Innovation Is Imperative: Onsite Coverage
LOS ANGELES – In an industry sometimes permeated by a “this is how we’ve always done it” attitude, innovation can easily fall into the nice-to-have category. However, in today’s hectic financial marketplace, innovation has become a strategic and competitive imperative.
This point was driven home Tuesday by two consecutive sessions at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ REACH conference.
The first was a panel discussion called Industry Innovations which was moderated by Mollie Bell, chief engagement officer at the Filene Research Institute. The panelists were Sarah Canepa Bang, chief strategy officer at CO-OP Shared Branching, Eric Cotter, vice-president of Automotive Products and Innovation at CU Direct and Erik Vandermause, vice-president of TruStage Innovation and Channels at CUNA Mutual Group.
The second session was Filene Institute’s Innovation Immersion Workshop, a 90-minute version of a Filene workshop that normally requires a full day. Andrew Downin, innovation director at Filene, and Chris Fraenza, Filene’s impact manager, led the session.
“At its core, innovation is the ability to empathize with your customers and understand their needs so well that you can read beyond what they tell you their needs are, and to create divergent approaches to meet those needs in ways that you can measure success and satisfaction,” Cotter said in his opening comments.
Along these same lines, Vandermause said that CMG defines innovation as “solving a problem or delivering on a need for a customer in a new way.” He added, “Everyone in your organization should be involved in innovation. It’s not just about one department.”
“Innovation is about solving a problem,” reiterated Canepa Bang. However, she was quick to point out that credit unions don’t necessarily have the same resources as larger financial institutions, calling on credit unions to think creatively in order to innovate on a budget.
“Innovation is transitioning from a buzzword to a necessity,” Downin said in opening the next session. This is due in no small part to the fact that many credit union competitors are at the forefront of innovation. These include both traditional and non-traditional competitors. Downin noted Wal-Mart and its line of Bluebird financial products as a non-traditional competitor with a focus on innovation.
Downin also said innovation is actually more profitable than a number of other popular business strategies. He showed Filene research that ranked five strategies in order of profitability:
- Delivering high-quality products and services
- Focusing on the “voice of the customer”
- Providing quick delivery
- Offering lower prices
Throughout the presentation, Fraenza provided insights into various innovations that have been developed by Filene’s i3 program. Among them was a program called SavvyMoney Checkup, a web-based system that allows credit union members to measure their financial health in an entirely anonymous environment. This in turn led to a broad range of other SavvyMoney products and services, many of which are detailed at www.savvymoney.com.
One final tip on innovation from Downin: “We have such an opportunity as an industry to collaborate on innovation. Take advantage of that.”