What’s In A Name: Digital Services Architect

Jerry Reese helps design and direct the evolving member experience at Honda FCU.

 
 

With 10 branches in five states and a SEG membership dispersed well beyond that, Honda Federal Credit Union ($881.5M, Torrance, CA) understands well the digital service imperative.

That’s why the California-based credit union continues to upgrade the online and mobile experience it offers its nearly 69,000 members. It's also and why, a couple years ago, the credit union created the role of “digital services architect.”

Jerry Reese holds that title, and his role at Honda FCU has evolved along with what he calls the “member first service strategy” he now is responsible for helping to execute.

Here is his story.

Please describe the path your career has taken.

Jerry Reese: I’ve been with Honda FCU for the past 16 years. Before that I worked for four years in IT at Honda of America Manufacturing’s engine plant here in Anna, OH. At the credit union, I started on the IT support desk specializing in infrastructure management and network operations. I then moved to the network engineer role where I managed our branch and ATM networks and integrated new technologies. 

I also had the privilege to serve as the lead network architect for our Honda Indiana plant branch. During this time, we were becoming increasingly aware of the digital disruption that was taking place. It was very challenging and exciting.

When and why did Honda FCU create the role of digital services architect?

JR: I assumed that role in October 2017. We saw the disruption taking place in digital banking, and after taking a deeper look at our digital banking channels and related member experiences around digital touchpoints, it was clear we needed to align with the changes. Creating this new digital services architect position was a critical and necessary response.

Did the credit union create the role specifically for you?

JR: I would love to say yes (wink)! That said, working in the IT department for Honda FCU for more than 14 years helped me stand out as a candidate for the position. Digital banking is clearly a technology offering. However, Honda FCU looks at digital banking as a member experience offering. As my manager, our CXO Brock Kasnick, always says, “We’re in the experience business.” 

What made you a great fit for this job? 

CU QUICK FACTS

Honda FCU
Data as of 12.31.19

HQ: Torrance, CA
ASSETS: $881.5M
MEMBERS: 68,794
BRANCHES: 10
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 8.3%
ROA: 0.51%

JR: When I was in IT, my customers were my colleagues. My projects and attention were focused on managing our networks to support our branches and staff departments. I needed to align closely with department management and strategy to understand the staff experience and make sure I sustained or enhanced that experience with every network project. As digital services architect, my attention and alignment remain focused on experience and expectations, only my customer has changed. Now, it’s our members and their digital experience.

What are your areas of responsibility?

JR: My primary responsibilities involve championing innovation, member experience, and strategy around all existing and emerging digital banking channels. I focus on strategic digital service initiatives and oversee the development, implementation, and measurement of success around strategic digital service delivery. All that said, I manage our members’ digital experience.

What’s dominating your daily routine these days?

JR: We’re in the process of converting to a new digital banking service provider. After I took the position in October 2017, I focused several months on just understanding the digital landscape for financial institutions. After that, I was tasked with kick-starting an RFP processes to select a new provider, which took about nine months. 

We’re nearing the end of our implementation, finalizing testing, and gearing up training and communication for staff and members in preparation for our launch this spring. There’s still a lot of work to do yet, but our internal project team members have worked tirelessly to get us to this point. We’re all excited to go live.

How does your role fit into the overall approach to digital services at Honda FCU?

JR: I work closely with my manager [CXO Brock Kasnick] to understand the strategy and overall Honda FCU direction from our senior management team, who are themselves responsible for driving our digital transformation from a corporate perspective. 

I manage our development and trusted digital services road maps, which align with our corporate strategic projects. I also manage the integration of upgrades we intend to perform around digital banking specifically. I’m constantly looking to enhance and augment this process. Internal department alignment and engagement from the top down is paramount in a successful digital services approach. 

How does your work help create a better member experience for the end user at Honda FCU? 

JR: Our members are constantly comparing their Honda FCU digital experience to FANG [Facebook, Apple, Netflix & Google]. Understanding this, we acknowledge that efforts must be made to continually understand and adjust. This is obviously a huge challenge. I help by listening to member and staff feedback about their digital experiences, staying alert and aware of trending digital technology, and collaborating with internal department leads as well as senior managers to better understand strategic direction. All of these steps together help align the organization and provide the best digital experience for Honda associates and their family members.

What has been the biggest product success you’ve been a part of at Honda FCU? Why do you choose that one? 

JR: This would easily be the digital banking implementation project ongoing today. In the past, I have been a part of large organizationalwide IT projects that have positively affected Honda FCU departments and branches. This is the first major member-centric project I’ve been a part of. 

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Ampersand

This project is exciting for our members and our staff as well as a strategic move. Our new digital banking solution allows us to pivot toward a mobile-first initiative — adding new and beneficial services and features our members want and expect — and to gain digital alignment and confluence throughout all Honda FCU digital touchpoints.

What's some advice you have for other credit unions trying to improve the digital banking experience?

JR: Never hesitate to ask your members to share their thoughts. The ability for you to enhance your members’ experience is only as good as the data you receive from them. Continue to ask your members themselves and to ask your staff what members are saying. Voice of the Customer/Member is truly a beacon to a successful digital banking experience no matter the changes you make. 

How do you track success in your job? 

JR: We lean on member experience and digital services input gained through members and staff surveys to better understand success. We also rely on what members share with our staff directly. We set goals and track active member participation and usage metrics as well as retention of users on a monthly basis. And, we rely on a third-party research company to provide us member feedback around digital adoption. 

I work closely with our CXO to identify our digital services successes and areas for improvement. Together, we develop goals and lay out the approach for the next year. Again, collaboration and senior management team involvement is imperative for a successful digital services outcome.

What do you do to stay current with topics that fall under your role?

JR: From a value perspective, I lean on three main offerings: Callahan & Associates, The Financial Brand, and Digital Banking Report. From a conference perspective, I continue to discover value in attending the Financial Brand Forum. I also attend our digital banking provider’s client conference. 

In addition, I’m a member of the Digital Innovation Council with Sherpa Technologies [a Corporate One CUSO] where we evaluate forward-thinking fintech partnerships that enhance the members digital experience. Likewise, as a member of the FIS Digital Banking Payments Advisory Board, I am exposed to endless value around changes to existing and new digital payments technology and solutions.

Job titles say as much about the organization as they do the person. Have you seen a title you’d like to know more about? Let senior writer Marc Rapport know at mrapport@creditunions.com or (202) 223-3920, ext. 504. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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