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Filene Launches Center of Excellence to Explore Consumers’ Changing Financial Lives

Consumer Financial Lives in Transition is the second dedicated research center to launch in 2020, and will be led by Dr. Lisa Servon.

Announced this morning at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington D.C., Filene Research Institute launches the Center of Excellence for Consumer Financial Lives in Transition and welcomes Dr. Lisa Servon as its new research fellow.

This four-year research project focuses on strengthening credit unions’ capacity to adapt to consumers’ changing financial lives and livelihoods as they face new forms of economic struggle and financial fragility. The Center will be led by Dr. Servon, the Kevin and Erica Penn Presidential Professor and Chair of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design.

Dr. Lisa Servon

“I am excited for this opportunity to go deeper into the trigger areas that drive people to alternative financial services,” said Dr. Servon. “People have a right to be financially healthy and the right to safe and quality financial services. The work from this Center will help credit unions serve people facing different kinds of transitions – income volatility, retirement, physical health and inequalities. If we can understand the frequency of these kinds of transitions and when people are going through them, we may be able to help alleviate the financial burdens that have been historically created.”

Dr. Servon is no stranger to Filene. In 2016, Filene hosted a special listening session featuring Dr. Servon and her book, The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives. She now joins Filene in this new capacity to guide the Center for Consumer Financial Lives in Transition. As Fellow, Dr. Servon will lead new research to:

  • Study how individuals and families earn, save, spend, borrow, invest and give across their lifecycles.
  • Prepare credit unions for an increasingly diverse consumer base characterized by heightened fragility.
  • Build a playbook for credit unions to better serve consumers’ changing needs and expectations.
  • Document trends in consumer financial services, including auto, mortgage, healthcare, and student lending, as well as savings and personal financial and wealth management.
  • Identify new member groups through granular segmentation, such as households and communities of color, veterans and military families, incarcerated and recently incarcerated populations, students and multigenerational families, etc.
  • Investigate the future of work and business services, from the independent workforce to new forms of small-business entrepreneurship.

Generous support for the Center of Consumer Financial Lives in Transition is provided by CUNA Mutual Group, BCU, Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) and PSCU.

“At CUNA Mutual Group we believe that a brighter financial future should be accessible to everyone.” said Tim McAdow, VP, Go-to-Customer from CUNA Mutual Group. “Credit unions grant us the privilege to act as an extension of their institutions to make an impact for members. When I consider the outcomes from this new center it’s clear we will generate fresh consumer insights and trigger dialogue that will help us all design and deliver more relevant and impactful experiences. Research like this will help ensure positive and quality financial services are accessible to everyone.”

Filene members had a chance to hear Dr. Servon speak at Filene’s annual Board Chair Breakfast this morning. As the keynote speaker, she shared her past research and how it will inform her vision of the future and how it impacts credit unions, as well as her call to action for a more strategic approach to credit union earnings, growth and philanthropic donations.

“There is so much to learn about the forces shaping peoples’ lives, from the big transformations remaking our economy to planned and unplanned events across a single person’s lifecycle,” said Taylor C. Nelms, Senior Director of Research at Filene Research Institute. “Both kinds of transitions introduce a range of new financial and non-financial challenges. Credit unions play a vital role in meeting people’s diverse financial needs. With Dr. Servon’s leadership, we can think creatively on the credit union value proposition and think about what cooperative finance can do through and beyond isolated transactions.”

The Center for Consumer Financial Lives in Transition follows the successful launch of the Center of Excellence for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in January. In 2020, Filene will be launching six new Centers of Excellence focusing on:

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion practices and policies in credit unions
  • Consumers’ changing financial lives and livelihoods, including new forms of work, entrepreneurship and personal finance
  • Best practices in measuring and accelerating innovation and incubation
  • Emerging financial technologies and their effects on business strategy and consumer experience
  • Impacts of financial services on community well-being and the strategic advantages of social responsibility
  • Advancement of credit unions’ capabilities in data governance, management and analytics