Filene Senior Director of Incubation Josh Sledge.

Collaborative innovation via The Lab at Filene

Filene Research Institute creates testing platform to increase impact.

April 21, 2022

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Collaborative innovation via The Lab at Filene

As rapidly developing technology hastens the pace of innovation, the Filene Research Institute is making credit union innovation a team effort.

It launched The Lab at Filene in 2022 to fuel innovation throughout the movement.

Part of Filene’s innovation and incubation program, the testing platform aims to merge solutions and provide “answers to the questions that matter most.” Getting those answers will allow credit unions to grow, implement solutions faster, and amplify their community impact.

“The goal is that we learn together,” says Filene Senior Director of Incubation Josh Sledge, referencing a PYMNTS/PSCU study that found 22% of credit union members would switch financial institutions due to a lack of innovation. “Consumers have come to expect seamless omnichannel delivery and 24/7 access to digital transactions and tools.”

The Lab at Filene seeks to deliver that access by turning ideas into actionable insights and solutions. 

“It takes a lot of time to find and test innovative product solutions,” says Demetris Charalambous, chief information officer at $6.1 billion asset Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C.  “We can gain valuable insight by working together.”

The effort is intended to allow credit unions to conduct research they wouldn’t have enough time or data to do on their own. 

“We’re realizing that, with limited resources, we can only do so much,” says Ben Maxim, vice president of digital strategy and innovation at $6.2 billion asset Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. The East Lansing-based credit union has its own innovation program called The Lab at MSUFCU. “We have a mission to improve the credit union industry and help fintechs see credit unions as a path forward and a way to scale. It’s better as an industry if we do this together.”

The Lab at Filene aims to increase innovation by:

  • Identifying promising products, programs, and technology that address key challenges facing credit unions and their members.
  • Conducting tests and rapid prototyping to assess solutions for their desirability, impact on members, and contribution toward credit union growth.
  • Increasing adoption of promising concepts through implementation guides, online tools, and workshops.

The innovation process includes one to two months to design tests; eight to nine months to run tests through data analysis, interviews, demonstrations, and live tests; and one to two months to share findings with members and stakeholders. The Lab then considers next steps and evaluates opportunities. 

Examples of tests include running analyses on member transaction data to identify new loan growth opportunities; piloting a mobile platform; providing predictive analytics; increasing the speed and ease of member interactions; developing back-end solutions; implementing artificial intelligence applications; providing personalized member experiences; innovating global money movement; adopting cryptocurrency solutions; and partnering with fintechs.