By W.B. King
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 spent time with Numerica Credit Union’s Senior Vice President of Information Technology KayCee Murray.
While it’s sometimes hard to recall inspirational moments from an early age, KayCee Murray points to her second grade teacher Mrs. Schroeder for introducing her to the world of technology. And soon after, Murray began taking basic computer programming classes. From there she was on a tech trajectory that hasn’t slowed.
“During college, I became more interested in the networking and hardware side of computers. I completed some Microsoft certifications prior to graduation, which opened the door to my first job doing web and network support,” recalled Murray who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Montana Tech.
After graduating college in 2000, Murray took her first tech job with Numerica Credit Union. She later earned a master of business administration degree from Webster University.
“After completing my MBA, I transitioned into the project manager role in the operations area of the credit union,” said Murray. “After spending several years working in project management, I came back to the IT side of the house, where I eventually worked my way to my current position.”
Over the last 20-plus years, Murray has seen various shifts within the information technology side of the credit union space, including one that is philosophical in nature.
“Technology has moved from something an organization used because it made things more convenient or efficient, to something the organization integrates into its strategic plans to help it grow and expand its reach,” she explained. “IT used to be thought of as somewhat of a utility that was just there and used without much thought. Systems and infrastructure were important, but not nearly as critical as they are today.”
Another noticeable change is that in order to grow and remain competitive, an organization’s reliance on technology is now absolute, said Murray who oversees Numerica’s digital banking and web development, technology infrastructure and security, business intelligence, core system operations and facilities.
“When I first joined the credit union online banking was nice to have. Now digital banking’s role has expanded. It’s not only a staple but it’s a delivery channel that helps us interact and deepen the relationship with our members,” said Murray. “That makes the role both more exciting and stressful.”
The exciting aspect, she said, is that there are “so many new solutions and opportunities to positively impact” members’ and employees’ lives. “It’s stressful because any interruption of the many, many systems we manage causes hardships for our members and employees,” she added.
Encouraging More Women to Join the Tech Movement
While Murray says she knows many women serving in tech roles, she conceded that when reflecting on recent openings for tech positions, there were few female applicants, if any at all.
“I participate in middle school and high school events that introduce and encourage girls to consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics),” she said. “I know our local high schools and colleges are working hard to get more females involved.”
Murray likes to inspire the next generation because she too was championed by a handful of memorable mentors throughout her career, including Numerica’s Chief Administration Officer Kelley Ferguson, and former colleague Gene Fitzpatrick.
“Gene Fitzpatrick and Kelley Ferguson are two people in particular that always made time for questions, no matter the subject. Whether I was working on a CUNA school project or implementing new software, both Gene and Kelley took extra time to make sure I understood how all the pieces tied together and how different pieces would impact the credit union,” said Murray. “I have done my best to keep that same mentality as I have advanced in my career. I encourage employees throughout Numerica to come to me with questions or suggestions and make time to listen.”
The $3.2 billion Spokane, Wash. –based Numerica Credit Union serves more than 160,000 members at 21 branch locations. Murray said of the more than 600 employees, 22 are staffed in the tech department. The majority of the IT employees are male (90%), she noted, but this pattern does not follow the demographics of the organization, which is 64% female and 36% male.
“These [IT] employees fall in Gen X and millennial generations, with most being millennials,” she said. “Historically, the IT department has skewed to the younger generations; however, we have all aged a bit. More than 70% of the IT employees have been with Numerica for more than five years.”
Referring to technology as an “equalizer,” Murray believes that a credit union can offer the “same or better” technology than national banks that have larger budgets and more resources.
“I find it incredibly fulfilling to work on new innovations that make banking easier and more accessible for our members. It’s been quite a few years now, but we were one of the first financial institutions in our market to not only introduce mobile deposit, but do so as part of our existing mobile app,” she noted.
“A lot of financial institutions were rolling out mobile banking by rolling out a standalone app, which we didn’t feel was a good member experience. We worked with our vendors so we could integrate the mobile deposit functionality into our mobile app, making it more accessible to our members," Murray continued. "This helped drive adoption. Today, our members deposit more checks through mobile deposit in one month than we receive at most of our branch locations.”
Numerica Credit Union, she added, was also one of the first financial institutions in the nation to have an Alexa voice skill on Amazon, which allowed members to get balances and transfer funds.
“While voice banking is still a niche, we’ve built a great foundation that we can use to expand our members’ access to their money,” said Murray. “We will continue to expand the services we offer to members through voice banking as adoption increases.”
Reflecting on these past successful initiatives inspires Murray to seek new tech solutions that will make life even easier for employees and members.
“It’s hard not to be excited by AI and some of the applications we’re beginning to see. It will be interesting to see how areas like fraud, lending and risk change as AI becomes more accessible, practical and reliable,” she said, adding that like most credit unions, there can be barriers to tech adoption.
The $3.2 billion Spokane, Wash. –based Numerica Credit Union serves more than 160,000 members at 21 branch locations. Murray said of the more than 600 employees, 22 are staffed in the tech department. The majority of the IT employees are male (90%), she noted, but this pattern does not follow the demographics of the entire organization, which is 64% female and 36% male. male. male. ale. le. e. .
As Murray and her team emerge from the COVID-19 fallout and look forward, she said that while there were many hardships, positive lessons were also learned, including being flexible, nimble and creative.
“Numerica proved to be well prepared for a pandemic. We were able to quickly move to remote work for most of our back-office employees, keep our lobbies open by using additional features in our lobby management software, and offer video banking so members could meet with branch employees virtually,” she said. “The silver lining with COVID is that it accelerated the adoption of certain technologies, while also highlighting how amazing and resilient our employees are.”
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