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Smart Financial's Jason Deitz Join Filene's i3 Elite
Thursday, October 30, 2014 7:00 AM

Jason Deitz

Filene Research, the credit union industry's "think and do tank," recently announced the newest class of 20 participants in its i3 innovation program, and among them are two credit union executives from the Cornerstone region:  Christopher Danvers from American Airlines in Fort Worth, and Jason Deitz from Smart Financial Credit Union in Houston, Texas.

The i3 is a two-year program that unites some of the industry's most creative thinkers and gives them a chance to collaborate and solve its most challenging problems. Ideas developed in the i3 program during its first decade have gone on to change state laws, improve the financial lives of millions of consumers, and save countless millions of dollars for credit unions.

Jason Deitz says he's honored to be an i3'er. "I know there is a lot of hard work ahead, and I look forward to working with a group of talented credit union people from all over the nation."

Deitz has been with Smart Financial for 21 years. In that time, he gained experience in branch operations, HR, the call center, marketing. He's currently vice president business development and facilities, as well as part of their newly formed charitable foundation.

When the Filene opportunity came up, Deitz was already in a position to not only come up with new concepts but to implement them at his credit union. He had been part of two initiatives at Smart Financial:  the Express Branch Concept and the Smart Financial Foundation. These two big concepts, now in use, helped Deitz win a spot on the Filene team.

Deitz explains his concepts. "The Express Branch Concept is where we use technology to provide self-service, assisted service, and full service to our members. In doing that, we're leasing small retail spaces instead of building large traditional branches. The result is a less expensive branch layout from a rent and operational perspective and with need for fewer personnel. This has allowed us to rapidly expand our branch network without spending too much."

The Smart Financial Foundation concept evolved from the credit union's small scholarship program into a full-fledged charitable foundation. "Not only are we raising money and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars and man hours to the community," Deitz says, "we are opening doors with some of our large SEGs that have their own foundations. It has also been beneficial when entering new markets. Foundations are gaining influence and power, and we wanted to be able to communicate in that realm. Also, engagement marketing is based on promoting what good your company has done for the community. Now we have the perfect centerpiece." 

Why did Deitz want to become part of Filene's i3 team? "The credit union industry is near and dear to my heart," Deitz says. "I believe in the movement, and it concerns me to know that a credit union a day is either acquired, merged, or simply closes its doors. It is a huge challenge for credit unions to be competitive with the mega banks, strong community banks, and alternative institutions that are entering the market. Innovation is key to keeping credit unions not only competitive but leaders in the financial industry. Bigger doesn't mean better!"

Smart Financial's SVP of Business Development and Facilities Jenny Smith said, "We are extremely excited and proud that a member of our family has been chosen. Jason and I have worked closely together in the last five years and collaborated on many different projects, including starting two foundations, one public and one private. Through the years, I have found Jason to be extremely hard-working, bright, loyal, resourceful, and pleasant. He oversees a group of high-performing individuals, and he leads by example. We all are very proud of his appointment and will do whatever it takes to help him fulfill his commitment to the i3 team."  

Andrew Downin, innovation director at Filene reports, "This was by far the strongest group of applicants we’ve had in recent memory. They join i³ at a point in our movement's history when innovation is critical. Credit unions face non-traditional competitors, disruptive technologies, and increasing demands from consumers. This perfect storm of impacts requires that our industry adopt innovative thinking like never before. These i3'ers are going to lead the way."

For a list of all current i³ members, please visit filene.org/innovate/i3-community.