Jim Nussle

A digitally mature movement

Digitization working group fosters collaboration on the technology front.

September 1, 2023

Technology—specifically staying on top of the latest tech developments—is a priority for every organization these days. If you’re just trying to keep up, you’re already way behind.

Staying at the forefront means never standing still and always evolving.

While this has always been an existential challenge for financial institutions, the COVID-19 pandemic cast a harsh spotlight on these gaps. Consumers want to access their money even if they can’t leave their homes, and financial institutions that can’t keep up with that are in trouble.

We had that in mind in those early days of lockdown when we formed the Credit Union System Digitization Working Group. The original group of 41 stakeholders—which currently numbers more than 100—helped us as a movement figure out what we’re good at, what we need to improve, and, most importantly, what our members want.

The working group has made amazing strides over the past three years, and we passed over leadership of the group to CUNA Strategic Services (CSS) at the end of 2022. This is an exciting step for all of us, as CSS will facilitate collaboration within the working group while leveraging its own considerable skill set that includes a vast network of partners, solutions, and resources.

What won’t change is the group’s focus, dedication, and goal of building something that benefits our entire movement. It’s still a group for credit unions at every step of their digital journey.

One of the group’s major accomplishments to date: the release of a digital maturity framework. This framework measures everything from websites and digital banking services to the use of analytics and long-term fintech strategies.

It contains five levels of digital maturity—beginner, evolving, intermediate, progressive, and leader—to help credit unions see where they are and where they want to go.

Credit unions in the early stages of the journey can find resources to move them forward. Credit unions that are leading in the digital space can find collaboration opportunities while working together to stay on top of rapidly evolving technologies.

‘The endgame with digitization is a better member experience.’

There are six key themes throughout each stage:

  1. Technology and innovation.
  2. Governance and leadership.
  3. People and culture.
  4. Strategy.
  5. Capacity and the capability to execute.
  6. Financial commitment.

The rapidly changing nature of technology presents its own set of challenges, along with opportunities. That’s why this framework has to be a dynamic self-assessment that works to keep pace with evolving technology.

We need to remain adaptable for credit unions of all sizes and complexities. This means thinking differently by, for example, grouping credit unions by digital maturity instead of asset size.

The goal is for the framework to be a helpful resource for all credit unions on this journey.

It must always be relevant and useful while accommodating credit unions of all sizes. This includes accounting for different paths to digital maturity by giving boards and other leaders flexibility to work the framework within their organizations.

If it sounds like we’re aiming high, you’re right. Credit unions didn’t get to where we are today by thinking small, and we won’t prepare our movement by timidly approaching the future.

The endgame with digitization—as with everything we do—is a better member experience. To continue to be consumers’ best financial partner we need to not only make sure our services can get to them wherever and however they prefer, but anticipate members’ needs even before they do.

We want to be the most attractive option for the younger generations who’ll intuitively understand these technologies in ways my generation can’t.

The appetite is unquestionably here within our movement, and the work is just starting. I’m excited to take this journey with you.

JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO at Credit Union National Association.