Technology trends and the opportunity costs of early adopter and late majority credit unions

More than ever, credit union members have an endless array of options that allow them quick and easy access to all of their financial needs, regardless of the preferred channel of interaction. Credit unions must consider challenging questions to remain relevant: Are we a financial services organization looking to catch up with technology? Or can we shift to a technology company that excels in providing financial services to our community? Trust is the key, but how do we develop the personalization through social media and other digital channels that members turn to? As credit unions weigh the costs and benefits of investing in technology, is it best to cater to your current membership, or is it more advantageous to adopt newer, costlier digital channels and technologies?

A whitepaper discussing these issues has been published by the Southeast Regional Credit Union Schools (SRCUS). The paper was authored by a team of third-year students in the SE CUNA Management School program comprised of Ben Bailey, Champion Credit Union (Waynesville, NC); Greg Daniels, ElecTel Cooperative Federal Credit Union (Raleigh, NC); John Garrett, LGE Community Credit Union (Marietta, GA); Jeff Kolhagen, IBM Southeast Employees Credit Union (Delray Beach, FL); and Kevan Williamson, Georgia’s Own Credit Union (Atlanta, GA). Completion of the written project and an oral presentation of the research report is a prerequisite for graduation from the program. This team of students received recognition at the 2017 SE CUNA Management School graduation ceremonies earlier this summer for their exceptional work on the research paper.

Though technology trends, such as “data science” and “big data”, are rampant buzzwords in any relevant business these days, a much more focused analysis of general data shows us that implementing a strategic technology plan in this era of digital transformation is paramount for the success of credit unions. In the report, “Technology trends and the opportunity costs of early adopter and late majority credit unions”, the authors explain how credit unions have long been known for their focus on the financial betterment of their members and local communities but are too often leery of the varying obstacles that some large-scale technology changes can present. The reality is that other financial institutions are pouring substantial amounts of resources into technologies that are often not an option for most credit unions. Despite the vast majority of credit unions being well capitalized and poised to spend dollars on new opportunities, the ability to understand the inner workings of technologies to ensure they make the proper decisions at the proper time is reaching complexity at a rate that ironically aligns with the very technologies looking to be adopted.

The authors posit that technology is only a tool, but one in which each credit union should heavily invest under the guidance of a structured process and a strategic technology plan, and this plan should always look to ensure security, efficiency and reliability of new solutions. There is not a secret technology adoption plan that can be copied; there is only your credit union’s unique plan – which may or may not even exist yet. Credit unions exist to meet members’ needs and must seek structured processes to rise through the digital transformation at the right time. The concept of “people-helping-people” is still extremely relevant in today’s world; now, more than ever, it relies heavily on a tool called technology.

To access a complimentary copy of the white paper, please visit

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