Monday, February 25, 2008

What I Learned from The CU Skeptic on Innovation

In a recent podcast, Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing posted a great interview with the enigmatic and infamous, CU Skeptic. I love the Skeptic, he always manages to get me thinking about things from a different angle.

During the interview, the topic of innovation was brought up. The Skeptic brought up the fact that some things that are hailed as innovative, like the bankerspank Bank Vs. CU videos and Filene's "save the change" style account, are a bit less progressive than we'd like to think. He also noted a significant disconnect between the innovations being talked about online and what he saw at his local CU.

A couple of great points the Skeptic made:

  • True innovation is coming up with something brand new, not altering something that has already been done.
  • Innovation is a product of looking to the community you serve and addressing a specific need in a new way.
  • Credit Unions have the agility to see things on a local level and provide solutions that are relevant to their local demographic.

I've always thought that credit unions have a built-in advantage when it comes to innovation. We have the ability to know our members and what they want better than any national bank. It is a matter of embracing your membership, getting to know them, and being creative with your approach to the information they provide.

Look around your credit union. Look at what is going on in the environment within which you operate. Look for the positives, the negatives, the problems, and the solutions. Somewhere out there is an issue that can be best addressed by your credit union. Find that something, embrace it, and run with it.


Ginny Brady said...

I agree - I thought Skeptic's point about innovation beginning at home was well taken.

Anonymous said...

I too believe that credit unions should be great at driving innovation. Many don't have R&D departments and don't have time to research new products and services. I think collectively credit unions can build products and services that require the much needed technology.

Our League just did focus groups on Gen Y. We learned that forgiveness program (forgiving fees/overdraft priviledge) or first loan programs would work well in Maine with this demo. How do we get 69 credit unions to offer such programs to own this audience?

Debra Trautman

Andy said...


A great example of credit unions working together to drive innovation are the i3 and 30 under 30 groups from Filene. By working as a group to come up with the big ideas and tailoring them individually, credit unions can implement great new ideas without having to dedicate so many resources, while still being able to meet the local needs of the members.

Id also love to see the research you gathered from your focus groups. I'm not sure how to go about getting 69 credit unions to universally implement such programs. It might not even be possible, some CU's are more open to a bit of risk than others and so there will always be some credit unions that shy away from new ideas. If you can get the message to the credit unions who are willing to try something new, others will follow.

The New MBA said...

One thing I would debate is that innovation must be something brand new. Some of the most successful innovations were tweaking what is already out there (Curves and YellowTail come to mind - and yes, I am stealing from Blue Ocean).

Andy said...


You've got me there. Its true that great innovation can come from tweaking an existing idea. I guess what I'd say is that you have to tweak things enough that its not a blatant copy of something else, but still seems familiar enough for people to feel comfortable using it.