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  • Writer's pictureRoy Urrico

SRM Experts: A Fintech Blueprint Should Include Vendor Management

By Roy Urrico

Jeff Ostheimer, director, fintech advisory services, at SRM.

Embracing fintech for credit unions requires learning how to appropriately allocate resources and manage vendor contracts. Two experts from SRM (Strategic Resource Management, Inc.), – Jeff Ostheimer, director of fintech advisory services, and Cody Harrell, managing director, community financial institutions – shared with Finopotamus the impact of vendor negotiations on potential opportunities, profitability, and growth.


Memphis-based SRM, an independent advisory firm serving financial institutions across North America and Europe, works with credit unions and other financial institutions to assess and optimize vendor contracts.


Ostheimer and Harrell highlighted the importance of:


  • Working with a fintech blueprint.

  • Easing the burden of vendor negotiations by implementing a long-term view of the entire vendor contract strategy.

  • Fostering relationships with knowledgeable industry partners that enable a credit union to better navigate and align their vendor contract strategy.


Implementing a Fintech Blueprint


“We tackled this topic last fall with our SRM Report on Why Every Financial Institution Needs a Fintech Blueprint,” said Ostheimer. He emphasized the need for a well-defined fintech blueprint has become more pressing in today's rapidly evolving financial landscape, where technological advancements are reshaping every aspect of banking. “Banks and credit unions, traditionally perceived as conservative institutions, now recognize the imperative to innovate and embrace fintech solutions to stay competitive.”


Cody Harrell, managing director, community financial institutions, SRM.

Ostheimer added, A fintech blueprint is not just a strategic option but a necessity for credit unions and banks looking to thrive in today's digital era. “By embracing fintech innovation and adopting a structured approach to integration, FIs (financial institutions) can unlock new growth opportunities, enhance customer experiences, and maintain a competitive edge."


Harrell said, “To build on Jeff's points, I see this as a key difference between proactive and reactive operations. In a changing market and industry, creating a blueprint for how to work with fintechs (even if your strategy is to be a ‘fast follower’) is critical now.”


Financial institutions should develop a digital roadmap and fintech partnership strategy forecasting three to five years at a time, continuously updated on a semiannual (or minimally, annual) basis, Harrell suggested. “Building the blueprint is important to stay relevant and continue to grow and serve your member base."



Balancing Integrated Technology with Vendor Contract Strategy


Finopotamus asked, “How can financial institutions balance the need to utilize up-to-date integrated technology with implementing a long-term view of the entire vendor contract strategy?” Harrell recommended setting a list of goals and prioritizing the top needs “using a maturity assessment built by an independent, solution-agnostic consultant.”


Harrell continued, “Once developed, the assessment can identify short-term and long-term priorities and a plan for reaching the desired future state. FIs must align with appropriate partners to future proof the financial institution without being hindered by an antiquated vendor agreement that makes it hard to adapt and adopt new technology.”


Harrell further suggested FIs can assess ongoing capabilities with evaluations conducted on current partners and partners available in the market. These can address any gaps or pain points in respective tech stacks. Partner decisions should align “with the end goal in mind," he noted.


Ensuring a Better Partnership


"Transparency, alignment, and communication are the keys to any partnership. Regardless of workload and schedules, regular business review meetings with key partners are imperative,” said Harrell. “Keeping track of projects that the vendor has underway, timelines for completion, and holding them accountable to meet deadlines is also essential.”


Harrell also maintained if credit unions and banks take the hands-off approach and expect partners to do it all, that usually ends badly. “Addressing critical business terms and service level standards in vendor agreements is the best way to hold partners accountable. It would be great if these never came into play,” he continued. “Still, it is a way to maintain standards and have open, transparent conversations on the relationship and the value vendors provide.”


In the business meetings and periodic reviews, explaining the organization’s vision and short/long-term goals to partners helps them understand “where you want to go and how they can help you get there,” added Harrell. “Better communication allows them to provide ideas and solutions based on your strategy, not just repeat pages from their existing playbook.”


Vendor Strategy


Harrell proposed credit unions look at their vendors, vendor strategy, and contracts as partnerships, not transactional. “Vendor partners should help your institution succeed and grow.”


Vendors should, he added, influence operations to ensure the talent and resources are available to maximize the products and services provided. Said Harrell, “Focus on building and expanding the partnership by giving time, resources, and a strategic focus to the relationship and utilizing the offering to its fullest to create better relationships with the vendor partner."

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