REACH Innovation Groups Showcase Inventive Solutions

The group known as “Team CU Force” present their innovative idea—a CU Virtual Training Group, a virtual reality training module. The group was one of three groups that participated in this year’s REACH Innovation Group program.

The participants of California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ 2016 REACH Innovation Groups showcased their ideas and innovations for credit unions at the Leagues’ REACH 2016 conference, held Nov. 2-4 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

The purpose of the 2016 REACH Innovation Group was to develop new ideas and innovations for credit unions in coordination with the Filene Research Institute, and modeled after Filene’s i3 (Ideas, Innovation, Implementation) program. The group launched with a two-day experiential learning session, immersing the participants in the Filene Method of Innovation. Then the teams met weekly remotely, connecting every six weeks via webinars facilitated by Filene.

At the conference, Tansley Stearns, chief impact officer at Filene Research Institute, told the audience, “innovation is not about bright shiny objects. innovation is about best understanding the biggest problems your members have. If you can solve those problems, that will be the most innovation you can bring as an organization. It’s not about asset size but mindset. All of us can have this mindset.”

Joining Stearns onstage was a three-person panel of judges, who asked questions and gave feedback about each REACH Innovation Group team, which included:

Team “Broken Boundaries” (Ashley Brinkman, CU 1; Eurie Im, USC CU; Mindy Mills, SchoolsFirst FCU; Natalie Tomajan, Educational Employees CU; and Chris Olson, The Members Group) which presented CU Simplify, a comprehensive, simplified daily or weekly email incorporating extremely short news-information nuggets and member credit union examples/stories to create an employee engagement culture that’s highly participatory and rewarding. A background aggregating tool would collect, filter, and present only necessary and interesting content. This would create a higher-engaged workforce, which would boost internal moral and inspiration while simultaneously boosting member engagement, quality service, and productivity. Also, it would cut down on email bombardment and overload.

Team “Beyond Seven” was comprised of CEOs for four small credit unions: Chris Bruno, McKesson EFCU; Christina Haley, PostCity Financial CU, Jon Hernandez, CalCom FCU; and Linda White, United Health CU. The group presented VABA (Voice Activated Banking Assistant)—an oral-command software system (app) for devices that operates behind a credit union’s mobile banking platform and allows members to incorporate banking into their packed day. VABA’s highly-relational software is secure through a self-activating one-time code and will transact money, make payments, respond to requests and queries, and even answer financial education questions. VABA makes the typical “banking” experience fun and easy.

Team “CU Force” (Anthony Couturie, SchoolsFirst FCU; Brenda Lopez, MyEE CU; Justin Weiler, BCU; Nicole Camrillo, Wealth CU; Steven Page, SafeAmerica; and Lawrence Curry, SkyOne CU) presented a CU Virtual Training Group—a virtual reality training module using headset/goggles that “gamifies” real-life simulations of members making requests, asking questions, and needing assistance. Employees are transported to a “real” situation in a real-looking branch (perhaps even their own) and faced with questions about the right choices to make. This would develop higher-engaged and more confident employees, which will create less turnover and more engagement as this model visually “meets employees where they are” in learning.

The panel of judges consisted of CU Direct President and CEO Tony Boutelle, CO-OP Financial Services EVP of Markets and Strategy Caroline Willard, and California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues President and CEO Diana Dykstra. Stearns served as the moderator.

Before the REACH Innovation Group presentations, PAC Awards were given out to: Brett Martinez (Redwood CU), “Advocate of the Year” award (California); Christie Jordan (Clark County CU)—“Advocate of the Year” award (Nevada); Star One CU—“Credit Union Advocate of the Year” award (California); Boulder Dam CU—“Credit Union Advocate of the Year” award (Nevada); Montrose Travel—“Supplier of the Year” award; The “Travis Trio”: Fred Zaragoza, Eric Maldonado, and Sherry Cordonnier of Travis CU—“Political Professional of the Year” award. California CU CEO Ron McDaniel received the Outstanding Achievement in Advocacy Award.

In addition, Teresa Freeborn, chair of CUNA’s Creating Awareness Advisory Group and CEO of Xceed Financial CU, briefly remarked on the progress of the CUNA advisory group. She said it will begin selecting a branding firm in January, and will conduct an “awareness tour” in 2017 at CUNA/league conferences.

“We really do want to find the true identity of a credit union in the words of a consumer,” she said.

For more information, she referred attendees to and

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