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New Research Aims to Solve Consumer and Business Problems in Novel and Sustainable Ways

Center of Excellence on credit union innovation launches as economic shifts reshape the cooperative finance industry.

Filene Research Institute’s Center of Excellence for Innovation and Incubation will conduct academic and applied research to better understand innovation in financial services and improve the North American credit union system’s innovation capabilities and capacities.

The three-year project will supply credit unions annually with insights and resources to enhance their commitment to and leadership in consumer-focused innovation and product development. Through the work of this project, credit unions will have the tools needed to serve as a model for effective consumer-friendly business and social innovation approaches. The impact Filene seeks as a result of this research is for credit unions to be acknowledged as the leader in financial services innovation.

“The consumer finance industry is being disrupted and fragmented with incredible speed as new technologies, solutions, providers, and interfaces appear almost daily. At the same time, broader economic changes and the effects of the global pandemic are reshaping communities, job markets, and the state of consumer financial health,” said Filene’s President and CEO Mark Meyer. “In this ever-changing environment, credit unions must learn to adapt and uncover new solutions and business models that support their growth and impact. The new center’s focus on the process of innovation will expand credit unions’ capabilities to solve consumer and business problems in novel and sustainable ways.”

The consumer finance industry is being disrupted and fragmented with incredible speed as new technologies, solutions, providers, and interfaces appear almost daily.

In collaboration with an advisory council of credit union leaders and a dedicated research fellow, the Center’s work will:

  • Define, measure, and landscape business model innovation in credit unions and the consumer finance system, identifying opportunities for credit unions to differentiate on innovation.
  • Investigate models for creating and sustaining cultures of innovation, resilience, and organizational agility.
  • Study and expand product development and service design strategies in credit unions and consumer finance.
  • Explore new cooperative and consumer financial products, services, technologies, and operational approaches to build a playbook for the future of financial services.
  • Work with academics on a proprietary innovation index to benchmark credit unions and other financial institutions.
  • Evaluate the impact of credit union innovation to gauge the effect of new products or business models on business sustainability and member financial health.

The Innovation and Incubation Center of Excellence will also supplement and support Filene’s incubator and i3 executive education program to improve understanding of agile product development, human-centered design and creative collaboration. “For the past 15 years, Filene’s i3 group has worked with the next generation of credit union leaders to identify, prototype, and test new products, services, and business models. While successful, the program can only engage a handful of credit unions each year,” said Filene’s Senior Director of Incubation Josh Sledge. “To extend our reach and strengthen the industry’s innovation capabilities, the Center’s applied research program will identify effective approaches to innovation and broaden their utilization across the credit union industry.”

Generous support for the Center of Excellence for Innovation and Incubation is provided by BECU, Christian Financial Credit Union, Coastal Credit Union, and Corporate Central Credit Union.

“As a financial cooperative, we are driven by our purpose to bring people together to improve the financial well-being of our members and their communities. To do so, we must continue to accelerate and improve upon our digital capabilities, products and programs to meet evolving needs,” said Doug Marshall, BECU’s Chief Digital and Product Officer. “Filene’s work to spark and incubate innovation is critical to the industry’s ability to advance in these areas and help us ultimately deliver more value to our members.”

The Center of Excellence for Innovation and Incubation will officially launch in February 2021.

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