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  • Writer's pictureJess Fongemie

As the economy retrenches, will consumers’ expectations for innovation & digital services recede too

In a word: No! Alternative: ((Don’t hold your breath!)) or.. ((Not damn likely!)

It’s no secret, our industry is being forced to innovate in a financial climate very different than that of the past several decades. The era of cheap money is over. Heck, we may even be witnessing the end of the electronic dollar, an even more enduring epoch. What does all this mean? How can your institution meet and exceed consumer demands for digital innovations in such challenging times?

Every organization needs a sound strategic map. One dedicated to the use of data and digital connection to community to advance operational innovation, especially when money and time are getting tight!

Have your recent Board or management team meetings felt like a scene from a Hollywood natural disaster movie? You know the one where an asteroid is hurling toward Earth, coming in hot, and everyone is scrambling to concoct plans to survive? Maybe it feels like we just lived the scene where the band of international astronauts fail to meet the threat in space (i.e., US Fed, European Central Bank, and Chinese Central Bank getting it ‘wrong’ on inflation and currency).

So, now the camera pans to you and your team. It’s all up to you. Reality sinks in. If there’s going to be any hope for civilization (your community), it's up to the clever cooperation and spirited resolve of local neighbors and friends.

Perhaps we should call this inbound ‘comet’ “FFP22” (Failed Fiscal Policy 2022).

Yeah, let’s call it that. That seems relatable, for some reason.

Anyway, lucky for you, you’re a credit union! Cooperation is hard-wired in your DNA and the resilience of like-minded neighbors is the core of your business model!! So, what sort of shelter can your community FI create for your members and neighbors as the blazing dollar comet falls to Earth?

Considering the reality, is now any time to pull back on plans to fortify and expand the panoply of local financial services? The credit union industry itself wasn’t forged from conditions of leisure and luxury. Our cooperative approach to community financial flourishing rose from some of the direst financial circumstances in our nation’s history. We’d be right to believe our industry has a unique set of inherent abilities to create bonds and beauty from bear markets.

So, what are you going to need? We think you’ll need a map, an impressively efficient operation, and an inventory of the materials (already at your disposal) to connect to community and construct local, decentralized, financial products and services to shelter consumers as the monetary comet breaks up and rains down around the globe.

The map: Ok, let's be real for a minute. Not everyone is going to survive. Only those who know where to find shelter or how to construct a solid cover will make it. Afterall, what makes the asteroid disaster movie relatable is the fact that most people ignore the threat until a debris field litters their yard or their Tesla is transformed into a charred tin foil can on the expressway of denial. That’s not going to be you though, because you already know what’s coming and you’re developing a plan for shelter or are already building your own ‘survival dome’ for democratic financial services. However, if you’re going to thrive through these epochal times, you’ll need a map to tell you which elements of your business are dense enough to absorb the inbound energies and precisely where to invest time, talent, and treasure to fortify the rest. We call this sort of mapping process a “Strategy Map”. Your road map to real digital evolution, improved value, greater efficiency, and sustainable connection to the future of commerce in your community; and it begins with an assessment of your data integrity and operational systems, silos, expenses, overhead, and efficiency opportunities. The paths to optimize your ROI using those technologies and prior investments already made in your business, which are likely to provide ‘shelter’ and contribute to building value in these heated, pressurized moments. Maybe you converted your core, swapped out platforms, or undertook some other operational project in the last few years while balance sheets were more flush. Perhaps these moves were all strong or, maybe there are opportunities to tighten the array and bring more of the operation under solid, sustainable cover. That’s where our Strategy Map is an essential piece to the success of our partners’ strategic initiatives and relevance.

Efficient operations: Can you imagine how silly the asteroid scenario would be if local leadership managed to build shelter and create efficient connection to community only to find the community unimpressed because they ‘liked the current system’? No amount of money spent on technological solutions can maximize the chances of survival—and your ROI--unless the ‘townspeople’ are prepared to use the new infrastructure! Whether it’s documenting the next move and ensuring it’s more than a vendor acquisition or platform swap, or discovering how to optimize operations and ROI by increasing data density in that fancy new core you installed while times were good, our mission is constant: putting you at the nexus of modern community and commerce by consolidating control of your data, improving data density, helping optimize your operation around that modern strategy, and providing opportunities for greater returns to your business (efficiencies, innovative products and services for the new era, income, relevant connection to community). DaLand is proud to continue its long track record of making critical and complex change management elegant and efficient in times of high pressure. We’re here to help identify those opportunities and walk with your operation from Strategy Formation & Mapping to Strategy Protection (operational transformation), with appreciation for the fact most local financial institutions don’t have an asteroid collision event change management expert on staff. Why would you?! That’s why our collaborative and turnkey partnerships are designed for deployment even (especially) when the stakes are high.

Materials: Ok, so you’ve decided it’s up to you to map out a strategy and create a sustainable financial operation to steward the future financial flourishing of your community? You have the plan, you know how you’re going to transform the operation, but what materials can you use? What do you have at your disposal? First and foremost, your data. Your most valuable commodity in times of crisis and crunch is that rich vein of gold running through your institution – core data. It’s possible that statement caught you off guard. Maybe you’re thinking, “no way, it’s my accounting system, or my lending platform, or my online banking silo”. At best those things are windows or portals to the wealth your members will really expect you to protect. Further, when FFP22 starts breaking up and communities need new ways to perform transactions, safe places to store digital wealth, and local networks to access bank balances in trusted community epicenters, your operation and the data you steward at the core of that operation will be the steel and sinews shielding and binding the community together. It might look pretty online, but would Amazon be able to fulfill orders with only a mobile app, no warehouses, no distribution centers, and no shipping logistics? Of course not, and it’s no different for your FI. New savings products, new dividend methods, incentives to keep money and business local, and connections between local businesses and community individuals, will all pulse through your core.

We have been hearing it across the country (and globe); institutions are currently feeling unprecedented budgetary pressures in the face of inflation, receding global markets, and historic central bank rate hikes. Sure, our analogy of the FFP22 dollar comet cataclysm after the failed bureaucratic mission to blow it up is silly; but, we’re passionate about these concepts and the opportunities for innovation they present. If you ‘look up’, there’s smoke and even fire on the horizon in the form of historic inflation and enormous central bank rate hikes. Is your institution ready to survive, and emerge on the other side to thrive, in a post-ACH, post-EFT, post-electronic dollar world (if that too ends up being a casualty of the last two decades of monetary policy)?

We are, and we’re ready to help you use this moment in history to take back business and connection from centralized services and mega corporations, and provide sustainable, valuable, sound shelter for members and communities who deserve to flourish despite FFP22.

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