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Innovation is Catalyst Corporate’s Answer for Sustaining Relevance
Friday, September 23, 2016 6:40 AM

Nearly three years ago, Catalyst Corporate began a journey to create a culture of innovation with the intent to deliver solutions for challenges faced by credit unions. The first step was establishment of Catalyst Innovation Groups. These innovation groups, which are based on Filene Research Institute's “human-centered design” model, use a multi-layered approach of gleaning insights and ideas from staff, management and member credit unions.

“Innovation, for Catalyst, is about sustaining relevance in a rapidly changing landscape,” said Amy Fuller, Catalyst Corporate’s vice president of innovative strategy. “Catalyst Corporate can act as an aggregator, hub, and collaborator to help our members remain competitive in the face of intense disruptive pressure from the fintech sector.”

Each spring, these groups kick off a new innovation cycle, which begins with identifying problems and digging into their root causes. This research phase is followed by an ideation process, which is supported through a range of thought-provoking techniques.

This year, Catalyst Corporate took the process one step further and invited three credit union executives to participate in the Catalyst Innovation Group program, which yielded excellent results. The executives were Tim McCoy, vice president marketing and e-commerce at InTouch Credit Union; Shelli McCoy, vice president/operations and member services at Tarrant County's Credit Union; and Gail End, senior vice president of operations at American Airlines Federal Credit Union.

“Collaboration and being part of something potentially bigger than just the day-to-day jobs we do is pretty exciting,” said Tim McCoy. “It’s a win-win for multiple stakeholders.”

Shelli McCoy agrees. “I think any time you can partner together in the cooperative spirit, everyone involved gains insight into what others are doing,” she said.

Each “season,” teams spend several months researching feasibility and viability of concepts and developing a prototype and business case, which is eventually presented to management. “This process has definitely had me thinking outside of my box,” said Shelli McCoy. “I am a problem solver, so to really trust the process and not immediately come up with a solution has really made me look at things quite differently.”

And while innovation has become a buzzword in recent years, the underlying purpose of this process is highly strategic. “It’s simply impossible to remain static in an ever-changing environment and expect to survive, much less be successful,” Fuller says.

Catalyst Corporate’s innovation strategy also employs a company-wide idea generation program called Bright Ideas; staff participation in the national Filene i3 program; a recent investment in a progressive research and development credit union service organization called MEMBERS Development Company; and ongoing participation in education and networking events with potential to propel forward-thinking ideas.

Since its inception, the Innovation Group has rolled out Checking with Benefits, a service that helps credit unions tap into what is considered one of the most important competitive differentiators among millennials: account-based rewards. Two other services from the 2015 cycle are currently undergoing additional research. And midway through its third season, the Catalyst Innovation Group is actively engaged in developing concepts to present to management this fall.

“Next year we hope to leverage the immense potential of our staff even more through re-tooled idea generation processes and by using purpose-driven problem statements that ensure ideas align with overall strategy,” said Fuller. “Innovation requires collaboration from a diverse group of people to optimize the number and quality of meaningful insights and perspectives that drive the development of ideas with the potential to succeed.”

“I’ve gained a greater appreciation for what is important to Catalyst and what it is trying to do that may be different than other companies selling services to credit unions,” said Tim McCoy.

“One of the benefits of having a focused, structured commitment to innovation is that we don’t lose sight of any ideas brought forward, such as when the timing may not have been ideal when the concept was raised initially,” said Fuller. “We are building an archive of research and insights with the potential to serve Catalyst members well into the future.”

Catalyst Corporate is an endorsed five-star business partner of Credit Union Resources, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cornerstone Credit Union League. For more information or to volunteer to participate in future Catalyst Innovation Groups, contact Amy Fuller at afuller@catalystcorp.org or 800-442-5763, ext. 7607.