CU Direct Set to Open Innovation Lab in Orange County: GAC
WASHINGTON – The technology hub of Irvine, Calif., will soon be home to a new lending technology innovation lab for credit unions, a place for industry leaders to bring their ideas, test them and potentially see them come to life in the real world.
The Ontario, Calif.-based auto lending CUSO CU Direct plans to move its marketing team to the new Innovation Lab’s open office space next week and has a grand opening event scheduled for March 22, CU Direct President/CEO Tony Boutelle told CU Times Tuesday at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference.
According to a flyer for the new location, “The Innovation Lab brings together credit union leaders with a proven innovation process to create market advantage” and “offers an environment dedicated to designing, prototyping and developing transformative lending technology that improves credit union member experiences.”
Credit unions, auto dealers and members of the CU Direct team will all be collaborating in the lab, and the ideas brought to the table will involve all types of lending, not just auto, Boutelle said. One example of an idea that may be explored there is a digitized, mobile version of a sight draft (a check that a consumer typically receives in the mail from a lender after qualifying for a loan).
“Credit unions have good ideas but they don’t have a place to test them and get them into a prototype,” Boutelle said. “We wanted to build this on behalf of credit unions, and focus on lending.”
One concept that’s sure to come up in the Innovation Lab is finding easier ways to get members preapproved before they even step foot in a dealership, something Boutelle called the biggest trend in the auto lending space today. Dealers are also working to save their customers time – he explained that currently, once a consumer decides to buy a car, they typically spend four to five hours working with multiple staffers at a dealership, but dealers’ goal is to pare that down to one hour with a single salesperson.
One way CU Direct intends to help speed up the preapproval process is through AutoSMART, its online vehicle marketplace that connects credit unions with members throughout the entire auto shopping and buying process. When a member sees a car they like on AutoSMART, they’ll also see an estimated car loan payment and an option to get preapproved ahead of time.
On Tuesday, CU Direct unveiled a new user interface for AutoSMART. According to a press release, the updated interface’s features include the ability to research, build and search millions of new and used vehicles; Auto Advisors who provide high-touch member support via phone and online chat; access to dealership ratings and reviews; and credit union-branded member purchasing certificates to bring to the dealership.
In addition, on Monday, the CUSO launched the next generation of its Lending Insights management platform. Lending Insights 4.0 features a single, customizable, unified interface and improved analytics, the company said.
“Lending Insights streamlines a wealth of data, while improving performance and putting actionable data at our customer’s fingertips,” Michael Cochrum, vice president of analytics and advisory services for CU Direct, said in a prepared statement. “With the credit union movement on the cusp of major regulatory changes, we want to ensure our credit unions are prepared with solutions that help them remain compliant, while being successful.”