Five Steps to Incorporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Product Lifecycle

five steps with the top one being red
By Jacki Best , Robyn Dennis

3 minutes

The fifth is, 'Always remember it’s the right thing to do.'

Sponsored by CO-OP Financial Services

As a credit union community, the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion speak to our very mission. From the beginning, credit unions have been called to serve all members regardless of gender, race, age, cultural background, education, disability or financial means.  

Credit unions across our industry are working to reimagine product development and implementation processes to ensure a more inclusive experience for members. It is not necessarily a simple journey. How exactly do we ensure that the products and services we offer equitably serve all members?

We would like to offer five recommendations based on the work of our own company and what we have learned from the efforts of our client credit unions.

1. Make DEI central to your product strategies

Inclusive products and services emerge when the individual needs of members are identified and thoughtfully considered. To gain a deep understanding of member needs, ensure that decision-making teams across your own organization are diverse in nature and thought, and that employees feel free to offer their perspectives on just how inclusive your products are.

Consider also establishing structured, employee resource groups that are diverse in their makeup and specifically tasked with weighing the inclusiveness of your products and services.

2. Examine how you are utilizing data

One of the issues we face in the age of artificial intelligence is how to ethically manage member data. In particular, fraud tools built around intelligent, automated systems can adversely affect certain groups of people.  

For example, an algorithm may be written to flag as fraud bulk purchases of phone cards at gas stations. However, there may be those within your member base who rely on prepaid phone cards as an economical way to connect with family and friends abroad. Women in domestic abuse situations may require a means of communication that is safer than using their own phone. 

These types of hypotheticals should be factored into security strategies to ensure members are not harmed by well-intentioned policies.

3. Measure your results

Measuring the effectiveness of DEI strategies is tricky—but it can be done. We recommend conducting periodic surveys that ask members directly: Do we provide the products and services you need? 

Their responses may surprise you and will quickly reveal who is benefiting from your product offering—and who is potentially being excluded. This is information you can use to improve your support of diversity and the member experience for all.

4. Learn and evolve continuously

As you gain a deeper understanding of your members and their needs, continue gathering data. Consult with employees and members alike. Network with peers, and study best practices both within and outside our industry. By modeling approaches that are positively impacting individuals, you can change lives and communities.

5. Always remember that diversity is the right thing to do

DEI initiatives benefit credit unions as well. In fact, just letting members know that you share their values of diversity, equity and inclusion can deepen their loyalty and engagement. But that should never be the primary reason for embracing DEI principles. Instead, we should view member relationships through the lens of DEI simply because it is the right thing to do.  

We live in a time in which hard questions are being asked to ensure that all members of our society are respected, represented and heard. As human beings, we all need sources of comfort and acceptance.  

Credit unions can serve as sources of comfort and acceptance for members. Unlike big banks, we remain focused on people, not profits. And the decisions we make should align accordingly.

Jacki Best is director, product management, and Robyn Dennis is organizational effectiveness manager for CUES Supplier member CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, California, a payments and financial technology provider to credit unions. Both are members of CO-OP Financial Services’ DE&I Council

Attend a related learning event

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Cornell Certificate Program
February 17-April 13, 2021
Online program
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