The Robot in the Corner Office

Theresa Witham, managing editor of CUManagement
Theresa Witham Photo
Managing Editor/Publisher

2 minutes

From the Editor

My husband can’t wait for his (eventual) self-driving car. At a party last month, he explained that they will be safer, improve traffic flow and be better for the environment. But a friend was not sold. “I want to drive my car when I drive in my car,” she exclaimed.

Self-driving cars are just one example of how artificial intelligence is poised to make over our world. What does it have in store for the credit union industry?

Integrating banking apps with digital assistants like Alexa or Siri is an obvious first step. AI-driven loan decisions and compliance tasks are easy to imagine, too. But what about the management function? Futurist and artificial intelligence expert Peter Scott predicts that AI could replace the CEO.

“The function of the C-suite is essentially assimilating business intelligence and doing strategic planning. Computers are getting better and better at doing that,” he says in “What’s Ahead for Artificial Intelligence?” A chairman or CEO’s strategic planning time might be better spent on the golf course, negotiating with other executives about mergers, partnerships and supply chains, Scott proposes.

In the world that Scott envisions, a robot CEO might help a credit union reach the $1 billion milestone sooner. But if growth is part of your CU’s strategic goals, you don’t need to wait for that far-off future. In our cover story, “$1 Billion and Beyond,” we explore the advantages of being big—including economies of scale, brand recognition and better negotiating traction—as well as the challenges. For example, communication gets more complicated with more layers of management. Departments may tend to silo. And talent development becomes more crucial.

“One of the things we realized is that just because we have more people doesn’t mean we have more leaders. Bench strength is not an automatic,” says CUES member and board chair Kim Sponem, CEO/president of $3 billion Summit Credit Union, Madison, Wis.

A terrifying scenario is imagining the power of AI in the hands of the bad guys. As if our current security threats weren’t scary enough! When I first read “Sharing the Cybersecurity Burden,” I must admit this quote from Gene Fredriksen, VP/chief information security officer at CUES Supplier member PSCU and CEO of National Credit Union ISAO, St. Petersburg, Fla., made me shake:

“Just like on our side we’re constantly developing tools to make it easier for our members to interface with us, the bad guys are developing better tools to make it easier—tools that they can sell to people who aren’t necessarily technical,” he says. Interestingly, when it comes to managing these cybersecurity risks, smaller credit unions might have an edge.

Where do you stand on the self-driving car question? Are you like my husband and ready to let the machine decide your direction (or fate!)? Or, are you more like my friend who wants to be in full control? Let me know at theresa@cues.

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