5 BOLD Takeaways from THINK 20 Virtual for Thriving Beyond COVID-19

5 BOLD Takeaways from THINK 20 Virtual for Thriving Beyond COVID-19

5 BOLD Takeaways from THINK 20 Virtual for Thriving Beyond COVID-19


On Thursday, May 7th, CO-OP hosted the first-ever THINK 20 Virtual – an all-digital conference that brought together over 2,000 credit union professionals for six hours of intelligence sharing and strategy building. With keynotes and discussions that covered a variety of topics – from the new consumer financial wellness landscape to effective pandemic response planning and digital transformation – THINK Virtual allowed credit unions to hit pause and ideate on ways to strengthen their business in the wake of COVID-19. As CO-OP Chief Experience Officer, Samantha Paxson, emphatically declared in the conference’s opening keynote: “This is a time for bold action.”

In case you missed it, you can view the event on-demand with registration, here. If you need a shorter overview, we’ve summarized the five boldest takeaways that came out of THINK 20 Virtual:


  1. Credit Unions ARE the Compassionate Banking Alternative

Credit unions are truly rising to the challenge in this time of uncertainty. In an audience poll asking what credit unions are doing in response to COVID-19, the majority (42 percent) answered “Offering cardholder payment relief solutions to members.” In her financial wellness keynote, THINK Virtual host Jean Chatzky cataloged numerous examples of credit unions extending real help to their financial distressed members in the form of: low or 0% interest loans, emergency loans, fee waivers on online transfers, car loans that direct the first few payments toward savings and emails that directed members to useful resources.

By responding to members’ anxiety and financial stress caused by COVID-19, credit unions are demonstrating why they are the Primary Financial Relationship that members need. Our service agents and employees are stepping up to be #CreditUnionHeroes during this important moment. CO-OP Chief Product Officer, Bruce Dragt, broke down how credit unions can operationalize that mission, by deploying products and solutions that solve four of the biggest member needs right now:

  • Immediacy and Digitization
  • No-Touch Experience
  • Protecting Members
  • Always-on Service

In the final moments of THINK Virtual, CO-OP President & CEO, Todd Clark, concluded: “It’s time to lean in. Members and non-members are looking for a compassionate banking alternative, and it can be you.”


  1. Digital Transformation Was, Is, and Will Continue to be Essential

In only a few months, COVID-19 has changed everything about the way we do business. As THINK Virtual attendee, Nathan Rodgers, of CU Service Network asked, “Many of us were recently forced into remote work with very little time to prepare; however, now that we’re doing it, will it become more acceptable?” 

As credit union leaders have these conversations, they should be thinking more broadly about how their digital transformation can prepare their systems and back-office capabilities to stay ahead of members’ needs. As Ryan Battles of EY pointed out, while we don’t know precisely what the “new normal” will look like and if there will be a resurgence, “those that take advantage of the opportunity to transform will be able to take a leadership position.”

For CO-OP, the past three years spent trekking down the path of digital transformation paid off enormously when the pandemic hit, said Clark. “We were able to transition 80% of our Contact Center staff to remote in a matter of weeks and were prepared for increased volumes across every channel.” The Contact Center transformation was critical not only for our credit unions and the members they serve but also for the wellness of our employees, which, Clark said, was the top priority.

Watch: The Resilience of the CO-OP Contact Center


  1. Emotion is Our Currency (and it Can’t be Bought)

During his presentation on EY’s Next Wave research, Nikhil Lele separated customers into two categories: emotionally connected or failed to connect. Emotionally connected consumers view their financial provider as giving them the confidence they need to improve life for them and their families. The goal of every credit union should be to activate emotional connections with their members, and that only happens through trust – not marketing.

Partners Federal Credit Union EVP, Member Services, Mike Terzian, highlights that maintaining trust means “meeting and exceeding expectations” beyond the transaction experience. He indicated after a survey of their digital products, most members indicated they felt those were “good.” But they felt that even “good” wouldn’t get their members the level of emotional connection needed to solidify the relationship. Members need to feel emotionally attached to your credit union at every stage of the member journey; data will tell part of the story, but members also need to feel like you know them on a personal level and that’s very difficult to attain.

Alliant Credit Union’s Dave Mooney, added that sometimes leaders have to make difficult decisions in the short-term in order to meet their members’ needs in the long-run. He points to Alliant CU’s decision to eliminate most of their branches in favor of a digital-first banking experience. Part of their strategy to ensure digital adoption among members was simply eliminating any choices other than the digital ones – a risky plan that paid off in the long-term. “There was a backlash in the beginning, but ultimately we knew we were doing what was best for our members.” Ultimately, he says, Alliant’s members have confidence that we have their interests at heart and that they’ll have access to the products and services they need when they need it.


  1. Boldly Double Down on Your Mission

COVID-19 has brought a lot of financial and emotional hardships over the last several weeks. Still, it has helped remind us of what’s really important. “Out of all of the bad that’s happening right now, the good is that we have been put in a position where we can make a choice. We can recalibrate what is valuable to us,” said keynote speaker, Roy Choi. “We can value who we lend our money to, who we’re going to get behind and support. We can value the things that I’ve been ridiculed about my whole life: sharing, compassion, love, not making a profit at the expense of the customer. What if we wake up tomorrow and those things are valuable?”

The credit union industry motto, people helping people, has never been more relevant than it is right now. As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, we should all be dreaming of new ways to expand that mission, not only for our members but also for our communities and our employees.


  1. A Credit Union First was Unveiled!

In response to COVID-19, each individual credit union will have a different path over the coming months. That’s why CO-OP has teamed up with EY to provide a credit union first: The Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment Powered by CO-OP and backed by EY NextWave™. The process emulates an extensive EY consulting engagement. Typically, credit unions would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to receive this type of strategic mapping and consultation, but CO-OP is scaling the Assessment to make it accessible to all credit unions for just $1200 as we look to build and preserve the modern credit union movement.

The Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment takes unique data inputs provided by your credit union and provides you with a strategic blueprint, built with and informed by EY’s breakthrough NextWave™ Consumer Financial research. After taking the assessment, your credit union’s team will receive a customized results package, including the following:

  • An executive summary of your credit union’s results
  • A strategic blueprint outlining the strategic models with high potential to drive growth at your credit union and the data and meanings behind your current state and future state opportunity, specifically:
    • Who to Target: Opportunity segments to focus on for your strategic model
    • Where to Invest: Solution sets and capabilities needed to serve these markets
    • What it’s Worth: Incremental segment penetration potential to create economic upside
  • A supplemental package enabling you to dive into more detail regarding your strategic model, target member segments and recommended capabilities.

The Assessment will be open from May 11 – July 2. Please learn more here.