CULedger Appoints New CEO

CULedger has selected former Mastercard EVP of North America Markets John Ainsworth as its next president and CEO, the organization announced Wednesday.

Ainsworth’s first day on the job will be December 18. 

“A large part of my financial services career has been helping credit unions meet the evolving needs of its members,” Ainsworth said. “It’s well documented that we can anticipate more change in the next 10 years than over the last 50 years. Staying relevant in the age of digital disruption is a current and present challenge for the credit union industry.”

Prior to his role at Mastercard, where he managed the independent bank and credit union segments, Ainsworth was a senior vice president of global accounts for the card network and managed business development for a large global member, including debit, RFID, prepaid, acquiring and commercial segments. He also worked for over 30 years in product and sales management for SunTrust Banks, Visa International and other major financial organizations, according to the announcement.

His new role puts him in the middle of the growing blockchain movement.

In May, CULedger showcased a new proof-of-concept demonstration that hinged on distributed ledgers, which are databases that are shared across a network and keep lists of interactions among network participants (credit unions in particular). The records are synchronized and updated automatically.

Commonly associated with bitcoin, where the technology is used to track the exchange of virtual currency, distributed ledgers are finding their way into other business uses — including call centers.

CULedger’s technology sends an authorization “challenge” to members when they dial participating call centers. The request goes to the member’s device and requests authentication information, such as a fingerprint though a smartphone, for example, to validate the caller’s identity. The whole thing takes less than a few seconds, according to CULedger. 

“I love [CUNA President and CEO] Jim Nussle’s quote about credit unions from 2016 — ‘Do we want to be the disruptor or do we want to be disrupted?’” Ainsworth said. “Blockchain has already been substantiated as a critical element of digital transformation. In working through a national consortium of credit unions and trusted industry partners, CULedger is uniquely positioned to help credit unions serve the digital needs of its members. I’m very honored to lead CULedger in this effort.”

In August, CULedger — which began in 2016 as a proof-of-concept project led by CUNA, the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the Best Innovation Group, credit union system partners and credit unions — announced the formation of CULedger, LLC, a CUSO.

Other parts of the credit union industry are making moves toward blockchain technology as well. In October, NAFCU became the first U.S. financial trade association to join Hyperledger. Hyperledger is an open-source blockchain collaboration effort hosted by the Linux Foundation.

“CULedger is not just about having a seat at the table as it relates to this technology. Credit unions will be able to implement the technology and utilize the current and future applications that run on it. It would take other organizations a lot of time, money and resources to create what CULedger has already created,” he added.

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