Jan 23 '20

Innovation and Change Go Hand in Hand

Ben Bauer
Ben Bauer
VP of Awesomeness (Marketing)
Megan Jackson
Megan Jackson
Incubator Manager
Filene Research Institute

It’s essential in our rapidly changing technological landscape that credit unions keep up with trends. To make this easier, Filene launched the FinTech Catalyst Incubator, in partnership with CMFG Ventures, the venture capital arm of CUNA Mutual Group, to partner with market ready fintech companies and test promising solutions that will drive innovative change for organizations and members. Learn a little more about what it is like to test and what is next in the FinTech Catalyst Incubator.

Ben Bauer
Ben Bauer
VP of Awesomeness (Marketing)
Megan Jackson
Megan Jackson
Incubator Manager
Filene Research Institute

Thoughts from Ben Bauer, Simplicity Credit Union, a FinTech Catalyst Credit Union Tester:

When I first heard of the opportunity through Filene’s incubator of the Align ISA product, I knew that we had to be a part of it. First, I put the idea out to our CEO, Pat Wesenberg. She quickly supported it and asked if I saw value in doing it. My exact response was “I think the least amount of value that we get out of it is the knowledge that we contributed to something that can help the movement forward by learning that something doesn’t work. If by some chance the testing goes great and they see a viable product come out of it the value could be through the roof and could really make a difference for CU members everywhere.”

As promised, the test was very low effort and exposed Simplicity CU to little or no risk. Megan Jackson and her team were incredibly helpful from the very beginning and provided us the resources we needed to participate in the test in a way that was easy for our members and easy for our staff to administer.

The Simplicity team believes that innovative products like the Align ISA are crucial to not only research and understand but to test and implement when given the opportunity. The workforce continues to change from employees having a long tenured career with a pension, to the gig economy, a new job every few years, etc. The Align ISA supports today’s members by providing an innovative product that adapts to their income that can change by way of any number of circumstances. As the workforce evolves, it needs revolutionary products and services to meet its needs.

If our movement is going to keep up with or thrive in an ever-changing world, we must be open to new products and new ways of doing business. Once upon a time, Credit Unions were a disruptor in the financial services world. Today, it’s more important than ever to be at the forefront of change and innovation so we can continue to change our members lives as we’ve done for so many years.

If you’re a credit union considering an opportunity to test within the incubator, my advice is very simple: don’t wait, just do it. We are all busy people and have our own daily tasks, team projects, implementations, etc. If you haven’t considered it, or aren’t open to participating in a test, I believe you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Not only will you get to work with Filene’s amazing team (who will help you every step of the way), you’ll get to learn about something new that you’ve likely never tried before. Plus, you’ll send a message to your membership that says, “we are innovative, we want your feedback, and we want you to be a part of our future and the future of the credit union movement”. Some might see testing in the incubator an opportunity, but I feel that it’s more like duty. As Filene says: “Think forward. Change lives.”

Thoughts and Invitation from Filene’s Incubator Manager, Megan Jackson:

A round of thanks to the credit unions who participated in our inaugural test with Align’s Income Share Agreement (ISA) which focused on the desirability and feasibility for credit unions to offer an alternative solution to personal loans. Also, a special thank-you to Ben Bauer for sharing his experience and insights on why it’s important to test new ideas. The Incubator is made possible through the efforts of dedicated credit unions that are willing to test a concept with the explicit goal of sharing the gift of their testing experience for the betterment of consumers and the credit union system. We simply could not conduct the Incubator without them and commend them for participating.

Our second round of testing is underway with two ideas poised to expand a credit union’s product and service innovation, thus creating a more loyal connection with members:

Steady: Independent work, or gig employment, is a growing category of work that can put pressure on consumers and financial institutions. Steady is a tool that can help consumers identify job opportunities that meet their availability, skills and needs. It also provides a variety of tools to help achieve financial goals and track extra income.

Finhabits: An increasing number of consumers face financial challenges that prevent them from pursuing strong financial futures. Finhabits is an app specialized in making quality investments and retirement services more inclusive. It allows users to invest and build savings for as little as $5 per week.

If you are a credit union or fintech interested in participating in our next round of tests that will help shape the future of our industry, it’s not too late! Apply to participate in testing concepts around workplace wellness, AI alternative underwriting, data privacy, new product offerings, and much more.