The Decision Maker

Building for the Future

Posted by Michael Cochrum on Apr 5, 2017 11:15:00 AM

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When my brother and I were kids, we liked to build things. We built forts, ramps and anything else we could fashion out of scrap wood.  Typically, our projects served a specific function, to ward off rival “street gangs” of preteens from another block, to propel our dirt bikes into the air, or whatever else we decided could or would result in our becoming temporarily disabled.  We thought we were good builders, but the greatest evidence that we were not, is that our work does not exist in any form today.

On the other hand, on a recent trip to D.C. for the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Arlington House, the former homestead of Robert E. Lee before the Civil War, built in 1803. As we walked through the halls of the mansion and stood in the rooms where many leaders once stood, we were in awe of the way our forefathers once lived (especially how short they must have been) and amazed at how the home had stood the test of time.  The Arlington House was built by craftsman who not only cared about the residents of the time/era, but the legacy of their work for years to come.

In credit union land, much of what we do is about the here and now. Let’s face it, we have little time to think about anything else.  Regulations and consumer expectations change so quickly, much of our time and money is spent just staying ahead of the onslaught of these demands rather than thinking about the future.  One area in credit union operations where this is most evident is in the way we handle our data resources.  We have been storing data as we have received it, with no real intentionality of how we might use that data in the future for our business.  We stored it for three primary reasons:  Disaster Recover, Transactional Reporting or Research, and Regulatory Requirements.  But, what if we stored data in a way that we could actually use it to make future business decisions about how we will engage our members?  Quite honestly, today, Data Analytics and Business Intelligence is what separates highly successful organizations from the mediocre.  In a few short years, it will separate the existing from the non-existing.  It’s really that important.

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With an awareness of how important the data we collect is, perhaps it is time to look at the strength and integrity of our data architecture. In other words, we need to move from building temporary data “forts” and “ramps,” to constructing robust and flexible data warehouses that are intended to serve our business purposes over the long term and serve as a functional legacy for future credit union leaders.  However, this may not be possible with the resources that you currently have on hand.  It’s really not a Do-It-Yourself job, and you can’t depend upon your IT team to get the work done; their focus is on keeping your operational resources running and secure.  Instead, you should look to engage a third party to help you develop a plan.  Data Scientists are trained to identify and purify the right data for analysis and create an architecture that is useful to business users, like you, who need to tap into business intelligence quickly for decision making.

Progressive and innovative competitors are beginning to disrupt the delivery of financial services to our members. If we truly want to provide service to our members when and how they want those services, we must begin to lay the ground work today.  The first step in that process is to understand that the effective and efficient delivery of products and services in today’s consumer space is highly dependent on real-time business intelligence. As a credit union leader, it is up to you to create a lasting legacy and to ensure that the credit union movement can be sustained for many years to come, as it was for the forefathers of this nation to preserve the union of the states.

About the Author

Michael has worked in the consumer lending industry since 1989. In 1999, he joined the credit union industry, working for the Texas Credit Union League’s credit union. Mr. Cochrum joined CU Direct Corporation in 2004, helping to create the largest CU retail Point of Purchase lending network in the US. He currently heads up the CU Direct’s Advisory Services offering consulting to credit unions in the areas of operational efficiencies and analytics. Michael is a 2004 graduate of the Southwest CUNA Management School and in addition to his management and leadership experience, his lending background includes loan originations, collections and recovery, and risk management.

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Topics: Big Data, Data warehouse, FinTech

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