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Filene Launches Center of Excellence on Credit Union Innovation and Incubation

Filene Research Institute launches its Center of Excellence for Innovation and Incubation today and welcomes Dr. Jeffrey Robinson as its new research fellow.

This three-year project will study current trends for how credit unions can respond to members’ desire for greater financial services innovations that meet their needs and their communities’ needs today while also exploring the general state of innovation across the credit union system. Ultimately, this research aims to help credit unions build systems, cultures and processes so that they may remain adaptive to changing needs of members and communities long into the future.

Consumer behaviors and preferences were changing at a rapid pace pre-pandemic and now that change is only accelerating. With 1 in 5 credit union members reporting that they would consider switching to a more innovative financial institution, credit unions can’t afford to ignore this growing consumer demand.

Dr. Jeffrey Robinson

The Center for Innovation and Incubation is led by Dr. Jeffrey Robinson, Associate Professor and Academic Director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development at Rutgers Business School. Dr. Robinson has spent more than 20 years researching innovation and entrepreneurship, and during that time has consulted with more than 2,000 startups and numerous corporations seeking a competitive edge.

“This is my life’s work, what I’ve been doing, and what I want to do. I am interested in supporting an industry I admire—I got my first car loan from a credit union and I am a member of a credit union now,” said Dr. Robinson. “As a researcher, I am interested in this work because I want to better understand and reveal deeper insights on how an industry like credit unions is reacting to social, technological and economic challenges, what kinds of business models are changing, how they are changing, who is changing them, and what kinds of innovations are coming out of these changes.”

“Cooperative finance is not just a business model, it’s a movement—and I like to be involved in movements that matter,” he added.

To support credit union growth, the Center of Excellence for Innovation and Incubation will take an action-oriented applied research approach to studying products, services and operations that can improve the credit union system’s innovation capabilities and capacities.

“Filene’s innovation and incubation initiatives support our broader mission to help credit unions and communities thrive,” said Filene’s Senior Director of Incubation, Josh Sledge. “We do this by seeking new ideas, running test pilots, and scaling promising concepts. The Center of Excellence for Innovation and Incubation will help fuel that mission.”

Generous support for the Center of Excellence for Innovation and Incubation is provided by American Airlines Federal Credit Union (Fort Worth, TX), BECU (Tukwila, Wash.), Christian Financial Credit Union (Sterling Heights, Mich.), Coastal Credit Union (Raleigh, N.C.), and Corporate Central Credit Union (Muskego, Wis.).

“Coastal is pleased to continue our commitment to Filene and supporting the launch of another Center of Excellence,” said Marty Pell, Chief Lending Officer. “This latest Center, and its focus on Innovation and Incubation, will provide credit unions with essential insights to help us identify and develop services that will help make our members’ financial lives better.”

Credit unions and system partners can get involved as part of Filene’s Inner Circle by sponsoring Innovation and Incubation or any other Center of Excellence, much like these strategic partner organizations already have.

“Credit unions have an opportunity to differentiate among financial services providers through business model innovation and entrepreneurial thinking,” said Corporate Central Credit Union’s President & CEO Chris Felton. “Combining credit unions’ status as trusted community partners with Filene’s research on innovation and incubation gives the industry a competitive advantage and Corporate Central is excited to support the advancement of this innovation initiative.”

The launch of this Center of Excellence rounds out Filene’s research agenda with six focus areas. In addition to Innovation and Incubation, Centers for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Consumer Financial Lives in Transition, Emerging Technology, Data Analytics, and Community Social Impact launched in 2020.