The Curiosity/Innovation Connection

CUES managing editor and publisher Theresa Witham
Theresa Witham Photo
Managing Editor/Publisher

2 minutes

From the editor

Have you ever asked, “Why do we [fill in the blank] like this?” and then not accepted the standard “because we’ve always done it that way” answer, diving into improving the process instead? If so, you’ve demonstrated the curiosity/innovation connection. 

“Innovation benefits from divergent thinking and the generation of creative ideas through the exploration of many possible solutions,” says CUES member Pete Reicks, CIE, SVP/analytics and innovation for $2 billion Elevations Credit Union in Boulder, Colorado, in “A Culture of Curiosity.” 

Innovation can seem abstract and difficult. It may even seem unattainable or that you need to be the smartest brain in the room to do it. But we can all innovate. In our article, Arvind Sharma, chief digital and payments officer at $19.5 billion Central 1 Credit Union, Vancouver, British Columbia, suggests how to start. 

“People may be thinking, ‘We’ve got to do what Apple does. We’ve got to invent the next big thing,’” he says. “Apple and others have set the bar really high, but my advice for credit unions would be to start small. Start with ideas for continuous improvement. Ask yourself: ‘What are some little ideas we can take to market?’”

What doesn’t work very well is innovation on demand. Imagine a meeting in which you are told to come up with the next big thing for your credit union. That would be unsuccessful for the credit union and incredibly stressful for you and your colleagues. However, innovation methods and models can help your team create innovative solutions to your biggest challenges. 

“When people don’t innovate, it’s not because they’re incapable of innovation. It’s because they don’t have a process in place,” says Linda Bodie, chief + innovator at $33 million Element Federal Credit Union of Charleston, West Virginia. Read more about how credit unions are approaching innovation.

One area in the realm of financial services that could benefit from innovative thinking is marijuana banking. Many credit unions are hesitant to serve this large—and underserved—industry. But $670 million Salal Credit Union, Seattle, has worked closely with its state regulator and is now making loans to pot businesses. 

Salal CU is “absolutely” staking out an opportunistic claim for what could be a fast-growing and highly profitable product line, but it’s not all about the money, says VP/Business Services Carmela Murphy Houston. “Most importantly, we see it as meeting our members’ needs.”

If you’re curious about the innovations of Salal CU and a Colorado CU in serving this niche industry, read “Seeds of Success” on p. 16. You may also want to check out our larger article, “2019 Business Lending Outlook.

Theresa Witham
Managing Editor/Publisher

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