2021 CUNA Technology Conference Takeaway: Future of Payments Require CU/Fintech Partnerships

By W.B. King

Among topics covered at the 2021 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Virtual Conference was the ever-changing payments landscape.

The purpose of the “Digital Payments Revolution” session centered on how credit unions can adapt and remain relevant, explained moderator Richard Head, vice president of IT for Linn Area Credit Union.

Featured speaker Mark Sievewright, founder and CEO of Sievewright & Associates, noted that global payments business generates approximately $2 trillion in revenues each year (with an 8% compound annual growth rate). Credit unions, he said, will be sharing slices of that proverbial pie with an increasing number of new competitors.

Sievewright has had a long history in the payments space. He held senior leadership positions at HSBC, MasterCard International, Payment Systems Inc., TowerGroup (where he served as CEO) and Fiserv where he served as president of the company’s Credit Union Solutions division.

CEO of Sievewright & Associates, Mark Sievewright.

During his presentation, he listed factors impacting payments today.These include: COVID-19, macro trends in financial services, shifts in consumer behavior and demographic change, digital transformation, competition in payments and the rise of digital currencies.

While he said the pandemic “accelerated” digital payments changes, he added that this aspect of the industry was fluctuating well before COVID-19 changed the world in 2020. And to this end, Sievewright focused, in part, on what the future of payments will look like. This process, he said, is best categorized as “disruptive change.”

The Fintech Partnership Solution

Once viewed as disruptors, progressive fintechs in the payments space offer “hugely collaborative” opportunities to forward-looking credit unions, Sievewright noted.

“We can’t afford to do what Chase [Bank] does and that is put hundreds of people focused on the fintech space to identify opportunities,” he said. “But we can use our existing partners, our national associations, leagues and other methods to find ways to collaborate with these fintechs.”

Building on Sievewright’s premise, Linn Area Credit Union’s Head asked how credit unions should be viewing fintechs and the impact these companies are having on the payments space.