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Data is the "hot buzzword" for credit unions, and rightly so.

As the custodians of member data, credit unions have a responsibility to govern that asset securely and within strict compliance guidelines.  However, with great responsibility also comes great opportunity as organizations sit atop goldmines of information. Data can inform and empower decision making, drive product development and deliver tailored, unique experiences for members.

Filene kindly asked me to sit with two credit union data leaders, Amber Cisneros (Orange County CU) and Harry Zhu (Alliant CU), on a Leading on Data: Nurturing a Data Driven Culture panel during their virtual conference last week.

 I dream of a data driven industry, that is informed in the moment, nimble and ready to dream

Here are my top 16 takeaways to encourage discussion with your teams and board:

  1. Start with an open mind - believe in the power of people, the mission and the possibilities data can bring; it can be enormously transformational
  2. Data will force you to challenge assumptions and face reality - it is important to have leadership who will be
     prepared to trust the findings and make fast, difficult decisions 
  3. Encourage an empathetic, inclusive design culture that reaches into your customer base and across all organizational departments and seniorities 
  4. List and journey map your core business processes and ask questions of data - where does it exist? how is it collected? how can it be leveraged, and to what end goal?
  5. Encourage ideation to solve small incremental problems, fail, learn, and build best practices to tackle larger initiatives 
  6. Start with a business problem in a business unit and build in a phased approach e.g., find a finance business problem a data strategy could solve then design the solution, prototype, fail, learn and repeat
  7. Define what language and words mean to you and ensure they are adopted org wide, for example if “member” means one thing to one group and something else to another your data won’t be aligned 
  8. Data is ultimately a tool like any other that can be managed and manipulated
  9. Review your readiness before you begin (or continue) your data endeavors - can your current people, technology and tools support more data centric operations?
  10. Align with IT and make sure they are building a flexible, scalable cloud-based infrastructure, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) that allows data accessibility and portability 
  11. Replace manual and duplicated tasks with automated workflows where you can, to pull and display data 
  12. Be careful and planful in which use cases to tackle, once people feel the power of data, they will want more and more or it
  13. Constantly review your dashboards and workflows to remove or archive any redundant platforms, to avoid a complicated landscape that lacks current relevancy 
  14. Trust your gut, check the data – your data practice is a combination of art and science 
  15. Understand the vendors and technologies you are proposing to introduce into your network to ensure compatibility, ease of use, security, and compliance.  Large vendors like AWS are stepping up and providing credits and assistance programs to hep organizations build foundations that can support data practices
  16. Collaborate and talk to your peers and vendors - all credit unions are trying to solve the same problems

How are you using data within your credit union?

I’d love to collaborate and learn as I lead my company through our data journey – let’s start a conversation,


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