Collaborate and Iterate: The New CU Tech Paradigm
By John San Filippo
New York City-based Municipal Credit Union had been using an online account opening solution provided by its loan origination system (LOS) vendor. However, the credit union decided that this member experience no longer met the needs and expectations of an increasingly tech-savvy membership. According to the credit union’s Chief Strategy Officer George Chacon, the process was too complicated, requiring members to answer 30 to 40 questions that weren’t necessary to open an account. This meant the process took up to 30 minutes or longer. The credit union needed a more frictionless member experience.
Drawing on Past Relationships
While Chacon acknowledged there are many mature online account opening products on the market, the credit union chose a newer solution from credit union service organization (CUSO) CU NextGen that, at the time, had only completed a couple of installations.
“We worked with (CU NextGen) at my former credit union, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, and they did a lot of work for us, mainly in the area of RPA (robotic process automation),” said Chacon. “They had maybe one or two instances of delivering their account opening solution before, but one thing we did know about CU NextGen is that they deliver – they fulfill their promises.”
The credit union concluded that “out of the box,” the CU NextGen solution met the credit union’s criteria for a minimum viable product (MVP). The credit union went live on June 9, 2023. According to Chacon, Municipal Credit Union originally pressed for a six-week implementation – an admittedly aggressive timeline – but was happy with what turned out to be a nine-week implementation.
“We decided to take the out-of-the-box solution and once it's delivered, iterate and improve it from there,” explained Chacon. “We got (the initial implementation) done quickly, with the promise that we'll continue to work and evolve it.”
The Iterative Approach
Chacon told Finopotamus that even the initial implementation was a vast improvement over the credit union’s previous online account opening solution. Working closely with CU NextGen, Municipal Credit Union was able to implement several new features in a relatively short period of time.
“Out of the box, the solution did not include things like initial funding, the ability to add a beneficiary, automatic account number generation – certain things that our members are used to doing,” noted Chacon. “There were some things that we settled not to have upfront, but those three things I just mentioned are now in place a month or two after we delivered the MVP solution.”
He continued, “We work in sprints and every one or two sprints, we release a small enhancement. This is a high priority project in the organization, so not only does it get the attention that it needs, but we can also set aggressive timelines and work closely with CU NextGen on what we're thinking about next. That way, we can queue it up, get the enhancement done, and move on to the next enhancement.”
Chacon summed up this unique and emerging development approach like this: “Define an MVP and make it available to members using their feedback. You can improve it using that feedback, as well as internal data. I think if we would've tried to design the perfect solution upfront, this would've taken years to take live.” He added that the credit union now has in place – only a couple of months later – an online member application process that is “10 times better” than the credit union’s previous solution.
As chief strategy officer, Chacon’s role for the credit union is “to create, to plan for, and to execute on the future of the credit union … to help us get to where we need to get to.” He added that Municipal will now focus more resources on developing an RPA program with the help of CU NextGen. “Our RPA program is in its infancy,” he said. “We had automated one or two processes up until this point, but we’re looking forward to doing much more.”