Southwest 66 Credit Union has served residents of oil country in west Texas for nearly seven decades.
Through a partnership with Fiserv that includes nimble core processing technology, the $78 million asset credit union in Odessa has gained access to the data analysis capabilities and digital solutions that have positioned Southwest 66 to continue that tradition for decades to come.
“Data is just absolutely critical to our size of credit union,” Southwest 66 CEO Sean Cahill says. “We’re always on that razor-thin edge of viability.
“For us, it’s not about small or midsize credit unions keeping pace—it’s that our members expect the same products and services as any large financial institution, including the big banks,” he continues. “Fiserv allows us to be competitive in this environment.”
Data drives that competitive advantage, according to Cahill.
“The single most important thing we do is to understand our members—their behaviors, their needs,” he says. “We need access to data so we can make good choices and position our resources to provide solutions to our community and members.”
Southwest 66 successfully applied for both Low-Income Designation and for Community Development Financial Institution designation thanks to Fiserv’s assistance in generating the specific data that demonstrates the credit union’s emphasis on serving low- and middle-income members.
Through that strategic partnership, Southwest 66 also overhauled its branch environment, exchanging the traditional lobby and teller line for a relationship retail environment where staff leans heavily on technology to better and more efficiently serve members. One branch location features an atmosphere that draws from the environment at an Apple Genius Bar.
“We do transactions side-by-side so members can look behind the curtain a little bit,” Cahill says. “We’ve eliminated ‘head-down activities’—anything that buries front-line staff in the computer screen or paperwork. That allows time for staff to gain an understanding of members’ needs and offer them the right solutions.”
Fiserv doesn’t simply provide technology, Cahill says, but rather partners with the credit union to create and build out a digital strategy that levels the playing field with larger institutions.
“We look at the situation through the lens of our credit union partners to ensure we’re offering them the solutions to not just survive, but thrive,” says Barb Lowman, vice president, professional services for Credit Union Solutions at Fiserv. “We have clients that range from under $100 million in assets to $10 billion in assets, and we give all of them access to the power of our portfolio of solutions.
“We’re not a one-size-fits all solution provider,” she adds, noting that Fiserv offers 12 core processing platforms. “We have the power to bundle solutions for a credit union of any size. We’re a great technology partner for credit unions because as the credit union grows and adjusts its business strategy and priorities, we can grow with them.”
And according to longtime credit union consultant Dennis Dollar—whom Fiserv enlists as a resource for its clients—if you don’t have a growth strategy, you have a merger strategy,
Southwest 66’s growth strategy incorporates heavy use and exploration of technology, according to Cahill.
“It’s exciting to talk about the future—a little scary, too. That’s why having a partner is important,” he says. “Lots of financial institutions are good at blocking and tackling, but we want to offer more.
“We’re looking strongly at biometrics, including palm-vein technology, which has proven to be an efficient tool from an internal standpoint,” Cahill adds. “Think of how cool it would be if you could use that as authentication for members—they wouldn’t need to carry a driver’s license or remember passwords. Already, we offer card-free cash technology at the ATM, where a member only needs to provide a PIN. Fiserv was first on scene with that technology.
“We’d like to be part of Alexa,” he continues, referring to Amazon’s voice-activated digital personal assistant. “At a Fiserv conference, we had a chance to see how you could use Alexa to handle your finances. It’s a device that’s becoming more prevalent in Americans’ everyday lives. Members have asked for it. We’d love to be on the next leading edge for Alexa.”