Defined Roadmap Accelerates Data Analytics Maturity at BCU

After more than 20 years with Forbes top 5 best-in-state credit union BCU, John Sahagian had experienced first-hand the data strengths and weaknesses of nearly every department in the cooperative. When he took on the role of Chief Data Officer in 2018, Sahagian leveraged that well-rounded expertise and the credit union’s long-held appreciation of business intelligence to accelerate the transformation of BCU’s data strategy.

“BCU has always been a very analytically minded and data thirsty organization,” said Sahagian. “There’s a long string of leaders going back decades who insisted on data-driven answers, way before we had the technology to provide them.”

Recently, the $3.4 billion BCU has started to work with predictive modeling. “Over the last two years, we transitioned to using propensity models, which take into consideration factors we didn’t even know mattered,” said Sahagian. “Those models are now the focus of our marketing efforts.”

Although BCU may be farther along in its data journey than most, Sahagian believes BCU has a lot in common with its peers. Chief among those commonalities is a belief that data analytics is vital to serving modern members in the highly personalized and predictive ways they demand.

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“There’s a clear understanding amongst most credit union leaders that data is the way forward,” said Sahagian. “Many are not sure where to start. And, it can be overwhelming to think through all the options, not to mention separate things you could do from things you should do.”

Sahagian is quick to point out this is a feeling shared by all credit unions at all stages of the data transformation journey, not just those at the beginning. So when the opportunity to work with AdvantEdge Analytics Consulting Services came along, he was excited to learn how the team would recommend that BCU continue moving forward.

The AdvantEdge Analytics team began with an examination of the credit union’s current state, including interviews with key stakeholders to gain an understanding of a wide variety of touchpoints and needs.

With the learnings from their examination of BCU’s current state, the Consulting Services team began to collaborate with BCU on a vision for its future state. First, the Consulting Services team worked to align the credit union’s business objectives and strategic drivers with the needs of the enterprise. Second, the AdvantEdge Analytics-BCU team articulated which analytics use cases were the best fit, as well as the people, processes and technology that would make them come to life.

From there, the Consulting Services team formulated a solution blueprint for an enterprise data analytics program with cross-functional components. The idea was to provide a flexible design to evolve alongside the credit union and its members.

Blueprints like this are terrific for communicating a vision. On their own, however, they do little to ease that overwhelming sense Sahagian spoke of earlier. To break down the blueprint into manageable chunks – the kind that ensures quick wins and cultural momentum – the AdvantEdge Analytics team created a phased roadmap for the implementation of both immediate and long-term data projects.

Sahagian says the experience the Consulting Services team brings from engagements outside the movement was particularly valuable. “Us credit union people can be a little insular,” he said. “We trust and collaborate well among each other, but the pace of technology and the lessons learned outside the CU industry are where we need to be looking for guidance.”

“The expertise the Consulting Services team brings transcends our industry,” said Sahagian. “We understand that we are working with people who have not only done this before but many times across several industries. That, plus the affinity BCU has for the partnership and stability of AdvantEdge Analytics’ parent company, CUNA Mutual Group, is a powerful mix that assures us we are headed in the right direction.”

To learn more, download The Strategy-First Approach to Data Analytics: Six guideposts for credit unions on the journey to data transformation.