A lively chat session on how credit unions can identify innovation opportunities involved almost always asking members what they want and the challenge of convincing reluctant boards.
Denise Gabel, chief innovation officer at the Filene Research Institute, was the moderator of the session this afternoon at CUNA Mutual Group's Discovery Online Conference. Nearly 80 participants tuned in. One executive said simply asking members about their unmet needs is a good starting point.
A CUSO leader piqued the interest of several others when she asked, "Isn't innovation breaking the model like not charging interest on loans?" The immediate response was: How would the CU make money. A flat free for a lifetime of interest fee loans would be one way to build relationships with younger people, she replied.
Another executive said he likes to check out other CUs' websites for ideas and best practices. One chat respondent liked the idea of P2P lending where members get to choose the rates. Innovation outside of the CU industry should also be considered, said another session visitor.
A handful of participants said it has been a hard sell convincing boards to embrace innovation. "Getting the board to understand that lobby traffic no longer equals business is a challenge."
Another person suggested board members be required to work in the CU for at least one day a quarter to observe members and experience what staff have to go through.
One CU rep said when they introduced debit cards and online access, checking accounts soared while another CU's debit program was a hit among its member even though the product has not been a money maker.
Gabel said she is in the process of putting together an innovation opportunities worksheet that will be a part of a bigger Filene report. It is expected to be available in the next few weeks, she told attendees.