Leading Edge

Ideas for the CU movement continue to generate from Filene Research Institute's innovation group.

September 1, 2010

In Touch With i3

The innovation lab continues to percolate with new ideas over at the Filene Research Institute, courtesy of its Filene i3 (ideas, innovation, implementation) group. The goal of this group of credit union professionals is to foster the development of ideas and innovations for the credit union movement.

The i3 projects introduced this year include:

  • 60-Day Loan Guarantee—building trust in credit unions by allowing members to return a loan in 60 days;
  • Be N’ Biz Fund—providing generation Y entrepreneurs with greater access to credit unions for funding to start or expand businesses;
  • CU Launch—matching small businesses specialized needs with specialized credit union services.
  • LIFT—allowing members to lower interest and improve credit by making timely loan payments;
  • The Big Payoff Loan—eliminating credit card debt in segmented credit union loans;
  • Two Grand Plan—creating an emergency savings fund of $2,000; and
  • UMatter—creating an exclusive membership category for gen Xers based on account qualifications and referrals.

Filene also recently selected 19 credit union executives to join its i3 program. Each member will serve a two-year term and participate in several meetings a year, the first of which will be held next month in Berkeley, Calif.

How do you become an i3-er? Candidates are evaluated on innovative aptitude, experience, and other key factors including present position, leadership abilities, motivation, geography, and type of credit union.

Meet the latest group of innovators, and read about the entire array of i3 products at

And in the name of open source innovation, the leadership at the Filene Research Institute encourages credit unions to “make some improvements” in any of these ideas—and then please share your results.


Virtual CEO: ‘Do Your Homework’

Thinking about going totally “virtual”?

Consider this advice from Tom Glatt, who stepped down last month as the first CEO of the online-only REALTORS Federal Credit Union, serving members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

  • Talk to a credit union with a virtual model—like REALTORS Federal, based in Rockville, Md. When launching, REALTORS Federal received some help from Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, Harrisburg, Pa., which has a virtual model but is traditionally based.
  • Do your homework. “Don’t be in a hurry. Fixing stuff on the fly is difficult,” Glatt notes.
  • Be selective with vendors. “You don’t want someone learning the virtual model at your or your members’ expense.”

Glatt says the credit union’s biggest challenges getting off the ground have been security and awareness.

Unlike a traditional credit union, “we never look members in the face. So whatever security the credit union had to go through with someone to open an account, it did. We triple-checked everything,” says Glatt, in an interview in News Now, published by the Credit Union National Association.

NAR does a “fantastic” job marketing to members, but some still don’t realize that a credit union exists, Glatt says. Raising awareness is a priority.

A virtual model especially can benefit credit unions with national fields of membership or younger people less concerned with the social aspects of banking, he says.

Jane Pannier, REALTORS Federal’s executive vice president/general counsel, has been named acting CEO.