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At the crossroads of research and innovation

At the crossroads of research and innovation


I was lucky to attend Filene Research Institute’s big.bright.minds event earlier this month as a presenter.  It’s been great to be involved with Filene over the last 10 years. A decade ago, I was honored to be included in Filene’s inaugural i3 (ideas, innovation, implementation) group. Since then, as a credit union executive, we’ve been blazing a lot of new trails with the same concepts I learned as an i3’er.

At big.bright.minds. I had the privilege to attend as both a partner and presenter in one of the latest Impact pilot initiatives that Filene has launched on small dollar lending. This exciting event truly captured Filene’s mission of Think. Do. Change. in the credit union industry, encouraging collaboration between the brightest academics, FinTech innovators and credit union executives.

The event was hosted at Harvard University, which I felt was a very fitting setting for many of the presentations from top academics. Harvard is so clearly a place of knowledge, Filene’s event truly marked a meeting of top researchers and academics with the brightest innovators in the technology and credit union industries.

What struck me the most about this event was the explosive energy packed into a short day and a half. In between sessions, attendees were collaborating and sharing ideas all around me. I had the opportunity to compare notes with another innovator in the small dollar lending space and network with leaders from across the industry. It surprised me how quickly the attendees became comfortable going into such detail about their pioneering research, technology or operations in such a short amount of time.

During the small dollar lending presentation, I shared the stage with two other great thought-leaders in this space. Filene did a great job of selecting presenters on this particular topic, since one presenter represented a company in the concept stage of development, QCash Financial is in the launch stage and the other was in growth-mode.

Together we were able to talk about our experiences within the small dollar lending space and address four common fears that many credit unions have about offering these loans. Those four fears are:

  • the financial risk of implementing a new product
  • constantly changing CFPB regulations
  • potential reputational risk
  • and draining financial resources

Alongside the other panelists, I was able to offer my own experiences to address these fears and show how they are easily overcome. 

Besides getting the chance to present, my time at Big.Bright.Minds. was very enriching. I had the opportunity to learn about many of the latest trends in the marketplace and discuss issues related to smaller segments of the financial services market. Listening to expert academics present their research, networking with other technology firms and meeting innovative credit union executives made the experience truly educational and inspiring.

In the end, it was a huge pleasure to be part of something that has so much potential to revolutionize the industry. Filene’s motto to Think. Do. Change. really came into focus for me. I saw how this research institute represents the “think” component, offering the industry valuable research from the top minds. Companies like QCash Financial, are part of the “do” stage and are actively using research to build real-life applications. Finally, credit unions are the real source of change. Over time, the innovative research and technology makes its way, through innovative credit unions, to consumers, changing the financial industry as a whole.

Ben Morales is the CEO of Olympia, Wash.-based QCash Financial. QCash Financial is a provider of an automated, cloud-based, mobile lending platform that enables financial institutions to provide short-term loans quickly to the people they serve. For more information about QCash Financial, visit its website at

Categorized: 'Events' 'Products & Services'

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