What I Learned at Innovation Summit

By Tim Peterson, President, AdvantEdge Analytics

Partnerships are a hallmark of the credit union industry. Even in an increasingly digital world, face-to-face time with our industry peers keeps the backbone of the movement strong.

I recently had the opportunity to join our growing group of credit union partners at AdvantEdge Analytics’ 2019 Innovation Summit. During the two-day event, it was a privilege to co-create the future of financial services alongside innovative credit union people who embrace an experiment-to-learn strategy.

Data is coming at us fast and furiously, and the volume of data being aggregated today is almost incomprehensible. By hosting Innovation Summit, our goal was to help our credit union partners, and our own team members, embrace the art of possibility with the science of data.

From a special behind-the-scenes tour at the Microsoft Technology Center, to a lineup of thought-provoking speakers, Innovation Summit certainly opened my mind to the opportunities that exist for credit unions. Below are some of the key insights that stood out to me.

innovation summit

Engaging Consumers

The way businesses engage consumers is constantly evolving. Before the dawn of the Internet, it was phone calls and brick-and-mortar. Then came websites followed by slick customer portals. Then just over a decade ago – on July 10, 2008 – Steve Jobs introduced the App Store, igniting a cultural, social and economic phenomenon that transformed how people engage and interact. So what’s next?


In his opening keynote, Microsoft Technology Architect Kevin Orbaker walked us through a demo of a chatbot that’s able to dramatically simplify complex processes such as qualifying a member for a car loan – using deep artificial intelligence and conversation. In the demo, the chatbot asks the consumer if she has a quote from the car dealer. The consumer sends a photo of the document. With the help of machine learning, the chatbot can pull out the relevant information in real-time and let her know if she qualifies for a loan.

Data and sophisticated algorithms are making it possible to drive a personal, meaningful conversation – even within a chatbot. And technology partners like Microsoft are doing the heavy lifting that will enable businesses to plug into technology that can drive a better consumer experience – whenever and wherever it is most convenient.

Owning the Member Experience

In his closing keynote, First Tech Federal Credit Union’s Chief Technology and Digital Officer Mike Upton stressed how important it is for credit unions – not vendors or fintechs – to own their member experience. APIs and coopetition are the paths to make this possible.

Finding partners that offer platforms with rich APIs credit unions can plug and play into their own environment is key to owning the member experience.

First Tech’s strategy is to build the model and the paradigm. That’s where the credit union’s API strategy and its approach to coopetition come into play. Because, as Upton rightly pointed out, it’s going to be really hard to introduce new innovations if you’re trying to do everything yourself.

Building technology yourself is expensive and often not sustainable. The volume of data being captured is going to increase tenfold in the next two years. Credit unions should be asking themselves: Will I have the systems, people and capital to keep up with the pace?

Making Data Come Alive

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the theme of this year’s Innovation Summit – “Making Data Come Alive.” Making data come alive in the credit union space is about better serving members by better knowing members.

That is the consumer expectation. As more digital brands change the way people live, work and play, credit unions are expected to keep pace – all while maintaining that human touch that makes them distinctive. That’s where digital transformation comes into play. We know that to provide exceptional digital experiences, data competency is a requirement.

The challenge for us in the credit union space is to make data come alive not only for the enriching member and staff experiences it can generate, but also for the strategic business intelligence it can provide. Transformation is as much about recognizing the future need of members as it is about addressing the pain points of today.

Predictive models, fed a steady diet of data, are being trained to streamline everything from new account opening to fraud detection. These classic friction points are rooted in protecting the financial institution, and rightly so. With the help of machine learning algorithms, we can now protect the credit union while also creating a simple, perhaps even enjoyable, experience for the member.

At Innovation Summit 2019, we explored not only the ways data can help power the next wave of value creation for credit unions, but even more, how to truly derive value from data. We envisioned the art of the possible and co-created the future of financial services.

Making data come alive is not a simple flip of the data switch. It’s a journey – and one AdvantEdge Analytics is committed to taking alongside our credit union partners. We feel a responsibility to use our unparalleled data and talent scale for the benefit of the movement. CUNA Mutual Group has been providing a platform for credit unions to collaborate for more than 80 years, and we will continue to do so through events like Innovation Summit.