Rather than shying away from the new digital landscape, credit unions wishing to expand their offerings and attract members can cultivate partnerships that bring fintech offerings within their own doors.
Community Financial Credit Union in Plymouth, Mich., found the right partner for its credit score solutions in SavvyMoney, which uses 40-plus digital banking integrations to offer members a personalized experience.
“What we’re trying to do is help you be the credit union of tomorrow,” says SavvyMoney Senior Vice President of Sales & Partnerships Chris Fraenza, who spoke at a breakout session Tuesday at the 2023 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Orlando. “How do you keep members from going out the back door?”
SavvyMoney was one of the first partnerships Tansley Stearns formed last year after becoming the president/CEO of Community Financial. With SavvyMoney, the $1.3 billion asset credit union’s members can opt in to free credit monitoring for online and mobile banking, instant access to what’s impacting their credit score, real-time alerts, and more.
“It’s a solution we think is transformational for our members,” Stearns says, noting any partnership should start with the question, “What are our members going to experience?”
However, a strong credit union-fintech relationship isn’t just about the product the fintech provides.
“What mattered most to us was that we found a partner that allowed our members to feel the impact quickly, that represented our brand well, and whose values aligned,” Stearns says.
Values alignment builds inherent trust between new partners. That trust enabled the relationship between Community Financial and SavvyMoney to progress quickly.
“Because Tansley established trust and said, ‘This is a partner, this isn’t a vendor,’ her team reached out to ours and said, ‘What do we need to do to do everything that SavvyMoney does extremely well?’” Fraenza says. “There wasn’t hesitation, there wasn’t, ‘SavvyMoney is going to try to sell us something else.’ It was, ‘Let’s sit down at the table, figure out what other partners have done, and figure out how we can replicate that.’
“And it wasn’t just one conversation,” Fraenza continues. “It was the lending team reaching out to us … marketing reaching out to us … IT … having commitment from all parties involved makes for an exceptional partnership.”
What starts as an exceptional partnership doesn’t always finish that way. Therefore, it’s crucial for both the credit union and the fintech to be flexible and willing to adapt as the relationship progresses and the market changes.
“A really good partner for credit unions is someone that’s listening closely and is willing to hear the pain points,” Stearns says.
“You’re not on this island alone,” Fraenza agrees. “Just because we’re a technology company and that’s what we do, we don’t have to stop there. Hold your partners accountable for that. Make sure they’re teaching you best practices, make sure you’re having check-in calls. It shouldn’t be ‘I don’t know who my rep is.’”