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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Women in Technology: DeepTarget’s Preetha Pulusani

Special edition celebrating Women’s History Month 2024! This is the sixth and final installment of this year's series.


In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.


For this issue, we visited with Deep Target’s CEO Preetha Pulusani. The Huntsville, Ala.-based company helps financial institutions engage, cross-sell and measure success rates across digital channels.


By W.B. King


A longstanding tech entrepreneur, Preetha Pulusani said her interest in the industry began while studying computer science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. After earning her Bachelor of Science degree, she eagerly entered the workforce.


“I got my first job as an entry-level software analyst based on that,” she told Finopotamus. “I went on to do my Master of Science degree in computer science and ever since, my career has revolved around tech,” she added.


Starting with that first position at Intergraph Corporation, Pulusani spent more than 25 years at the company serving numerous roles — from software development, product management, marketing, and eventually being named president of a division responsible for annual revenues of $400-plus million.


Preetha Pulusani

After “retiring” from Intergraph in 2006, Pulusani served in foundational senior leadership roles at AdeptMedia Corporation and Rolta India Limited. In 2009, she founded and became DeepTarget’s CEO. Over the course of time, she said there has been “fundamental shifts” in the tech space, moving from “waterfall” software development to “agile methodology.”


“This was transformational in how software applications were developed and delivered,” she continued. “Small teams, focus on user experience, scrums, smaller chunks versus big bang…all of this made a difference in the timeliness and user acceptance of software products.”


Potential in People


Noting the arc of her career, which began in 1980, Pulusani shared thoughts on the impactful strides women have made in the fintech space, including gains in pay parity, family leave and work-life balance, among other areas.


“There are more women in tech – both fintech and credit unions,” she told Finopotamus. “So, progress has been made, but that does not imply equity – yet. I look forward to continued progress where women don’t have to leave the workforce because they are the primary family caregivers.”


Another sign of forward movement, Pulusani added, is that more young women are “gradually” entering the tech industry, but she also pointed out that the "lag in women leadership positions" is disappointing.


“Over time in my career, I have advocated for and appointed qualified women in leadership positions under my watch and have never been disappointed in their performance,” she noted. “Leadership at all levels need to pay attention, guide, and promote high-potential women to positions of higher responsibility and leadership.”



The impetus to pay it forward is based, in part, on a mentor Pulusani met early in her career. This gentlemen executive, she explained, had previously worked for the federal government and brought with him a well-defined process to the private sector. To this end, he assessed potential candidates for various roles and promotions based on merit rather than gender.


“He became my coach and mentor, understanding my thirst for knowledge and development, and encouraging the right behaviors and skills to enable me to move into leadership positions in tech,” she shared. “I learned a lot from working for him and I pay it forward by similarly assessing candidates with unbiased eyes, looking deeply for potential in people and giving them the necessary tools, advice, and opportunities to move into leadership positions.”


Understanding Member Needs


With over 200 financial institutions as clients, many of which are credit unions, DeepTarget has approximately 20 full-time and fractional resources (more than 60% are tech focused). Pulusani explained that her team has most recently been excited by how artificial intelligence (AI) can positively impact the credit union industry. 


“We have focused on the user experience of members when they are interacting with their credit unions digitally. We use AI and machine learning to predict the high propensity members who have a specific financial need whether it is a loan, deposit, or fee-based product,” she said. “This allows the credit union to provide tailored, personalized offers to their individual members.”


As an example, she said a credit union wouldn’t want to offer an auto loan to a member who recently applied for one or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to a member who is renting.


“Doing so damages the credit union’s relationship with members showing them very clearly that the credit union really does not ‘know’ them as individuals, nor do they care,” she noted.

“Digital touchpoints need to be leveraged to demonstrate the opposite – to show that you know them, understand their needs, and can meet them where they are in their financial journey. Data and AI insights can play an important role in making this happen.”


Generative AI for marketing, she added, also offers a solid use case for credit unions. “You can create the content and assemble all the components of a banner/display ad in seconds. This saves time and money for credit unions while creating compelling visuals and messaging that evokes a positive response from members, building member relationships that transcend transactions.”


Underpinned by Digital Transformation


In recent years, Pulusani said more and more credit unions leaders understand the importance and impact of digital communications and as such are earmarking budgets to ensure members have a banking experience that is personalized.


“This is so different from traditional marketing, which was difficult to measure, but still a necessary expense. With data-driven communications, credit unions can truly engage their members, strengthen relationships, and grow their institution,” she noted. “This realization took a while, but now progressive credit unions are making this area a priority for investment.”



This member-centric approach is what has always distinguished credit unions from other financial institutions, she said, making digital-first initiatives all the more important.


“Their singular focus is on enriching the lives of their members which involves a different mindset compared to one that is in the business of profit,” she offered. “The investments made in tech prioritizes member service and benefits, and in our experience, member communications and engagement have become a natural priority.


“Partnering with fintechs who want to promote this member-centric credit union philosophy is critical to both innovation and the evolution of the industry,” Pulusani continued. “In a world that is underpinned by digital transformation, there is an imperative for credit unions to partner with like-minded fintechs to remain relevant to their member base for the long term.”

 

 

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