Your team that evaluates digital options should include members, regulators, board members and staff.
A flood of consumers and businesses became digital converts almost overnight during the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. To keep up with customers’ heightened need to perform day-to-day tasks from home, financial institutions intensified discussions with potential fintech partners.
Credit unions have a lot riding on getting their fintech strategies correct. A well-crafted approach could provide revenue opportunities, improve member experiences and reduce friction points.
I have been discussing the importance of building an ecosystem to evaluate your fintech strategy—a team that includes credit union members, regulators and the board of directors.
There is another crucial group that must be involved—your employees.
Your staff may be the most anxious about pursuing fintech partnerships. It makes sense; they are often the first to hear from members should something go poorly.
During a recent panel discussion, George Nahodil, president/CEO of $6.1 billion Members 1st Federal Credit Union, acknowledged that his employees were the hardest to win over when the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, institution began looking at fintech partnerships.
I met with him after the conference, eager to hear how he won over skeptical employees. Here are a few takeaways from that conversation.
- Be candid and transparent. The biggest challenge at Members 1st FCU involved convincing employees that change was needed despite the credit union’s financial success. Nahodil reminds his team to take a long-term view. “We reminded our people about what happened to taxis—Uber doesn’t necessarily have better drivers, but they made the process easier and more convenient through software,” he says.
- Be clear about the objectives. Employees need to understand how fintech would boost revenue and returns. “We’re not doing this because it’s cute or trendy,” Nahodil explains. “We’re not a software company. To survive, we have to make fintech a part of who we are.”
- Rely on a good communicator. A fintech strategy is best pursued and implemented when you have someone in your organization who can understand the technical complexities and explain the process to frontline staff. Members 1st FCU is considering hiring a chief innovation officer as it continues to evaluate opportunities. “Everybody knows what they need to do—but they don’t always know how to go about doing it,” Nahodil says.
- Host follow-ups with your staff. Periodically review your strategy with your employees. Celebrate successes and recognize that shortcomings happen—the key is to learn from efforts that fail to meet expectations.
These steps may not remove all anxiety at your credit union. Still, they should create an open dialogue, improve trust and, over time, create a sense of togetherness that should prove beneficial as your discussions with fintechs turn into actionable initiatives.
Paul Davis is director of market intelligence for CUESolutions provider Strategic Resource Management, Memphis, Tennessee.