Jamie Harrison wears an interesting hat: She is a certified “innovator,” credentialed by Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“An innovator dives deep into the design of things to see how they work—or don’t,” says Harrison, senior vice president/chief retail officer at $1.2 billion asset Meritrust Credit Union, Wichita, Kan. “I apply that sensibility to every problem I see. It means asking about procedures, workflow, available technology, and more, including, ‘Are we the obstacle in this situation?’
“I’ve learned that people want a purpose, not a job, and they want to know we are all in this together—especially when things aren’t working,” she says.
After two departments (retail and consumer lending) were moved under Harrison’s leadership for guidance in process improvement and transformation, she and her team put problem-solving design to the test.
Working through transparency, accountability and trust, the team transformed both departments to be relevant to employees, the credit union, and, most important, members.
“Our people want to serve, and they want to serve well. Sometimes we don’t make it easy for them because of misaligned processes and rules/policies which hurt the member experience,” Harrison says. “None of this matters if we aren’t taking care of the member.”
She didn’t set out to join the credit union industry.
“My undergrad degree was in political science,” she says. “I had a save-the-world mentality and saw myself going to law school. But when I encountered credit unions I fell in love with what they do and who they serve. I didn’t choose the credit union movement, it chose me.”
Her first encounter with credit unions was when she worked for the Kansas Credit Union Association, a job that naturally put her in touch with the state’s credit unions.
“I found that even though they ranged in size from mom-and-pops to very big, and often approached their in-house affairs differently, they all had one thing in common: They walked the talk, members came first.
“I help Meritrust expand its vision—not just two or three years down the line but as far ahead as 10 or 15 years. What are current technological trends, such as artificial intelligence, or banking industry innovations? We also look at industries outside financial institutions to see consumer and technological trends.”
She says the people on her team are much like her. “They are immensely curious and love to delve into a problem and look for different ways of resolving it. When they get inspired, they go out and inspire others.”
There’s a mantra she never forgets: “Why are we all here? To put the member at the center.”