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Innovation: Novel Ideas from Next Generation Credit Union Leaders

This report details progress on a unique group designed to tap the power of innovation within the credit union industry.

    Executive Summary

    The credit union industry itself is a product of innovation. Today, in an ever-changing environment, credit unions are increasingly experiencing market forces to implement new products, services and business models to meet the needs the market. As stated by John Koa, “There is nothing more important today for businesses – whether they be Fortune 500 companies or e-commerce startups – than innovation. What could be more important than to be able to reinvent yourself, to be more in touch with your environment, more aligned with your opportunities, more effective in using your talent so you can be constantly moving forward to create value?”

    What is the research about?

    Here we examine the efforts of 26 creative people working together in Filene's i3 to identify, develop and implement ideas that will help credit unions better serve their members and communities. More specifically, we report on:

    • Who the members of i3 are
    • How they were selected to participate in the program
    • Their views concerning the future needs of members and credit unions
    • Their ideas about the creative process and its application in the i3 organization
    • Their thoughts about specific projects, including:
      • Intergenerational credit cards, which allow family members without credit to grow their credit under the guidance of another family member who has established a good credit history 
      • Lifestyle lending, which offers unsecured loans for elective medical procedures that are becoming mainstream at a time that health insurance programs are becoming more limited 
      • Communicating with specific member segments through new technologies, including weblogs, chat programs and instant messaging
      • Educating young adults in the wise use of credit cards, thereby differentiating themselves from other providers in important ways
    • Their next steps to develop ideas, innovation and implementation of key products and services
    • How credit unions can help in this effort, and become involved in i3

    What are the credit union implications?

    During its first four months in operation, the i3 group addressed a number of innovative components of the credit union product and service package. Through their cross-functional structure, i3 self-directed work groups were able to initiate or advance a number of promising initiatives at their own credit unions. One important goal of the i3 program is to create incremental innovation. In other words, creating even a small change at just one credit union can in time have industry implications. Read this report to learn more about the incremental innovation where participants have created change service delivery for the benefit of members in their own credit unions by making just a small difference.