to interact with their primary financial provider.
  • 25% of Generation Z have never stepped foot in a physical branch.
  • 81% of Generation Z consumers (born between 1995 and 2010) say personalization helps deepen relationships.
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