The biggest and brightest credit union minds converge in Cambridge

Filene’s signature event educates, excites, and encourages action

MADISON, WI (December 4, 2015) — Two-hundred movers and shakers from the credit union system attended Filene Research Institute’s signature event, big.bright.minds held on the Harvard University campus December 1 – 3, 2015. Academic and industry experts explored topics as diverse as the financial capability of Americans, member loyalty, credit union market share, strategic leadership, consumer-focused innovation, and financial technology. Presentations by Filene i3 innovators, “Day Away” trips, and a team of Crashers representing The Cooperative Trust made the experience an event to remember.


At the Annual Member Meeting, held at the Harvard Faculty Club, Filene shared results from the past fiscal year (ended June 30, 2015) and previewed the exciting plans for 2016.

“I’m excited about the future for credit unions. Filene’s nearly 1,000 members remind me daily that together we can create change in consumer finance,” said Mark Meyer, CEO of Filene Research Institute. “This event gives Filene a chance to thank our members and hear their feedback and ideas. And that is invaluable.”


At big.bright.minds, Filene Fellows and researchers shared consumer insights, industry trends, and their big ideas on how to solve problems and better serve members.

Dennis Campbell, Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of Business Administration at

Harvard Business School, showed how strategy has to embrace business culture and depends on it for execution.

“Culture is the shared beliefs and values of employees that guide their discretionary behavior in ways that are beneficial for the sustained performance of the organization. But another useful definition is: Culture is what guides decisions in the absence of policy,” explained Campbell.

A respected authority on financial literacy and financial education, Annamaria Lusardi, Denit Trust Chair of Economics and Accountancy, at George Washington University expored the disturbing gaps in financial capability in the United States and around the world. Some gaps are worse than others:

“People really understand inflation. But risk diversification is hard. It’s not intuitive. Because so much of financial well being depends on prudent diversification, we have to do better teaching this and making it crystal clear,” said Lusardi.

Credit unions earn world-class satisfaction scores every year. But why do members rave about their credit union and then borrow elsewhere? Lerzan Aksoy, Professor of Marketing at Fordham University sought an answer to this very question.

“Credit unions have much lower market shares than large banks despite higher satisfaction. The differences are stark in credit card use, as just one example, credit unions win on relationship and APR, and banks win on rewards and prestige of the card,” said Aksoy.


Innovation Winners

Against stiff competition, the Filene i3 team that attracted the most faux Filene investment capital (in other words, the winner) was Debt Dragon, a modern online tool that helps prospective students calculate the costs of college and find ways to maximize savings. In other words: “Control your debt. Command your future.”

QCash Small Dollar Lending

There is a way to minimize small-dollar lending fears while better serving member needs. Filene and a former i3er, Ben Morales, are kicking off a collaboration to bring a new pilot to life. QCash is an omni-channel lending solution that offers relationship based underwriting (without a credit check) to members in search of small, short-term unsecured loans.

SavvyMoney Success

SavvyMoney shared a case study of American Airlines FCU that highlighted the transformation of a Filene i3 idea. SavvyMoney Credit is creating real impact for the credit union by providing transparency and knowledge to members about their credit score, while deepening member relationships and growing loan volume through a seamless member experience.


The Digital Member Experience

Shown live on the big screen, attendees observed potential members of Harvard University Employees Credit Union experience the credit union’s site. Live Observational Research helps give insight into what is working on the credit union’s website and mobile app, and where improvements could be made. Some learning from the workshop includes:

Millennial members still want to talk with someone as a part of their process of opening a new account
Big banks are still top of mind for consumers even if they desire to work with a smaller local financial institution
Financial calculators are highly desirable but they must be easy to find and use
Consumers are ad blind and often do not see what is included in “hero” images.

End User Innovation

Filene i3ers spent Thursday diving into the minds of end users, a process which lies at the center of the Filene Method of Innovation. Attendees witnessed firsthand how virtual reality technology and motion capture is being used by Focus Vision Media to understand the stress troops are under when fighting on the battlefield. Focus Vision Media shared how their technology helps military leaders and contractors see how changes in mission design, equipment and pack weight impact physical and mental stress on soldiers.

A Trip on the Autobahn

Enter the world of adult education at the Society of Grownups where Crashers representing The Cooperative Trust learned about money and life from this rapidly growing start-up. Then off to meet with the MIT Poverty Action Lab to discuss the work needed to lessen financial woes for the under privileged at home and around the world.

Double-Down on Research

Filene’s Research Council and select guests worked with Harvard Business School professor Dennis Campbell on the Handelsbanken case: A Scandinavian bank drives exceptional efficiency by pushing decisions as close as possible to its customers. Then, from the front lines of today’s war for talent, current MBA students talked about how credit unions can recruit and retain the best. Finally, HBS professor Ryan Buell showed how to improve member engagement by revealing precisely what goes into providing their service.

Further summaries from big.bright.minds and presentation slide decks will be available for download on , December 8, 2015.

Filene i3 incoming and outgoingi3team-debtdragon

About Filene Research Institute

Filene Research Institute strengthens organizations through innovative research and incubation to improve consumer financial well-being. As an independent cooperative finance think tank, Filene’s membership network connects a community of leaders and bright minds to change lives through innovation, truth and cooperation. In addition to delivering cutting-edge, actionable academic research, Filene also provides incubators to test and scale solutions, events to spark organizations into action and advisory services to help accelerate and implement innovation. For more information, visit and @fileneresearch.


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Maren Bradley

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