By Dr. Debbie Bartoo
Innovation. It seems to be everywhere, and everyone wants it. Where innovation is concerned, many executives and other leaders are prone to a heightened state of suggestibility, as if every new innovation they encounter is worth considering. But how can we balance nuanced appreciation for what’s “new” with honest regard for what’s necessary? And who within a company is watching for, creating and rallying for innovation?
Establishing an Innovation Evaluation Process
As hundreds of new startups emerge every year, finding those that resonate with credit unions and their members can be quite challenging. And while the technology they are promoting or creating might seem apt for credit union members, sometimes these solutions could take considerable time to bring to market—rendering them null for consideration until they are available. In other cases, unique solutions and offerings can help differentiate services quickly and provide the frictionless experience nearly all members desire, which is the ideal innovation scenario for credit unions.
Given there are hundreds of options at varying levels of maturity, it is important for credit unions and their partners, like credit union service organizations (CUSOs), to establish an innovation evaluation process. These organizations should evaluate the direction each startup’s technology is heading, the products being developed, and whether or not a product is worthy of a proof of concept. Time to market should certainly also be a consideration. After all, the goal of adopting innovation is to help credit unions stay top-of-wallet by offering members the latest and greatest solutions and services.
Discernment in evaluating the newest innovations and industry trends ensures the right partners and solutions can be brought to market for success and eventually integrated into a credit union’s operating systems.
Partnering to Find the Right Innovations
The innovation evaluation process should be detailed and rigorous in order to ensure the greatest benefits for members and highest return on investments. For that reason, some credit unions and CUSOs might partner with an accredited group that will do background research on their behalf. Mastercard’s Start Path is one such program that PSCU utilizes to help determine which solutions the CUSO should consider offering to its owner credit unions and, in turn, their members.
Many companies apply to the Start Path program each year, but only a select few later-stage fintech companies that are well on their way to success and have been confirmed as applicable and beneficial for financial services partners are accepted. As such, it serves as one of the many possible starting points for PSCU’s innovation evaluation process as the CUSO knows these startups have already “passed” Mastercard’s assessment.
Selecting Innovations for a Stronger Tomorrow
In examining new innovations in anticipation of the promise of a stronger tomorrow, credit unions and CUSOs need to continue to learn and investigate solutions on behalf of their stakeholders. These organizations need to not just be aware of how technology trends are emerging, but to also understand how these trends apply to credit unions and their members. The pace of innovation is not expected to slow anytime soon, so identifying those companies that can sustain themselves in the marketplace with solutions that are relevant to credit unions is increasingly crucial. Credit unions and their partners should always be in search of those companies with innovations they can firmly rely on for help competing in a rapidly changing world.
Dr. Debbie Bartoo focuses on creating innovative new service offerings in financial services. Her experience spans innovation, strategy and analytics in digital channels in the banking and payments industry. She has been involved in various industry initiatives, including the Federal Reserve Secure Payments Task Force, their Directory Working Group and the U.S. Payments Council. She also is a mentor in the Queen City Fintech program, which engages with Fintech startup companies to provide access to mentorship, capital and relationships with other financial services organizations.