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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Women in Technology: Star One Credit Union’s Minal Gupta

Special edition celebrating Women’s History Month 2024! Stay tuned for more intriguing profiles throughout the month.


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 Star One Credit Union’s SVP of Operations Minal Gupta.


By W.B. King


When Minal Gupta’s father took her to their local bank to open her first savings account, she was just six-years old. From that moment forward, she developed what would become a lifelong interest in finance.


“As time went on, I aspired to work in the financial industry. Throughout my career and education, I continued to gravitate toward the financial industry and have held almost every position within banking operations area at several financial institutions,” she shared with Finopotamus.


With an Master of Business Administration from San Jose State University and a bachelor’s degree in business management with a concentration in human resources from the California State University of Fullerton, Gupta has worked at Wells Fargo, Citi, Farmers and Merchants Bank, and Fremont Bank. At the latter institution, she served as director of marketing technologies and analytics.


“I’ve always wanted to know the ‘how and why’ behind the operations of the banking sector,” she said. “My passion for technology and leadership grew when I transitioned from consumer-facing roles to back-office roles.”


In 2019, she began her tenure with Star One Credit Union as vice president of remote services. Four years later she was promoted to her current position, SVP of operations. The $10 billion Sunnyvale, Calif.-based credit union supports more than 126,000 members and six branch locations. 


“One of the most life changing decisions of my career was when I moved to Star One Credit Union to oversee the Remote Services Department,” she said of one of Silicon Valley's largest member-owned financial institutions.


“This is where I truly understood member service and the 'people helping people' concepts of the credit union culture," she added. "I fell in love with the way Star One lives and breathes member service, offering simple products and services with a heavy focus on providing innovative digital solutions.”

 

Encouraging More Women to Step into Leadership Positions


Over the course of her career in banking, Gupta has seen her fair share of changes, including the moving away from the brick-and-mortar banking philosophy that allowed financial institutions to educate accountholders on products such as, debit cards, credit cards and ATM usage.    


“Today, the focus has shifted from the physical branch presence to digital self-service options where consumers can move money, conduct a transaction with a click of a button and the movement occurs instantly,” she said. “The payments industry has evolved rapidly thanks in part to fintechs entering the space and introducing solutions that simplified money movement services, including person to person (P2P) options like Zelle, buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), and real-time payments through the FedNow Service.”


Photo credit: FedNow

While Gupta has also seen an increasing number of women in tech roles, she said more progress is needed.


“I haven’t seen a change in the number of women in leadership roles. I recently took a 10-person leadership course with executives from different credit unions, and I was the only woman in the room,” she noted. “I want to encourage more women to step into these positions and take risks. Believe in yourself and your ability to make a difference.”


Among mentors she counts as champions are two current colleagues, Margarete Mucker, EVP of operations and CEO Gary Rodrigues.


“Margarete took the time to show me the ropes and integrate me into Star One’s culture. She is retiring this year after 30-plus years at Star One, and I know there will be big shoes to fill when I transition into her role later this year,” she said. “Gary coached me to be a stronger leader and a better mentor. He is the definition of leading by example,” she continued. “He sees problems from a unique perspective, which is something I admire and appreciate.”


Noting that her accomplishments to date at Star One CU are “truly dedicated to these two individuals,” Gupta said she always looks to pay the message forward.


“Similar to the support I’ve received throughout my journey at Star One, I am passionate about grooming the future leaders at Star One by instilling the values and culture that have made Star One successful for many years,” she told Finopotamus.


Cards and Payments Trends


When asked what tech trends she is excited about and which ones meet the needs of Star One CU’s “tech savvy” members, Gupta pointed to the cards and payments space.


“There are many new technologies and moving parts, including contactless cards, digital issuance of cards, or virtual cards, which are reimagining how cards work,” she said. “Looking ahead, we’re assessing how we can automate and streamline processes using AI (artificial intelligence).”


With regard to payments, she said credit unions must consider the “biggest opportunity and game-changing service,” which is FedNow.


“Consumers want to move money at their convenience and have access to their assets 24/7/365, with as limited restrictions as possible,” she noted. “FedNow accomplishes this and takes money movement to another level – it moves money instantaneously, is cost-effective and efficient.”


Since rolling out FedNow, Star One CU has experienced significant results, she explained. “Instant account-to-account (A2A) transfers have grown from 7.4% to 16% of our total A2A transfers as of Sept. 2023, with use cases including P2P, small businesses, and transfers to other FIs, in total transferring more than $6.9 million as of Dec. 2023,” she added. “The FedNow Service will continue to be an important tool we leverage to improve the member experience.”


Focus on Your Passions


By spending her 21-year career working at both banks and credit unions, Gupta has a unique view on what differentiates these institutions. Topping her list is the fact that credit unions are more than willing to share success stories and best practices, while celebrating the successes of other credit unions.


“Some of the big institutions in the industry tend to be more reserved about sharing best practices, perhaps stemming from the fact that they see each other as competition,” she said. “At Star One Credit Union, we believe we’re stronger together.”


Gupta again noted FedNow as an example of the credit union industry’s approach to collaboration. In 2020, the Star One CU joined a FedNow pilot program. “Since going live in July 2023, we’ve shared our story to provide a roadmap for financial institutions of all sizes, and we continue to champion this solution across the industry.”



Successfully adopting and deploying this novel real-time payments service was made possible, in part, by partnering with like-minded fintechs. To this end, she said the Portland, Ore. –based digital banking company Tyfone became a critical partner in the roll out.


“Previously, we partnered with Tyfone and successfully developed a native Zelle solution, which we are one of the few FIs to have a direct integration with Zelle,” she said. “Additionally, The Federal Reserve’s support in this endeavor was exceptional, guiding us every step of the way. Communication channels were well-established between Star One, Tyfone and the Federal Reserve, forming a productive three-way partnership.”


In hindsight, Gupta said moving from the banking sector to credit union industry was a “leap of faith” that continues to pay off.  


“If it were not for Star One, I would have never learned about the complexities and opportunities to improve payments nor discovered my passion for instant payments,” she said. “The sky is the limit for you if you focus on your passions, and now Star One is my home.”

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