This week’s Governmental Affairs Conference once again demonstrated the ability of credit unions and their movement to mix purpose with innovation, the old and the new.
For instance, there was the reception the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals held at the Kennedy Center on Tuesday to celebrate two new members of the family of credit unions that have earned the “Juntos Avanzamos” designation. That’s Spanish for “Together We Advance” and credit unions that earn the designation have met a list of criteria that prove their commitment to serving and empowering Hispanic consumers.
The Texas Credit Union League launched the program about 10 years ago, and it’s now going nationwide with the help of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, a growing list of state leagues, and the Coopera marketing agency.
Pablo DeFilippi, the Federation’s vice president of membership and business development, noted at the reception that the nation’s first credit union — St. Mary’s Bank — was formed a century ago to provide financial services to Franco-American mill workers, people whose needs mirror those of many immigrants today.
Dick Ensweiler, the Texas league CEO who now heads up its successor Cornerstone Credit Union League, echoed that idea when he noted that “the credit union charter says we should be serving people of modest means. That’s why Juntos Avanzamos was created, to serve a very worthy and underserved population.”
That’s an old idea. “It’s all about getting back to people helping people,” says Coopera CEO Miriam De Dios. “It’s not a new initiative in that sense. It’s a good way to bring consumer awareness to Latinos and to all immigrant communities, really.”
There now are about 45 credit unions with the designation. More are expected to join in the months ahead, displaying their commitment as a place where financially people can go when they just want to be treated fairly and safely.
“We’re glad the credit union world is embracing so many of our underserved, and we’re thrilled Cornerstone asked us to join in,” says Federation president and CEO Cathie Mahon. “This is the kind of true cooperation we need to have to organize in ways that we can truly serve our communities.”
That’s innovation in action pushing forward the original values of the credit union movement by spreading financial empowerment in innovative new ways.
Also from the GAC:
Technology has a major role, too. For instance, a credit union innovation think tank has developed software that connects members to their accounts by voice through the new personal assistant and voice interaction devices such as Amazon’s ECHO or Microsoft’s Cortana.
Called the Financial Innovations Voice Experience, it was developed by longtime credit union technologist John Best and his Best Innovation Group (BIG) in partnership with core processor Symitar. Check out a demo here.
This is the FIBOT that credit union technologist John Best and his BIG team are developing to begin providing the Internet of Things to credit union members.
The FIVE platform is a major part of Best’s intent to empower credit unions’ ability to participate in the Internet of Things, beginning with the FIVE platform now being rolled out, to be followed by development of a device of BIG’s own devices, a small machine that would take orders and would even include its own card slot.
“It took me a while to get my head around what it is, but finally I had the revelation that from the credit union perspective, it’s the next generation of IVR-type capability,” Symitar president Ted Bilke says of the new FIVE interface. That includes balances, last transactions, transfers, and so on by voice, only through Internet-enabled channels instead of through the phone.
“It’s another demonstration of what’s possible,” says the longtime Symitar executive, who opened his Episys platform to Best and his development team. “They built it in two weeks using our Web services. That’s something that would have taken two months not that long ago.”
So what else might be possible? Bilke mentioned managers being able to rule on teller overrides through their Apple Watches as just one example.
Meanwhile, Best says more will be coming from FIBOTICS, a new division of BIG whose long-term goal is to introduce financial artificial intelligence to every channel. That may well include cars and refrigerators.
In a moment of Zen for those who like to see technology meet purpose, the official announcement says this: “FIBOTICS will promote financial literacy by using the processing power of machine learning and the security and resilience of blockchain to create intuitions and guidance for members by analyzing their data and making suggestions to improve their financial lives.”
No doubt big thinkers like Best and his BIG ideas, and other innovators across the industry, will have their say in this pursuit of product and purpose. And many users of those innovative new tools cooperatively developed may well be members of credit unions in underserved urban neighborhoods and rural banking deserts. And they may well be Latino consumers who see the Juntos Avanzamos flag and know they can safely assimilate and grow their financial lives there.
Juntos Avanzamos. Together We Advance.
FIBOTICS will be highlighted at the 2016 AXFI Conference set for June 26-29 in Minneapolis. More here.
The Federation, meanwhile, will hold its annual conference in November in Dallas, home to one of the newest Juntos Avanzamos credit unions. Details on that will be announced.