MDT Celebrates 20 Years in Business By Looking Forward
By W.B. King
With the goal to create a more efficient, cost-effective way to approach core processing, a number of Michigan-based credit unions banned together 20 years ago giving rise to Member Driven Technologies (MDT).
Today, the Farmington Hills, Mich.-based credit union service organization (CUSO) serves nearly 120 credit unions across the country, representing over two million members and $29 billion in total assets.
On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Finopotamus sat down with MDT’s President and CEO Larry Nichols.
“Twenty years ago seems like a different world. There were no smartphones, no online collaboration tools like Zoom/Teams, no cloud delivery models,” he said. “However, MDT has always been at the forefront. We started experimenting with digital banking back before digital banking even existed.”
Over the years, MDT kept pace with the ever-changing tech market, sometimes a step ahead. Nichols, who has spent more than 40-plus years in IT and previously served as the chief information officer of DFCU Financial, said the CUSO’s “innovative mindset” has propelled the organization forward.
“We’re fully embracing the cloud, digital collaboration tools, new and faster payments, digital account openings – these things simply didn’t exist when MDT began,” he noted. “I’m proud that we’ve never stopped modernizing, and given the rapid pace of technology growth and client needs we have no plans to slow down.”
Nichols shared that MDT was the first CUSO to host mobile banking and email services as well as security services for credit unions. “Something that had never been done before but has become of the utmost importance to the industry today,” he said. “The protection of credit unions and their members has always been a top priority for us, and we will only continue to accelerate this initiative.”
MDT currently hosts the Symitar core processing system from Jack Henry, which provides a private cloud alternative for core processing and IT needs. The organization’s reputation for providing exceptional service and client satisfaction, best demonstrated by a 97% retention rate for credit union clients, earned it the 2023 Finopotamus Tekkie for Tech CUSO of the Year.
While Nichols noted MDT was “honored” to receive the award, he said that “from our technology to our people to our culture, we strive to truly embody the ‘people helping people’ philosophy.”
CUSOs, Now and Then
When MDT began its journey, Nichols told Finopotamus the CUSO landscape wasn’t as focused on technology as it is today.
“We were one of the only CUSOs dedicated to helping credit unions acquire, leverage and optimize their technology tools,” he said, adding that over the years CUSOs have become more diversified.
“There has been an influx of CUSOs focused on technology, which wasn’t the case two decades ago,” he said. “There has also been a rise in business-focus CUSOs as credit unions have been more aggressively attracting and creating tools and services specifically to serve business members.”
CUSOs, Nichols offered, are critically important to the longevity of the industry because they allow smaller credit unions to access technology resources that would otherwise likely be beyond their reach.
“They help credit unions boost efficiencies, innovate and deliver stronger experiences to members,” he noted. “CUSOs leverage the power of community, which is central to the credit union mission.”
When developing new tech products and initiatives, MDT watches market trends and keeps an open ear to suggestions from CUSO members.
“We have credit unions that have really embraced certain fintechs and come to us to enable integrations. We also have credit unions that will come to us with a particular product or need and we come together to find a solution,” he said. “Our annual client conference and CEO Forum (which is essentially a think tank for CEOs) also tends to heavily influence our roadmap and priorities.”
As Nichols looks toward the next 20 years, Finopotamus asked what challenges he thinks credit unions will face. Topping his list are security threats.
“As technology advances, so will the cyber threats targeting credit unions, ultimately opening doors for larger and more devastating attacks,” he said. “This is why at MDT we prioritize having safeguards already in place and keeping up with the latest cybersecurity advancements.”
Credit unions, he added, should also keep a close eye on digital currencies and artificial intelligence. “MDT is committed to staying on top of these trends and continually innovating, providing guidance, solutions and support for credit unions as they navigate a changing ecosystem,” he said.