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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Tech People in the Know: Cotribute’s Philip Paul

In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus will profile interesting and intriguing tech professionals who are positively impacting the credit union industry.


For this issue, we visited with Cotribute’s CEO Philip Paul. With clients ranging from Fortune 500 financial institutions to regional credit unions, the Anaheim, Calif.-based fintech offers embedded digital account opening, loan application and SEG/community engagement programs, among other services.


By W.B. King


If asked what professional proclivity he identifies with first, a technologist or an engineer, Philip Paul would likely say the latter. The two disciplines, however, are often and easily conflated. 


“My journey into technology began with a fascination for engineering and the process of creating. This intrinsic curiosity led me to pursue a formal education in computer engineering and computer science, laying the groundwork for my career in the tech industry,” Paul told Finopotamus.


Philip Paul

“My initial professional path took a detour into management consulting, where I spent a decade working with a prominent firm specializing in Fortune 500 companies,” noted Paul, who graduated with a computer science degree from the University of Calgary, and later studied at Harvard Business School. “While in this role [as a consultant], I had the opportunity to witness the powerful synergy between business and technology.”


During this period, he also had a “lightbulb moment” realizing his desire and excitement to leverage technology that would drive “superior business outcomes” for financial institutions.


“The prospect of being at the intersection of these two dynamic fields spurred me to pivot my career focus toward harnessing technology as a strategic tool for innovation and success,” he shared.


Reshaping the Role of Technology


Once viewed as “cost centers,” a necessary expense to do business, Paul said the role of the IT department has drastically changed for the better over the course of his 30-year career.


“The most successful technology departments are now recognized as strategic assets, providing competitive differentiators and creating value for the business,” he noted. “This evolution reflects a broader change in ideologies, where technology is no longer seen merely as a support function, but rather a driver of innovation and growth.”


As a result of this paradigm shift, management styles have also changed with leaders prioritizing "agility, innovation and collaboration," which Paul noted fosters an environment that encourages experimentation and continuous improvement.


“This departure from traditional hierarchical structures to a more dynamic and responsive framework reflects the changing nature of technology's role within organizations,” he said.


Humility, Hunger and Helpfulness


Billed as a digital loan application and account opening platform that delivers “neo-bank like” experiences, while reducing operating costs through automation and integration of out-of-the-box tech with core, e-banking and loan systems, Cotribute’s tech strategy is designed to exceed expectations, explained Paul.


When investigating new technologies to possibly adopt and implement, Paul, who became Cotribute’s CEO in 2014, said the company takes a structured approach that centers on “pure research” that “delves” into the fundamentals of emerging technologies. To this end, the Cotribute team “meticulously assesses” the tech’s value proposition, he noted.


“This phase provides a comprehensive understanding of the potential capabilities and implications. Subsequently, we transition to the development stage, strategically applying a subset of emerging technologies to address specific business challenges,” he continued. “Here, the focus shifts towards practical implementation and optimization, ensuring that the chosen technologies align closely with organizational objectives and requirements.”


Leaning into his considerable experience as an engineer, technologist and CEO, he added that Cotribute’s overarching goal is centered on generating tangible business outcomes.

“By continuously evaluating and adapting our approach, we remain at the forefront of technological innovation, while driving sustainable value for our business.”


Having served on numerous governing and advisory boards, Paul noted the importance of mentorship and empowerment. When determining how best to serve its clients, these two characteristics, he said, along with "humility, hunger and helpfulness," help to define Cotribute’s business philosophy.


“Our primary aim is to foster the professional growth of our team members by assuming the role of a coach in their career development journey. This involves providing continuous support and guidance while encouraging ownership of career paths,” he noted.


“Establishing clear goals and outcomes ensures employees have a solid understanding of expectations. We empower team members, fostering an environment of autonomy and accountability, while providing the resources needed to excel,” he continued. “Importantly, we uphold a culture of mutual respect, where every individual is treated with dignity and consideration.”


Force Multiplier and Decision Intelligence


The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), and specifically generative AI in recent years, has the potential to revolutionize the industry, Paul offered.


“This technology has the ability to enhance and automate knowledge-based activities, serving as a powerful ‘force multiplier’ across various initiatives,” he told Finopotamus. “Furthermore, the integration of analytics with AI represents another transformative trend. This combination promises exponential gains in productivity and efficiency, propelling teams forward in an unprecedented manner.”



AI alone, however, isn’t what truly excites Paul. Rather, he said it is the convergence of workflow, analytics and AI to create compelling digital experiences.


“This amalgamation paves the way for highly personalized interactions, delivering tailored information precisely when needed. This marks the inception of what I envision as ‘decision intelligence,’ wherein personalized digital flows facilitate intelligent decision-making across all facets of our daily lives,” he noted. “As these trends continue to evolve, they hold immense promise for reshaping how we engage with technology and navigate the complexities of the digital age.”


Fintech Partnerships Can Deliver Compelling Member Experiences


As not-for-profit entities, credit unions have always played a distinctive role in the financial services space, Paul shared. This is due, in large part, to the “people helping people” ethos that expands horizons for both the member and the credit union, he added.


“[Credit unions] have the freedom to allocate resources towards technology initiatives aimed at enhancing member experiences and improving financial well-being,” he said. “This unique characteristic enables credit unions to invest significantly more in innovative technologies that deliver compelling member experiences and foster better financial outcomes.”


Purpose-driven technology investments, complemented by like-minded fintech partnerships that underscore the credit union industry’s commitment to “member-centric innovation” and “service excellence,” he added, is another differentiator.


“There has been a noticeable shift in the willingness of credit unions to engage in fintech partnerships compared to just a few years ago. One significant change driving this openness is the recognition among credit unions that fintech partners are not competitors, but rather collaborators that can bolster their competitiveness, particularly against emerging challengers like neo-banks,” he offered.


“These partnerships are essential for ensuring that credit unions can deliver onboarding experiences and digital services that rival those offered by their disruptive counterparts, thereby enabling them to remain relevant and competitive in an ever-evolving financial landscape,” Paul added.

 

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