By W.B. King
With the goal of demonstrating the power of credit union and fintech collaboration in real-time, the Reseda Group held its inaugural Reseda Summit in early October.
“The idea was sprung from a side conversation at another fintech event between us and a couple of our portfolio company founders about a year prior to the event occurring,” Ben Maxim, Reseda Group’s chief operating officer, told Finopotamus.
The East Lansing, Mich.-based Reseda Group, a wholly owned credit union service organization (CUSO) of MSU Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU), hosted the two-day event at the Detroit Foundation Hotel.
“There has always been an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit in Detroit — even before Henry Ford — and it is still there today,” said Maxim, who also serves as MSUFCU’s chief digital strategy and innovation officer. “That spirit and energy are what we were seeking to capture as part of our event, as well.”
The goal of the event, he explained, was to bring credit union leaders from across the Midwest and Great Lakes regions together to network, learn and collaborate with the Reseda Group portfolio companies.
“Reseda Group provides an ecosystem of technology and service providers to the industry and we wanted to have more partners join us in realizing that goal,” said Maxim.
Seeking Creative Solutions
The Summit attracted more than 100 individuals, representing a mix of fintech founders, credit union executives and board members, credit union league executives from 15 different credit unions, and industry partners like Jack Henry and Visa, noted Maxim.
“The breakdown was roughly 40% fintech including the Reseda Group portfolio company attendees, 40% credit union executives and board members, and 20% industry and league ecosystem partners,” he said.
Among those in attendance was Jessica McNier, vice president of member experience at the $1.3 billion Flint. Mich.-based Financial Plus Credit Union, which supports more than 82,000 members and 11 branches.
“My major goal in attending the event was to engage with technology leaders, from both sides of the fence, CU leadership and fintech pioneers,” McNier told Finopotamus. “I am always evaluating our technology and innovation landscape and looking to bring useful and creative solutions to our business lines for review.”
Engaging directly with fintech representatives was “enlightening,” she added. “We were able to understand partner perspectives and value what a fast ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can mean to them for navigating growth.”
Also on hand was William Dolan, president and head of digital assets and banking at TAPP Engine. The Quincy, Mass.-based fintech offers banking-as-a-service (BaaS) solutions along with embedded digital-first financial services for wealth management firms and other financial institutions.
Dolan, who presented a seven-minute tech demo, told Finopotamus that TAPP Engine is an early-stage startup within the portfolio of companies Reseda Group has invested in.
“We are creating self-directed investment capabilities for credit unions — to help them build wealth and provide education and capabilities to learn about trading,” Dolan said, adding that the company currently counts 15 credit unions as clients.
“Reseda is always looking for the next best way to move the credit union forward,” Dolan said of the event that encouraged the sharing of ideas and experiences. “A lot of credit unions are excited to be a part of that and we are excited to be a part of the experience, too.”
Maxim added that this was the first time fintechs operating within the Reseda Ecosystem were able to meet each other in person.
“They started to identify opportunities for new collaborations to further better the industry. We had a Q&A session where a comment was made making it clear credit unions and fintechs need to collaborate to remain relevant,” he shared. “Most importantly, they need to ‘build out loud’ – meaning they need to tell the story of how they are innovating to compliment the story of what a credit union is truly doing for the communities they serve.”
Balancing Your Artists and Soldiers
Among speakers and presenters at the event were Nicole Harper, director of corporate strategy at Jack Henry; Allison Netzer, chief marketing and strategy officer at Nymbus; April Clobes, president and chief executive officer of MSUFCU; and Ashleigh Ashbrook, the credit union’s vice president of digital service experience.
Maxim gave a 30 minute presentation entitled, “Balancing Your Artists and Soldiers.” The speech was inspired by Safi Bahcall’s book, Loonshots: Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Disease, and Transform Industries.
Artists, Maxim conveyed, pursue new ideas and take risks, while soldiers are at the core business model of an organization.
“It’s important for leaders of credit unions to celebrate both their artists and soldiers equally,” he offered. “Leaders must balance the need to do their core business well, while pursuing new ideas to keep feeding back improvements to the core business in order to stay relevant over very long-time horizons.”
The CUSO Difference
In McNier’s view, Reseda Group and other CUSOs are critical to the industry because these organizations ensure that affordable technology options exist for credit unions of all sizes.
“The heart of the CUSO movement is member-focused and looks to create a strong value proposition,” she said. “The Reseda Group is focusing to ensure that credit unions have options to create and compliment tech stacks easily and with partners that understand who we are as cooperatives.”
Building on McNier’s premise, Dolan, who has been in the fintech space since the 1990s, said CUSOs have investment capabilities that are integral to the industry’s advancement.
“It’s a really important connection because a lot of the organizations out there don’t have the depth of a technology budget nor the expertise in some of the newer, cutting-edge capabilities in the market place,” Dolan said. “These CUSO vehicles gives credit unions the opportunity to find and evaluate different services — not just for use in their own own credit union but for other credit unions that can also partner with fintechs that have shared goals.”
Looking Forward to 2024
While a venue has yet to be announced, based on the success for the inaugural Reseda Summit, the CUSO announced the event will be held again in Detroit on Sept. 18 and 19. In the interim, Maxim said the CUSO will remain busy curating its portfolio of fintech solutions and products.
“We want to partner and collaborate with each other and other credit unions and CUSOs to make the entire credit union industry stronger,” said Maxim. “By hosting an event in the Midwest, in a city like Detroit that is not typically on the credit union conference circuit, we are providing opportunities for Midwest credit union and fintech executives to attend an event nearby, without the expense of travelling across the country.”
When McNier learned that the second event was announced, she was excited but not surprised as she assumed that news of the Summit’s success had likely spread.
“I feel it is important that we work together as credit union professionals to understand overall membership needs and not only work with other credit union’s but also work to understand our business partners (or future business partners) and how we can create a cohesive structure to work within,” she said, adding that she will attend the 2024 Summit.
“Putting all of these powerful innovators together for this event will continue to cultivate and create strong relationships and future thinking,” she continued. “We are lucky to have the Reseda Group to host this future-focused event to ensure that we keep our eyes focused on this rapidly changing financial landscape.”