Brett Wooden

Ahead of the game

Brett Wooden finds inspiration in places most don’t look.

September 25, 2020

Brett Wooden sees possibilities in places few others look. Inspired by his daughter’s video gaming, he got the idea to turn games to credit unions’ advantage.

“I’m big on parallel marketplaces—areas where credit unions traditionally don’t see themselves having a presence,” says Wooden, chief operations officer at $141 million asset Providence Federal Credit Union in Milwaukie, Ore.

Consider, for example, the gaming market.

“If you look at Sims, Roblox, Minecraft, or Fortnite, there’s never a bank or credit union in the background,” he says. “So why not have a financial education component in games that can teach users how to use credit union services and resources?

“I can see us going to Apple and Google and partnering with them: ‘We’ll sell your smartphones in our branches with our financial education games and apps loaded on them,’” Wooden says.

He believes having a start-up mindset helps credit unions maneuver more swiftly and decisively than those in a “maintain” mindset. Five years ago, for example, Providence Federal had three locations, no call center, and limited online banking services.

In response, Wooden started looking at member use patterns and found the best solution would be to create a call center using every available medium: phone, chatbots, video, and online services.

“Our transformation did not go unnoticed,” he says. “A $1 billion credit union later approached us to see how we did it.”

He cites that as a typical example of how credit unions collaborate to learn about each other’s best practices.

Wooden’s tech savvy has allowed Providence Federal to compete with large banks. “One advantage we have regarding using new technology is that we have a start-up mindset. There’s no going through endless meetings or having to generate elaborate business plans.

"That means we can start something quickly—and yes, also fail quickly sometimes—which means we are free to move on to the next experiment. We like to look at ourselves as a startup business.”

He vouches for Google Analytics as an effective business tool. “It’s an amazing, underestimated business tool. It allows us to stay on top of member demands, such as monitoring the top page visit categories among members.”

Wooden is glad for the credit union’s technology focus in the face of the pandemic.

“Online and mobile are where almost everybody goes now to conduct financial activities,” he says. “Over the years we have anticipated and prepared for this heavy increase in online and mobile use, so it’s nice to have been ahead of the game.”

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