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  • Writer's pictureRoy Urrico

FinovateSpring Throws Spotlight on Credit Unions

By Roy Urrico

Photo by Burak The Weekender. Pexels.com.

When FinovateSpring convenes May 21-23, 2024 in San Francisco, the fintech showcase will bring back the Credit Union Spotlight, a session that provides space for credit unions to connect with each other, and with some companies demonstrating financial technology. The goal of the session is to foster greater collaboration between credit unions and fintechs, while offering credit union technologists a chance to connect with peers about credit union best practices when partnering with fintechs.


Coordinators of Credit Union Spotlight – Greg Palmer, vice president and director of fintech strategy at Finovate, and Sam Das, managing director of TruStage Ventures – described to Finopotamus how the session first came together at FinovateFall in 2023 and plans for its inclusion at FinovateSpring and FinovateFall in 2024.

Greg Palmer, vice president /director, fintech strategy at Finovate.

“This kind of grew organically last fall. We noticed that we had a lot of credit union representatives attending FinovateFall (2023),” said Palmer. “We tried something. It was pretty successful giving credit unions space to connect with each other, and also pulling in some of our demoing companies who focus on the credit union ecosystem.”

 

Palmer noted, “We got some really good feedback on it, and we are going to try it again at FinovateSpring and FinovateFall this year. “At a really high level, [Credit Union Spotlight] is just a place to let the credit union folks talk more candidly, talk more openly about some of the unique challenges that they're facing.”

 

Putting Credit Union Spotlight Together

 

“When Greg reached out to me about the concept, I was instantly intrigued because we're seeing credit unions attend more of these fintech-specific conferences,” said Das. TruStage Ventures, he noted, is the venture capital arm of TruStage, providing financial products and services to 95% of U.S. credit unions.


Sam Das, managing director of TruStage Ventures.

“TruStage Ventures can make investments in companies that we feel are going to help modernize the credit union infrastructure and help credit unions just be more competitive in the marketplace,” said Das. “So, we are making those types of fintech investments that ultimately are going to help reap benefits directly for credit unions and ultimately to help better the credit union ecosystem.”


Das added of event attendees, “Credit unions want to learn, they want to get more deeply involved in the ecosystem and better understand the companies that are on the cutting edge of some of the issues that they're trying to solve.”


Palmer explained, “We've heard anecdotally a lot of credit union folks sometimes feel slightly overwhelmed in the general audience at Finovate. They see the demos up on stage, they see lines of people who are waiting to talk to those companies at the booth and know that most of the people who are talking to those companies are from organizations that are different from theirs, whether it is community banks or larger financial institutions.”


Palmer added, “By pulling those demoing companies out into a separate room for credit unions specifically, it gives them a safer space to ask some questions that are specific around the challenges that credit unions are facing.”


At these types of conferences, Das pointed out that it is easy for credit union representatives to feel overwhelmed. “[Credit Union Spotlight] is a natural way for those credit unions who are attending to help accelerate their learning curve, but do it in a format that helps to engage them directly in the conversation.”


On a sidenote, Das pointed out, “(TruStage Ventures) can make investments in companies that we feel are going to help modernize the credit union infrastructure and help credit unions just be more competitive in the marketplace. So, we are making those types of fintech investments that ultimately are going to help reap benefits directly for credit unions and ultimately to help better the credit union ecosystem.”



Next Up: San Fransisco


Credit Union Spotlight will take place on day three (May 23, 2024) of FinovateSpring, around midday and is scheduled to last about 90 minutes.


“It is a kind of a loose RSVP system. Any credit union on site can just show up and get in,” Palmer said. “They do not necessarily need to reply ahead of time. We will be checking name tags at the door to make sure that people have credit unions on their name tags.”


In terms of the structure of the Credit Union Spotlight, “We'll start off with just a quick introduction from Sam. Then we will bring in some of our demoing companies who will camp out at a specific roundtable. People can come and sit and chat with them” he said. “The companies will actually stay in the same place and attendees can move around the room to connect with whichever companies seem interesting to them.”


Demoing companies will then vacate the room, allowing credit union folks to discuss the tech offerings. “We'll make sure that they have some opportunity to chat amongst themselves without those fintechs actually in the room,” said Palmer.


“One of the key differentiators with credit unions, I think, is their capacity to share amongst themselves around what are best practices and also freely admitting what has not worked,” said Das. “They are very collaborative in that sense. And, you know, these types of settings help just provide a forum to voice those personal experiences.”


For FinovateFall 2024, taking place Sept. 9 to 11 at New York City’s Marriott Marquis, the Credit Union Spotlight will take place on day three as well. Said Palmer, “We kind of like this pattern where the first two days you can have a very traditional Finovate experience where you can come and see all of the demos and network with everybody over those first two days. On the third day is when we split out into different tracks, some subject-matter tracks.”


Topics Sure to Come Up


Finopotamus asked what the top issues are right now. “Obviously everyone is still kind of reeling from liquidity issues and how to navigate that with fintechs,” said Das. “So that ranges from deposit solutions and what are the new innovative ways to leverage fintech partnerships for driving new member, acquisition and how to kind of diversify.” Das emphasized implicit in that whether credit unions should look at embedded finance as a solution.


Another topic sure to come up for credit unions, noted Das, is artificial intelligence (AI) strategies. including how to properly utilize AI both for internal purposes and as a potential tool to interact with members, whether it is utilizing conversational AI or as a means to streamline workflows.

 

Palmer suggested from a fintech standpoint, “When they can then focus on credit unions specifically, they are able to get a lot more targeted. They are able to be more explicit in the value that they are providing. It just kind of moves the conversation along a little bit more quickly between some of those fintechs and credit unions that they are supporting.”

 

As to where CUSOs fit in, Das pointed out they should be comfortable wherever they sit at the roundtable. “You have credit unions setting up their own CUSOs with a fintech spin. And then a lot of the companies in our portfolio are CUSOs that have taken on credit union capital as part of their strategy. It just speaks to how all these players are really just trying to improve the ecosystem for the greater good.”


New Slate

 

Returning attendees will see a completely new slate of demoing companies at the FinovateSpring this time around versus last year’s FinovateFall, Palmer said. “And we will likely have a new slate of companies again for FinovateFall (2024). We're always trying to make sure that people are seeing the freshest technologies. So, there is not much danger of repeats for people who attend multiple credit union sessions with us.”


While fintechs participating in the next Credit Union Spotlight are undetermined they will come from the pool of demoing companies on the Finovate website, Paul noted. “We're still confirming the companies that are going to be involved in this session.” He added they are trying to find ones that sort of hit the “sweet spot” of either focusing specifically on credit unions or could fit in with credit unions.

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