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  • Writer's pictureShanon McLachlan

Best Practices for Collaboration That Expedites Innovation

Guest Editorial by Shanon McLachlan, President of Credit Union Solutions at Jack Henry


Credit unions’ people-helping-people ethos extends well beyond the walls of their institution and communities served. The industry’s collaborative roots have prepared it well for today’s needs. Change is moving at unprecedented rates, necessitating a strong bond between credit unions and fintechs to keep up. Successful collaboration reduces expenses, diversifies markets, and minimizes risks. Most importantly, it provides modern experiences that keep credit unions and their members financially sound.


These synergies begin with embracing an open philosophy. Evolving credit unions are open to exchanging new ideas, learning different skills, and challenging their ways of thinking. Collaboration can happen through personal connections, associations, leagues, user groups, and more. Each facilitates a starting point to understand the best practices others have found to approach today’s business challenges and support members and businesses in today’s economy.


CU Build is an example of this philosophy in action. The event is designed to spark innovation, cultivate learning, and foster new developments within the industry. This year’s third annual build-a-thon included over 60 attendees representing 25 credit unions, plus 19 vendors, and nearly 40 Jack Henry employees. Credit unions leveraged the Symitar core and complementary technologies to build data-driven solutions that solve real-world needs. Teams who have never worked together before shared diverse skill sets and raced to collaborate on new solutions. Each team member played a role in the development and presentation of their solution. Final products were evaluated on their fit to the theme, innovation, functionality, design, scalability, and mission. The grand prize winner focused on building credit scores through teen-secured loans, while another used generative AI to develop chatbots and personal financial management tools. In the end, more than a million lines of code were written, solutions created, and invaluable new connections were made.


This event reinforces the value of combining open technology with a community of open-minded individuals to produce member-first solutions that make a difference. Teams explored and tested new ideas in a safe and controlled environment, which helped to remove barriers to innovation. Having teams of individuals with different skill sets and backgrounds allowed for a fresh and diverse perspective. They could freely share their knowledge, as well as challenge themselves to think outside of their department and credit union. This enabled them to learn from each other while solving real-life challenges they may have faced as a member or employee of a credit union. Real stories and pain points become the catalyst for creativity and passion, further exemplifying the industry’s people-helping-people philosophy.


One of the biggest takeaways from the event is the need for credit unions to be open-minded and willing to collaborate. Not only does everyone benefit when we learn from each other, but it propels technology forward. Collaboration helps individuals create solutions that improve the financial lives of members – both within and outside of their communities. Part of this responsibility falls on the vendors to provide open infrastructure that enables this collaboration to happen. When everyone is open, great innovation can happen at scale for the benefit of the entire industry.


Credit unions can replicate this CU Build atmosphere on a smaller scale within their institutions. Start by promoting cross-learning between the front and back-office employees. There are short-term growth opportunities from seeing the credit union as a whole, such as shifting from job function improvement to process improvement. And, uncovering new insights and perspectives beyond the employees’ day-to-day jobs. I hope that events like CU Build inspire credit unions to collaborate more openly – even if it’s taking these small steps today.


Shanon McLachlan is the president of Credit Union Solutions at Jack Henry, a well-rounded technology provider serving community and regional institutions with a wide offering of capabilities.

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