Beware the dumb pipes. Today’s telecom companies live in mortal peril of becoming dumb pipes that efficiently transfer data but have little bearing on the valuable data and relationships their conduits make possible. Credit unions, especially the payments side of credit unions, live under the same risk. Massive competitors, including the big banks, multinational technology companies, and a slew of start-ups, are swarming into the payments space. Financial technology (fintech) firms attracted $12 billion in investments in 2014, up from $4 billion the year before.