How credit unions can innovate like start-ups

Don’t worry. You don’t have to write a single line of code.

When you think of Silicon Valley, credit unions aren’t normally the first thing that comes to mind. I think even the most ardent credit union advocate would recognize there is room for improvement in the industry as far as innovation goes. Thirty minutes browsing through the websites of the 5,000 credit unions scattered across the US would seem to confirm this.

Innovation has taken on mystical properties. We think it’s something that incredibly creative people do, tucked away for years in some lab before revealing some transformative technology like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

Perhaps the image of the lone inventor or the digitally native millennial spring to mind. Innovation is for young sofa-surfing folk, living day to day until they strike it rich and disrupt an entire industry overnight. Or they go broke. It’s binary. Win or lose.

Most credit unions, and indeed most companies, don’t feel that they can be great innovators. Binary outcomes don’t sit well with financial institutions whose job it is to safely protect other people’s money. Besides, credit unions have been around since the 1860s. Membership in the U.S. is at record levels. It works, so let’s do more of what works.


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