The Closest Humans Get to Seeing the Future

8 minutes with Benito Santoro, Client Strategy Consultant

What follows is part of our series “8 Minutes with AdvantEdge Analytics,” a collection of eight-minute (or less) reads featuring brief interviews with our top thinkers on trending topics in the credit union space.

Why did you choose this topic?

Although many things separate us as a society, there is so much that connects us. Change is a one of them. An indiscriminate force that eventually comes for every person and every organization, change can be frightening. Just as often, though, it can be awakening.

Ideally, we see change coming. In these circumstances, we have time to contemplate proactive adjustments to accommodate change… or even better… leverage it for the benefit of our constituents.

Of course, seeing around the corner isn’t always possible. In fact, predictability is feeling rarer by the day. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to the field of analytics. It’s the closest humans can get to seeing the future in a concrete way.

How does this topic hit close to home for you?

My career has exposed me to more than a dozen industries spanning close to 15 years. As I worked in different positions within each of the major functions of a business, there was one thing that translated across every silo: the criticality of agility. Being ready to adapt quickly to change was a rallying cry in every company and every department I served.

Benito Santoro

Benito Santoro, Client Strategy Consultant, AdvantEdge Analytics

Whether it’s a fintech competitor or a global pandemic, there will always be external forces pressuring credit unions to change. The professional community of which I’m proud to be a part is jumping headfirst into confronting change on behalf of the nation’s credit unions.

The honest truth is that doing so is challenging. But, we have such a strong belief in our vision for the movement that we are making huge investments in the industry’s analytics maturity. We’re confident doing so will enable a competitive nimbleness among credit unions, the likes of which the financial world has never seen.

Tell me more. What keeps you up at night?

I’m less of a worrier, more of an activator. So while not much keeps me awake, plenty of things wake me up.

The hope and the expectation that my team will help credit unions become change agents excites me to action in the morning. Through the transformative power of analytics, we collaborate to change the rules of the game, shorten investment cycles and produce returns faster than anyone expects. The results are improved confidence in data analytics as a growth strategy, which builds trust and a momentum you can’t believe.

Take data visualization as just one example. In a recent engagement with an Alabama credit union, our team was able to put actionable insights from call center data into the hands of several business users. Just one workshop together produced astounding results, and went on to fuel further insights that informed business decisions around critical operations, such as call center staffing. As a result, the credit union achieved a substantial reduction in abandoned call rates, from 14 percent to 1 percent, and an increase in positive outcomes, from 52 percent to 77 percent.

Making data-driven decisions, especially in high-touch areas like the member call center, allows credit unions to make small tweaks that create huge experience improvements – something that is particularly meaningful during chaotic times.

Today, following a series of mini workshops, the credit union has embraced a set of light-duty, self-service analytics tools that keep them moving swiftly as they detect changes. More importantly, the credit union has hit the ground running and is now creating its own analytics solutions, essentially driving the self-service analytics process on its own.

What’s happening right now that makes this topic important?

Change has accelerated dramatically as the world has confronted the many consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, with civil unrest over systemic racism and injustice adding to the turmoil, it becomes even more difficult to keep a finger on the pulse of shifting priorities and values.

The best thing the credit union movement can do now is take action. Even when the steps we take aren’t perfect, they reduce uncertainty. That’s because every step, wrong or right, provides an opportunity to learn. It’s the basis of all human – and not coincidentally, machine – learning. Action deescalates fear and opens doors for renewed commitment to objectives, new investments and positive outcomes.

How is this going to look a year down the road? What about 5 years?

Over the next 12 months, credit unions will become more comfortable in their newly agile shoes. The on-your-toes stance leaders have been forced to take will translate into even greater agility in the future. Offers, campaigns, products – all of these decisions will be made faster and will be monitored in real-time to understand their impact on members and the credit union.

Five years down the road, much more of the decision-making process will be supported by automated data and analytics applications. Credit unions that are competing with big banks, digital banks and fintech disruptors will turn to automated and seamless data ecosystems to provide frontline staff with real-time member insights. That same ecosystem, when coupled with predictive modeling and prescriptive analytics, will enable them to more quickly respond to unexpected events and to better understand the implications of their decisions on members and the credit union. Best of all, the data that enables them to take action will more easily and reliably measure the ROI of their initiatives.

The great thing, though, is there are things credit unions can do right now to get in position to excel with analytics down the road. Data visualization and self-service analytics are excellent places to start. If the AdvantEdge Analytics Consulting Services team and I can chat with your credit union to assess your readiness for analytics maturity, don’t hesitate to get in touch.