New Mexico’s Nusenda works to boost capital access and financial acumen; judges cite other nominees for digital small business banking that includes Uber-style service in Poland.
A credit union has walked away with top honors for innovation at one of the financial industry’s top trade shows, and it was for being old school.
Nusenda Credit Union ($1.6B, Albuquerque, NM) was named the “Most Innovative Community-Based Banking Organization” at the 2015 Global Banking Innovation Awards held at BAI Retail Delivery 2015 this week in Las Vegas, NV.
The 152,000-member Nusenda — which changed its name from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union earlier this year — also received the “Innovation in Societal and Community Impact Award.”
A panel of international judges singled out the New Mexico credit union from the array of mobile and tablet apps and digital branch models and other tech-based advances. The judges particularly liked Nusenda’s Co-Op Capital, a collaborative financial product used to widen access to capital for low-income entrepreneurs, and its Powering Success and Parent University programs, “which create new, sustainable models to improve student retention and graduation by combining financial education and assistance from multiple resource points.”
“It’s not sexy but it’s important,” Nusenda president and CEO Terry Laudick said after the ceremony. “We’re focusing on our charter and purpose as a not-for-profit, and look at ourselves as an economic resource rather than a financial services provider. Sticking with the personal banking philosophy of yesteryear also helps us serve that large portion of our membership that doesn’t have access to a lot of technology.”
That personalization stands in stark contrast to what one speaker notes is happening in the digital world. “We loan to the data because we never see the people anymore,” Arkadi Kuhlmann, the ING Direct founder and more recently creator of Zenbanx, a multi-currency mobile account platform, noted in one of the BAI sessions.
Nusenda’s recognition also made an interesting counterpoint in the same awards ceremony that cited a Polish bank for what essentially is an Uber-type service for its small business customers. A small BMW coupe is equipped as a multifunctional ATM and depository service that customers can book through a mobile app to come to their location.
Another idea that credit unions here might find interesting: a Turkish bank’s cloud-based platform for small enterprises and individual entrepreneurs that includes banking services as well as contact management, social media integration, sales tracking and reporting, and even marketing functions like publishing.
Nusenda wasn’t the only credit union feted. BECU ($13.6B, Tukwila, WA) was a finalist for implementing real-time transaction monitoring and analytics software in its ATM network. The new tools include alerts that identify problems and measure resolution time at specific ATMs, providing granular details such as calculations of the number of transactions lost during an outage, as well as insight on negative member experience.
In fact, using big data and all available channels were recurring themes at the BAI confab, but there are constraints that could quickly impose a reality check.
“The problem with omnichannel is that ‘omni’ means ‘everything,’ and what if you have only say, $100 to do something at your credit union with,” asks Sam Kilmer, a senior director at Cornerstone Advisors. “What are you going to spend it on? That’s what I see happening right now in the credit unions we talk to every day.”
Begin with digital and double down where you can to meet those expectations, Kilmer advises, but he also pointed to a takeaway from keynote speaker Barbara Corcoran, the “Shark Tank” star who says she allocated 8% of her real estate company’s budget to her staff for them “to blow” on trying out new ideas.
“Call it research and development, call it pilot projects or betas, call it what you want,” Kilmer says. “But consider taking a few percentage points of your IT budget to check out projects that you don’t necessarily know will work. You don’t have to celebrate failure, but you can celebrate pilots.”
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