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5 min read

Digital Transformation in Finance: Start Small. Think Big. Move Fast.

By Matt Tillman

Naveen Jain is the Founder of CULytics and a credit union leader experienced in strategic planning, data analytics, marketing, and innovation that delivers reliable return on investment at multi-billion dollar institutions. We chatted with him about how organizations can set objectives and build out their own roadmap towards digital transformation while keeping members at the forefront.

(Gently edited for flow and readability)

How would you define Digital Transformation?

To me it’s about using technology to enable engagements across the entire customer lifecycle as well as the back office operations. The goal is to identify and qualify all touchpoints and make it so that teams can act on them.

Transformation means a newer way of doing what we’ve done in the past. How can we use this technology to deliver products and services to help members and align with our own objectives?

How unique is digital transformation to each organization?

Each organization has its unique selling points along with members who have their own unique needs. Because of this, there is no cookie-cutter approach to digital transformation that you can apply across every organization. But best practices can be pulled together into a playbook that other companies can leverage and customize to make a process that makes the most sense for them.

What are the major reasons organizations don’t invest in digital transformation?

In a recent conversation with some finance leaders, they identified two major reasons many haven’t taken the digital transformation leap. First, there is a real lack of vision around what the end state should look like for all of the stakeholders, including members, staff — the organization as a whole. How do you identify the benefits of digital transformation for everyone?

The second hurdle is a fear of failure. Because it feels like such a large undertaking, it’s hard to identify the roadmap to achieve success. This is where the shared playbook can be a helpful starting point to identify the stepping stones organizations can use to get to true digital transformation.

Why should credit unions attempt Digital Transformation? What are the biggest benefits they should focus on as they develop a plan?

To me it’s a question of survival. This is not optional — customers are demanding it. They are engaging digitally with so many different brands, and the speed and quality they are receiving carries over into what they expect from their financial institutions. If banks and credit unions aren’t able to meet those expectations, consumers have many other options to turn to.

When talking to financial institutions, how do you recommend they identify limited projects within the transformation process and then prioritize them to keep moving forward toward the larger goal?

Everyone has limited time and bandwidth. It’s impossible to invest in all areas. Right now I’m working on a blueprint to help credit unions determine where to invest in digital transformation, and I’ve identified 500 categories for potential investment. There is no way any organization can invest in all of these areas. Prioritization is key.

Of course organizations will prioritize differently, but they often make decisions based on promises made to them without determining if their organization is ready internally to take on all the benefits that a technology partner can offer.

For example, an Arizona-based credit union invested in a marketing automation tool. They used it to send mass emails out to all of their members, but without using any of the segmentation, personalization, or analytics tools available through the platform. They were paying 100x more than a simple email tool because they liked the promised benefits but they were not set up internally to utilize the full value of the tool.

Leaders must ask themselves: once you make an investment in a tool, are you holding yourself accountable for getting the full investment out of it?

What's the low hanging fruit that banks and credit unions should focus on as they're getting started with a digital transformation?

Data warehouse and marketing automation are top of mind as low hanging fruit. If you don’t at least have a marketing automation tool, you are unable to communicate seamlessly with your customers, and balls are inevitably getting dropped. Additionally, a CRM tool is needed to capture all the interaction points, create customer profiles, and then share those profiles with front line staff in order to enable them to take action.

How do you help credit unions keep their members the number one priority as they determine objectives in achieving digital transformation?

A lot of times organizations make investments in technology areas without having identified true organizational objectives. Investments are often made in silos. For example, marketing may invest in certain areas without working with the branches, call centers, etc. However the beneficiaries of these investments are often not marketing, but rather these other departments that interact with members. It is the responsibility of departments to work in unison to make appropriate decisions about where to invest and how to implement the tools that provide value to the members.

When you are making those decisions, don’t make them based on the technology. Instead, identify your overall vision & strategy, and then you can lay out a roadmap that includes the people, process, and the technology. Even if you use the best technology in the world, you are not guaranteed to get to the best place you envisioned. If you use a B-grade technology you may get closer to success if you have taken the time to lay out the roadmap and set member-centered objectives.

What are the key traits or questions leaders ask when they are vetting fintech organizations?

There are some key questions leadership needs to ask themselves as they talk to solution providers.

  • How does a new tool integrate with your current system and day-to-day operations?
  • How is it going to impact and benefit the staff and the members?
  • What processes need to be implemented, changed, or modified?
  • What enablement resources will you need to help train your staff?
  • What support is needed from a service side?
  • Data concerns: How is data being transferred? How secure is your data? How will the data be made available across the organization?

How has COVID-19 acted as a catalyst for digital transformation initiatives?

Some initiatives that have bubbled up include the ability of front line staff to interact with members virtually. Additionally, how can organizations respond to basic member questions in an automated way to free up resources to assist those members with more complex needs.

The bottom line concern is: how can we make staff and processes more efficient through virtual interactions.

What’s your key message to credit union leaders?

Start small, think big, but move fast. Don’t think small because you can scale whatever you are working on, but be able to move fast towards digital transformation.

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