Bringing New Products to Market: An Inside Look at CO-OP Innovation
Technology is advancing all around us in the credit union industry. From EMV chip cards to new mobile banking apps and ever-smarter ATMs, credit unions and their members are forever transforming the ways they do business.
While the world of fintech continues to produce amazing tools of convenience and productivity, not all innovations deliver the value they promise.
“There are so many interesting ideas out there and so much new technology for credit unions to consider, it can be overwhelming,” said Lois Hansen, Vice President, Product Development, for CO-OP Financial Services. “As a technology provider, we are here to help credit unions navigate today’s technology landscape and guide them toward the innovations best aligned with their future objectives.”
The Art and Science of Product Selection
According to Hansen, CO-OP takes a scientific approach, befitting technology development and product selection. The process begins every year in April with a comprehensive environmental assessment designed to pinpoint broader movements and trends shaping the industry. This information then becomes the basis for a preliminary product roadmap for the following year.
“The worst thing you can do when introducing a new product is provide a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Hansen. “In order for a new product to hit a homerun, the vetting process must be extensive, involving input from a long list of stakeholders and advisers.”
CO-OP seeks information and insights from thought leaders across the industry, consulting everyone from software developers, manufacturers and agencies to employees, the Board of Directors, client credit unions and member focus groups.
“To be selected, it’s not enough for a product to be innovative,” she said. “It is how that innovation translates into a richer, more engaging member experience. That is what sets a new technology apart.”
To better understand how members will experience new products, CO-OP hosts an annual vendor meeting where top providers demonstrate their newest, most advanced solutions and present a technology vision for the future. “Throughout this event, we are looking for both the best new products to bring to market and partners that embrace our own mission and values,” she said.
Ultimately, the decision on which products to launch comes down to a score. “We score products because it gives us a sense of priority,” said Hansen, noting that scoring is based on a smart matrix of both quantitative and qualitative data. “We have honed this process for years – it is involved, and it works,” she said.
Innovation at CO-OP
Hansen points to CO-OP’s new mobile/virtual API suite as a good example of the process works. With the API suite, CO-OP client credit unions can take innovation into their own hands, integrating all the features and functionality of CO-OP’s mobile apps into their back-end systems to create solutions that are branded and customized for the unique needs of their member base. The suite includes APIs for card controls and alerts, bill pay, remote deposit capture, shared branching, member rewards, and person-to-person payments apps.
“We identified a clear need in the market for a comprehensive API suite that would allow credit unions to customize the mobile experience for members while leveraging their investment in existing back-end systems,” she said. “These tools make it easy and affordable for credit unions to achieve just that.”
She continued, “Today, it is more important than ever to consistently assess market trends and examine new ways to improve the member experience. Technology is advancing at the speed of light, and the organizations that succeed in this environment keep their fingers on the pulse.”