The Future of Credit Union Vitality in Three Little Words

Build. Buy. Partner.

Digital transformation is a journey, and with today’s competitive and disruptive environment, it can seem like a race. Every runner knows a great race-day depends on confronting limitations and developing a series of strengths. How an athlete goes about assessing and acquiring those strengths is often the difference between success and failure.

The runner may ask:

  • Does my exercise routine still make sense, or will a change build important, injury-resistant muscles?
  • Can I muddle through with last year’s running shoes, or should I buy high-tech footwear?
  • Do I go it alone or partner with a coach?

Credit unions have similar options as they push for greater distance between them and a wide swath of competitors: Build. Buy. Partner. Each of these strategies has the potential to lengthen a credit union’s stride, getting them to various checkpoints throughout the digital transformation race more quickly.

So, how does a credit union determine when it’s right to build, buy, or partner?

The first option is likely the most challenging. That said, there are plenty of credit unions today building their own digital products, services and platforms. If the money and talent are in place, and building the solution will not draw those resources away from the credit union’s core competencies, build away.

Buying a ready-made solution makes the most sense when what is already available “as is” on the market is well-suited to the credit union’s goal. At that point, allocating financial and human resources to developing that which already exists doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Partnering can be a beautiful, best-of-both-worlds solution. Collaborating with an entity that supplements the credit union’s strengths delivers in a couple of ways. First, the credit union is able to realize many of the benefits of building but without the reallocation of resources. Speed is another factor. Often, a partner has done the heavy-lifting on the development side, so the credit union can assist in the creation of a few market-appropriate tweaks. Then, it’s off to the races.

What are the first steps to making the right choice?

When choosing between the options, start with what you know about your credit union:

  • How savvy are you to take on a build-out of a particular digital solution?
  • How gung-ho is your leadership to allocate resources to its development? What about the rest of the organization?
  • From the front-line to the board room, are the right people willing to adopt this as an enterprise-wide initiative, or will you face roadblocks at every turn?

To find some of these answers, socialize the concept. See if everyone agrees with your assessment of the product, service or platform’s worth. You may be surprised at the different definitions of value within your credit union.

We talk about this a lot with credit unions that are strategically investing in analytics. Culture is a big piece of the digital transformation pie. For a credit union to achieve success with data analytics, for instance, everyone must benefit from the data insights they deliver, not just one department or set of stakeholders.

Even if consensus around value does not exist in your organization today, your innovation need not be doomed. Educating your internal audience on the ways in which the solution will improve their day-to-day lives can have a significant impact on their perceptions. And when you show them how the innovation will ultimately improve the financial health of your members, you’ll be on your way to building not only consensus – but excitement – for the next phase of your digital transformation.

Shazia Manus is Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer for AdvantEdge Analytics.