Speaker Spotlight: Kirk Drake Helps Credit Unions Connect with Members

by Catalyst Corporate | Mar 20, 2018

Timing is everything, especially when it relates to a credit union’s long-term success, says Kirk Drake, co-founder of CU Wallet, LLC and CU 2.0 strategist. Drake, a featured speaker at Catalyst Corporate’s 2018 Future Forums, believes implementing technologies at the right time is key to a credit union’s sustainability.

“Don’t believe a technologist who tells you they know where innovation will be in three to five years,” said Drake. “It’s impossible to predict where technology will be that far in advance.”

And therein lies the challenge. Credit unions still try. When implementing new technologies and services, credit unions aim for perfection, says Drake. This approach creates long product rollouts and lifecycles before ever introducing members into the process.

“In 3-5 years, the technology that was once brand new is now obsolete,” said Drake. “We’re solving a problem that’s no longer a problem. By the time a strategy is ready to roll out, the wow factor is gone, and you don’t have the first-mover advantage.”

What should credit unions do differently to achieve long-term sustainability?

“The successful brands put things out before they’re ready for primetime. This helps determine trends and interest before betting big,” said Drake.

Drake discusses this approach in his book, CU 2.0: A Guide for Credit Unions Competing in the Digital Age. The “if you build it, they will come” approach is destined to fail, he said, because no one is joining a credit union for what may come. A better user experience will keep more members around, but it’s not going to make people switch financial institutions, he added.

Building that exceptional member experience requires some effort, said Drake. First, credit unions need to understand the needs and wants of their community. “Recognize that the connection point isn’t necessarily the products you think are valuable, but the things members are interested in,” said Drake.

He suggests approaching product and service development like one might approach dating. “It’s not about you. It’s about them,” he said. “Every credit union has a unique story to tell. We need to focus on building relationships in which we seek to understand the problem before we prescribe a solution.”

Second, Drake says to focus on trends, rather than fads, to help better a credit union’s timing. “Credit unions want to be involved in trends. Fads, they don’t,” he said.

“Video is the No. 1 technology trend today,” adds Drake. “But credit unions must be surgical and strategic about its use.” Drake explains that video must be highly personalized and contain relevant information. While credit unions are great at adapting to new technologies like video, they may struggle with deployment.

“Half of the challenge credit unions face is finding the right technology, and half of the challenge is learning how to deploy that technology in an effective way,” he said. “Video is not new technology, but credit unions can learn to use it more effectively.”

Other technologies credit unions should employ include marketing automation, blockchain and voice integration, said Drake.

Conversely, Drake suggests retiring a few technologies. “No one should be using a fax machine anymore,” said Drake. “They don’t deliver a good member experience, and there are better ways to accomplish the same function.”

Drake also believes non-responsive websites and call-tree phone systems are a way of the past. “Let’s hurry up and get rid of old implementations of technology,” he said. “We’re not saving any time. We’re just poking members in the eye.”

For more on this topic, don’t miss Drake’s presentation, “Connecting to Members in a Connected World,” Thursday, Oct. 4, during the payments segment of the Future Forums. To see a complete list of all Future Forums (Economic and Payments) speakers and topics, and to register for the event, visit catalystcorp.org/r/forum.