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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Women in Technology: Sievewright & Associates’ Cynthia A. Schroeder

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 Cynthia A. Schroeder, strategic advisor at Sievewright & Associates. The Boston-based firm, acquired by Strategic Resource Management (SRM) in 2022, has directly worked with numerous credit unions in the successful formulation and execution of their strategic, business and technology plans.

By W.B. King

The credit union ethos of “people helping people” first resonated with Cynthia Schroeder in high school. At the time, she was introduced to a cooperative program sponsored by a small, local credit union where she eventually took an entry-level, part-time job. Schroeder was also moonlighting at Miami University, working in its systems analysis program department.

“That is where I found my passion for technology,” she told Finopotamus. “As soon as an opportunity [in technology] opened up at the credit union, I moved into the role of data processing manager and spent the next 40-plus years focusing on technology.”

Cynthia A. Schroeder

Schroeder would go on to earn a degree in business management and systems analysis from Miami University and later a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in business management from the University of Phoenix.

Prior to joining Sievewright & Associates in 2023, and along with other jobs, she spent more than eight years at Wright-Patt Credit Union as vice president of technology and support services, and then 13 years at Visions Federal Credit Union, last serving as its chief information and innovation officer.

Noting that IT departments today are complex, diverse and integrated into “every aspect of an organization’s operations,” she said this wasn’t always the case.

“Technology is much more advanced and sophisticated. In the 1970s, IT departments were often small and focused on maintaining mainframe computers. Now, they can be much larger and have a wider range of responsibilities, including managing networks and security tools, developing software, and providing technical support,” she continued. “They also oversee cloud services, robotic process automations, and machine learning technologies. Communication methods have also evolved.”

Another difference is how data is aggregated and deciphered. “Early in my career, data was primarily used for record-keeping and transaction processing,” she said. “It is now considered an asset, and credit unions collect and analyze vast amounts of data to gain insights into their business and members.”

More Female Representation Needed

Schroeder told Finopotamus that while there were many times she was the only woman at a technology-related meeting or event, there has been forward motion.

“There are definitely more women in technology roles these days versus when I started my career, but there still needs to be more representation. It has been rare for most of my career to have an opportunity to network with women leaders in the IT area,” she shared. “As we have advanced in data analytics, innovation and digital channels, there has been a shift in women moving into chief technology officer roles.”

Throughout her career, Schroeder said she gained valuable skills and experience from numerous mentors, including Tyrone Muse, CEO at Visions Federal Credit Union, and most recently, Mark Sievewright, founder of Sievewright & Associates.

“I have also met a large number of other inspiring leaders over the years in our credit union industry. These successful leaders inspired me to work harder and smarter,” she continued. “I have spent 46 years in this amazing industry because of the inspiring people I have met along the way and the opportunities I have been provided.”

To pay it forward, she dedicates a “great deal of time and effort” ensuring that those she works with in the industry receive the benefits of her experience. “I want them to have the same type of opportunities through mentoring and coaching,” she said.

Coming out of Retirement

As a strategic advisor at Sievewright & Associates, Schroeder is pleased to share with credit union clients the valuable lessons she has learned over the years. The goal: build and reinvent innovative technology platforms.

“This includes leading core conversions and merger projects; bringing in amazing new technologies, products, services, controls, and talents,” she continues. “Ongoing education, certifications and being involved in so many of our credit union associations, councils, advisory and working groups, and dedicating time to adding value to myself at every opportunity, has and continues to provide me such valuable experience, knowledge and resources.”

Prior to assuming her current role, Schroeder noted that she had retired, but “not for very long.” When Finopotamus asked why she returned to the workforce, she said tech still excites her as much as it did at the beginning of her career.

“The emerging technologies are amazing. Automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, blockchain, smart contracts, and all the products and services fintechs are bringing to market,” she continued. “It won’t be long, I believe, before credit unions will be able to offer their members technology similar to what was just released by Apple and its high-interest savings account.”

The Apple service referenced, she explained, allows users to open an account and transfer money in three clicks. “Ultimately, the speed at which credit unions adopt new technology will depend on a variety of factors, including regulatory considerations, funding availability and member demand.”

While Schroeder added that larger banks and financial institutions (FIs) have the funds to build robust technology platforms, in her view this is the only significant difference between credit unions.

“Compared to other FIs, I really do not believe there is a difference,” she said. “I believe all FIs are trying to remove all friction from their products/services and processes for the consumer, trying to ensure they are offering products/services that meet the consumers’ needs at all stages of their lives, and trying to find ways to stay relevant for their members/customers.”

To better compete with other FIs, she encourages more credit union partnerships with fintechs that have a strong focus on innovation and member-centric solutions, which align with the values and goals of the credit union industry.

“Credit unions can provide valuable benefits to fintechs, such as access to a large and loyal member base and industry knowledge. They can offer fintechs a trusted brand and established reputation in the financial industry, which can be beneficial for fintechs looking to expand their reach and credibility,” she said. “I believe both fintechs and credit unions recognize the potential benefits of working together to drive innovation and improve the financial services landscape for consumers.”


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