CU*Answers held its week-long CEO Strategies Week November 11-14, at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event was a return to the previous format for the annual conference presented to credit union CEOs, giving a unique opportunity for attendees and their business development executives to participate in creating the solutions that CU*Answers and the cuasterisk.com network will take to market.

This year’s event hosted 60 CEOs and executives from credit unions and CUSOs around the country for updates on CUSO project initiatives, strategies for credit union CEOs to take to their organizations, and an opportunity for leaders to discuss many of the hot topics surrounding the industry. Randy Karnes, CU*Answers CEO, was excited about the lively interactions that took place, joking, “It can be a big commitment for credit unions to visit the wintry conditions of Grand Rapids in November, but it’s not without a good cause. I’m grateful to those that came and not only participated, but who brought their passion for an industry in transition. This week’s discussions really energized me.”

On Monday, attendees received updates on projects centered around teller platform evolution and internet retailing strategies. Tuesday turned away from CUSO projects and on to strategy decisions facing credit unions on the topics of data, business servicing, ACH/payments, online solutions, and succession planning, both for the credit union and the CUSO. Wednesday’s roundtable gave credit union CEOs a chance to lead the discussion on employee compensation, increasing returns to members, and the trends that will affect the next 5, 15 or 50 years of the industry. Thursday wrapped up the week with an update on exciting online/mobile banking products and services coming from CU*Answers’ Mobile Technologies Group.

I’m grateful to those that came and not only participated, but who brought their passion for an industry in transition. – CEO Randy Karnes

Updates on CEO Projects

Designing Teller Platforms for Our Future

A lot of progress has been made on CU*Answers’ teller platforms. Prototype development for the new combined Search engine is well underway and the development team is excited about the possibilities of this powerful and easy-to-use new search mechanism – a single input field where you can enter any data about the member and look for that data across dozens of key data points, including many new ones like driver’s license number, phone number, and email address (maybe even online banking username!).

Design specifications are well underway for new workflow controls for Express Teller that will give credit unions unprecedented control over the available features and how the tool works for tellers.

Teams are also working on a new engine and online resource to allow credit unions to upload credit union marketing images for display on the Express Teller search screen. Intended so that credit unions can actively promote their corporate goals and promotions to tellers, this engine will also be used for other things in the future to allow eye-catching reminders and instructions to be relayed to teams via CU*BASE GOLD, CU*Answers’ core processing platform.

Development is moving quickly for new APIs that will allow CU*Answers to display member photo IDs directly on the ID verification screen in Express Teller, as shown in the early prototypes.

Prototypes have been developed and early technical issues have been ironed out so that CU*Answers will be able to offer different screen sizes via a new preferences feature. Three sizes will be supported: Standard (optimized for a screen resolution of 1024×768), Large (optimized for a res. of 1280×1024), and Extra Large (optimized for 1920×1080).

Designing the Future of Internet Retailing

CU*Answers provided updates on projects designed to help credit unions sell their goods to consumers. These projects include:

  • 1Click Credit Card Offers — Asking the member if they want a loan, transferring the power of deciding to the consumer.
  • CD-secured Loans — Allow members to borrow against their CDs, and set up the loan details, all from online/mobile banking.
  • Loan Modifications — Maintenance re-envisioned as goods to be sold via the internet.
  • CLR Path and Automated Decision Models — Highlighting what the credit union knows is more important than what everyone knows.
  • A New eSigning Experience — Upgrading a symbolic ceremony for speed, convenience, and opportunity.
  • A New Approach for Internet Lending — CU*Answers takes another crack at the perfect internet loan origination system approach.

Designing the Future for Online and Mobile Tools

On the final day of CEO Strategies Week, CU*Answers leaders gave updates on and unveiled projects underway, beginning first with Mobile App 4.0. Among the highlight for Mobile 4.0 is tablet support. “Designing for the home PC user and phone user is straightforward, but tablet users were kinda caught in the middle,” said Karnes. “Do you present the desktop version? The mobile version? With Mobile 4.0, we’ll have true tablet support with a new native home screen, content caching for faster performance, portrait & landscape modes, and more.” Ken Vaughn, VP of Mobile Technologies Group, also gave an early preview of Mobile App 5.0, which will set the foundation for new navigation for It’s My Biz 247 and It’s Me 247 mobile web banking, desktop banking for It’s Me 247, and potentially set the infrastructure for the next iteration of online banking for the CUSO.

Separately, CU*Answers provided updates on upcoming “Micro Apps.” Single function apps meant to complement traditional full-feature apps and target individual segments of the credit union. These include Pay Anyone 1.0, powered by Payveris, for a P2P experience; Payments 1.0, for payments to loans, most useful to indirect lending members; and RDC 1.0, for a standalone mobile RDC feature.

What’s the Direction of the CUSO?

In the Tuesday session, CU*Answers CEO Randy Karnes discussed strategies both for credit unions and for the cooperatively-owned CUSO. On the topic of data, what Karnes claims will be the calling card of CU*Answers for the next decade, discussion centered around how credit unions can not only gather and analyze data, but how they can act on it. Building a business intelligence team or partnering with one will be important for credit unions as they seek to drive their analytical approaches further and put more data into the hands of stakeholders.

Serving businesses, a foreign language to many credit unions, will become easier in the near future as CU*Answers rallies credit unions to new and improved business-facing products, and to a new CU*Answers advisory group organized to facilitate credit unions’ entry into business servicing. This will be proven in the multiple versions for business online banking, new business services for payment processing, corporate credit cards, and more.

ACH, a topic of much debate in the industry today, has morphed into a behemoth where products and services to businesses and members vary greatly. Karnes discussed ACH not only from the internal credit union perspective, but also from the member perspective as credit unions race to provide payment tools.

Finally, Karnes opened up discussion on succession planning, both for credit unions and the CUSO. Said Karnes, “It’s a network thing, and CU*Answers stakeholder confidence in the process is critical.” Credit unions were invited to get involved by auditing the succession process as an investor, joining the process as a volunteer or candidate, and considering their own processes for succession planning at the credit union.

CEO Roundtable Gets the Discussion Going

At Wednesday’s CEO Roundtable event, the CU*Answers board of directors kicked off the day with a message and a hint at this year’s impressive patronage dividends to owners. Karnes got the roundtable event going acting as facilitator (and only occasionally as participant). CEO attendees discussed topics related to employee compensation, increasing returns to members, and identifying the trends that will either survive or fail the industry in the coming years.

In a new session for CEO Strategies, First United Credit Union CEO Mark Richter and Pinnacle Credit Union CEO Matt Selke led the other attendees in the cuasterisk.com CEO Live Chat Room. After a short introduction by the hosts, CEOs were given an opportunity to intermingle and talk on subjects ranging from insurance and cannabis, to deposit growth and return on assets.

Randy thanked all those who attended for their passion, and urged them as leaders not to perpetuate the frantic message of an industry in consolidation. “What if our credit union industry’s thought leaders all stopped and took responsibility for the impact of our work: We are the drivers of the sense of frantic resign of so many credit union leaders and owners.” Instead, Karnes suggests that as leaders, CEOs should drive the message of hope and to encourage the self-confidence of credit union consumer-owners as the capital that we all count on for safety and soundness.


  • Esteban Camargo

    As a supervising editor of CUSO Magazine, Esteban reviews and edits submissions, assists in the development of the publishing calendar, and performs his own research and writing. His experience provides CUSO Mag with a seasoned writer and content curator, able to provide valuable input to contributors, correspondents, and freelance journalists. Esteban has worked at CU*Answers since 2008 and currently serves as the CUSO's content marketing manager.

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