Credit Union Industry’s Race to Excellence

by Ray Lancaster

At the recent CO-OP Financial Services THINK conference in Chandler, “Race to Excellence,” about 750 credit union leaders gathered to learn strategies to achieve excellence through the digital transformation of operations and member (customer) services. Technology is changing faster than ever, presenting new challenges and opportunities for credit unions — but, through strategic partnerships and collaboration, our industry is well-positioned to thrive. 

There were three key takeaways from THINK that to me sum up the changes in the credit union industry. 

First, having a member-centric strategy is crucial to helping redefine excellence for credit union members. Every new technology initiative, whether it’s open banking or artificial intelligence (AI), should be anchored around humanizing the customer experience. As financial commentator and THINK speaker Chris Skinner explained, “Today’s digital age demands you focus on the consumer first and build backward. It’s the opposite of what we have traditionally done. In the digital age, the most important piece is the humanity.”

Second, technology advances, themselves — particularly AI — were discussed throughout the week. CO-OP unveiled “COOPER,” a foundational step to providing this technology to credit unions. Here is truly a member-centric tool, in which we can improve user experience, fight fraud and do our jobs better. 

Third, credit unions must rely on strategic business partnerships and collaboration to overcome the many hurdles in the race to excellence. That collaboration was on full display at THINK and it was encouraging to see so many credit union leaders sharing ideas and working together to creatively solve problems. 

Our industry has a goal — to meet our members’ needs with immediacy, relevance and personalization. We have the tradition of member service excellence to go with the latest in payments technology. As was said at THINK repeatedly, integrating that technology into a complete seamless experience for our members will be the key to our success.    —Ray Lancaster is president and CEO of Pyramid Federal Credit Union   

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