Thursday, August 16, 2018

Discovery Conference is Now Available On Demand

Our annual Discovery Conference  is now available on-demand, at no cost, until Feb. 28, 2019. For the ninth year in a row, we brought together innovation experts and credit union leaders to help credit unions prepare for upcoming 2019 strategic planning sessions.

“Our Discovery Conference gave credit union leaders a tremendous opportunity to gain real insights from industry experts and learn what’s ahead. It’s just one of the ways we’re helping credit unions grow and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow,” said Robert N. Trunzo, president and CEO, CUNA Mutual Group. “If you missed the live event, it’s not too late. You can still participate by accessing the conference content on-demand by simply registering,” he added.

Credit unions that register may leverage and share best practices and conference materials, including sessions, hot topic chats and materials from the “inspiration stations” in the exhibit hall, with their staffs through Feb. 28, 2019.

To learn more, read the full press release or register for on-demand access today.

Second-Longest Economic Expansion in American History Poised to Continue Through 2019

Credit unions can expect U.S. economic growth to remain above historical averages through the end of 2019. That's according to our chief economist Steven Rick, who addressed credit union leaders and staff at our ninth annual Discovery Conference today. While the economy’s growth will likely retreat from its 3 percent pace in 2018, to 2.3 percent in 2019, the current economic expansion will become the longest in American history if it lasts through the end of 2019, he added.

“We continue to enjoy one of the most prosperous stretches of economic expansion in our country’s history, and this positive economic climate has greatly benefitted credit unions,” said Rick. “Today, there are more job openings than unemployed people in this country, marking the first time that’s ever happened. Unemployment sits at about 4 percent now, and should fall as low as 3.4 percent in coming years – far below the expected long-term unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.” 

“Whenever savings rates drop to 3 or 4 percent, expect a recession the next year,” Rick added. “Given how consumer confidence is at its highest level in 18 years – prior to the dotcom crash – it’s no surprise that people are buying instead of saving. We are now down to 3 percent, so a recession by 2020 seems likely, but we should not be worried about it resembling what we experienced a decade ago in 2008.”

Rick states that when a recession eventually does occur, that dampened confidence will spur Americans to save more, and that when more people are saving, credit union deposits will increase greatly. As a result, forecasts call for a 9 percent increase in credit union deposits in 2020. 

To learn more, read the full press release or watch Rick’s Discovery Conference breakout session, “The Economy and Its Impact on Your 2019 Strategic Plan,” on-demand.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Discovery Conference 2018: How Two Credit Union Leaders See the World

By Eric Nelson

Regardless of asset size, geography or membership base, all credit unions serve one mission: helping people achieve financial security. At Discovery Conference 2018, Colleen Woggon of Oakdale Credit Union and Chris Hollen of Diversified Credit Union will discuss the unique challenges – and advantages – facing small credit unions in today’s evolving financial world. 

Q: As a small credit union executive, how do you balance the shift to digital channels with what has always been the hallmark of credit unions: building and nurturing strong member relationships?

Colleen: Offering as many digital channels as we can to our members is a huge priority for us. We must really look at the return on the investment when investing in technology. As a member service driven financial, we also prioritize training for our staff to be there for our members as they use it. Goodness knows there is nothing worse than something not working right and no one can help! Members have no trouble getting in touch with us if they have questions. 

Chris: We must stay convenient and relative with our members and adapt along with evolving technology. We continue to provide the personal service as always, but as new members join, we must develop digital channels. As Colleen said, our digital initiatives provide a positive ROI back to the membership.  

Q: Cybersecurity isn’t just a buzzword. The threats – to business operations and proprietary member information – are real. As a credit union leader, how do you combat them? And, what keeps you up at night?

Colleen: As proactive and prepared as we are in this area, you never know where the hole could be with an attack on our systems we use. Having cybersecurity insurance coverage helps me sleep at night! I strongly suggest all credit unions have coverage and engage in NCUA’s cybersecurity assessment tool. You do not have to be an expert in this area, but you need to work with those that are.

Chris: Providing our members and employees a safe and secure financial institution keeps me up at night, too. The cybercriminals have all the resources and time they need, so we must anticipate that a s some point, we will become a target.  We must do our best to stay a step ahead and keep the trust that our members have instilled in us. Training, teaching, planning and sharing is what we do.    

Q; Consolidation is happening across the financial industry. Can you share your view on how being ‘small’ allows you best serve your members?

Colleen: We pride ourselves on knowing our members and the trust they have to reach out to us when they need to. They know they are more than just a number to us, and we know them by name and often times, their financial situation. Bigger financial firms may offer better loan rates at times, but our members are willing to come to us for the best service. 

Chris: We want a partnership with every member which makes a much deeper relationship.  We look out for each other.  If our members are successful, we will be successful. We strive for a family atmosphere. Taking time with every member cannot be done at the larger institutions. We don’t have all the other divisions, products, shareholders and distractions that can affect the big institutions that get in the way.  We are laser-focused on providing a great member experience and giving them the best service possible.  

Q: At CUNA Mutual Group, we believe that our people are our greatest asset. How do your employees exemplify the “credit union difference.”

Colleen: Our staff knows who their real bosses are: our members! With each interaction or each decision, they make sure they are ready and willing to help our members in any way they can.

Chris: The diversified team has each others’ backs.  We go out of our way to help each other and truly enjoy serving the members.  They love each other, love what they do and they love our members.  

Q: Anything else you’d like to share with your CU colleagues as to why they should attend Discovery Conference 2018?

Colleen: Credit unions have members, and banks have customers. Competition in the financial space is fierce, so find and do what you do well and celebrate the “Credit Union Difference”.  

Chris: The credit union industry believes in helping others and sharing.  We all owe it to ourselves to collaborate for the ultimate benefit of our members.

Discovery Conference is August 16, 2018. Register now for our complimentary, online event!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Educate Members with These Four Tips for Healthy Credit

By Ashley Stevens, Performance Consultant

Once again, summer has flown by and the back-to-school season is upon us. The start of a new school year is exciting, but it can also be stressful for parents to manage the added expenses of supplies. 

In fact, parents will spend an estimated $510 per household on school supplies this year, according to a survey from Deloitte that analyzes back-to-school buying trends.

This time of year is a great opportunity to educate your members on ways to improve their financial lives, so they can stress less.  And, members who benefit from your guidance are more likely to seek you out when they make financial decisions in the future. 

To start, here are four tips for healthy credit you can share with members today:

1. Understand the components of a credit score.
Healthy credit is more than just the rate you pay on a credit card. Your credit can affect your ability to purchase a home, send your child to college and plan for retirement.  FICO Scores are used in over 90 percent of U.S. lending decisions, so understanding how this number is calculated is an important step to improving and managing the health of your credit.

2. Aim to only use 30 percent of your available credit. 
Using more than 30 percent could negatively impact your score. Keep in mind that most credit card companies report your outstanding balance as of the statement closing date. Paying your bill in full each month prior to the statement closing date will help keep your utilization down and your score up.

3. Be careful not to close out your older credit accounts.
Closing older credit accounts could decrease the reported length of your credit history and negatively impact your credit score.

4. Be mindful when submitting multiple credit applications.
If you are considering a large purchase such as a car and will be submitting multiple credit applications, try to do so within two weeks to avoid having multiple inquiries impact your credit score.

Want to learn more about how you can educate your members on the importance of credit?  Register for our upcoming Loyal Lending webinar, available at no charge to our credit union partners who use our lending solutions.  We’ll share tips on how to find additional opportunities to help members reach their financial goals and improve their financial well-being.

Or, check out the full schedule of our 2018 lending and coaching webinars here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

FOCUSed on Financial Security

By Eric Nelson

Financial security means many things to many different people. And, for many credit union members, a financial advisor can provide vital insights that can support near- and long-term financial health. We know this because we serve credit unions and their members across the U.S. through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI) financial advisors.

Every year, these advisors gather for best practices training, collaborative ideation, networking and team building - all for an ultimate goal: to help them drive value for the credit unions and credit union members they serve.  

From July 23-25, over 500 CBSI advisors, credit union and financial services industry representatives gathered at the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston for FOCUS 2018: Mission Critical. The three-day conference featured energizing keynote speakers, in-depth breakout sessions and Texas-style hospitality. 

The conference centered on our critical mission: helping people achieve financial security. Courses and discussion topics ranged from identifying members’ core financial needs – and how to nurture long-lasting relationships; to best practices in social media and local marketing; to updates on CBSI’s major platform investments into the business, including unified account opening, managed money, and Advisor Teaming. More than two dozen of our financial industry partners were on-hand to showcase their products and services that are helping advisors and credit unions best serve members across the country.

FOCUS 2018 capped off with a special community service effort in support of veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. Attending advisors collaborated with Cheeriodicals and Texas-based moving company Two Men and a Truck Sugar Land to assemble and deliver 368 care packages filled with magazines, activity books, convenience items, puzzles and games. 

 “This generous donation means so much to our Veterans here at the Houston VA Medical Center,” said Barbara Bell, volunteer services director. “Our partnership with groups like Cheeriodicals and CUNA Mutual Group makes such a positive difference in the lives of the men and women we serve. We can’t thank them enough for their support of our military Veterans.”

“At CUNA Mutual Group, we stand with our armed services. We’re grateful for the sacrifices of our military veterans and their families. And, we were honored to help and show our gratitude to those who have given so much to our country,” said Rob Comfort, president, CBSI. 

Helping people achieve financial security comes in many shapes and sizes. The annual opportunities for training, connecting, teamwork and giving back that come through our FOCUS conference are just a few of the many ways we work to give our people the tools and training that can make a vital difference for those they serve. It’s mission-critical that we all stay focused on our charge.

To learn more about employment opportunities with CBSI, click here.

For information on the kind of expertise it provides through credit unions, you can learn more at

Saturday, August 4, 2018

How We Hit a Nerve in the Tech Community

By Eric LeVin, Chief Technology Officer, AdvantEdge Analytics

Simply attending an event like Microsoft Inspire reminds you how incredible it is to be a part of the tech community today. Being on stage at such an event… well that's a whole other ballgame.

More than 20,000 technology leaders from every conceivable industry attended the Inspire conference in Las Vegas. They came to get a first look at the innovations being created by the best and the brightest in the Microsoft Partner Network. AdvantEdge Analytics was among those invited to demonstrate – an incredible honor, and if I’m being honest, a little intimidating.

Lucky for me, I was joined on stage by one of the leading innovators in the credit union space, BCU, and the credit union’s VP/Chief Data Officer, John Sahagian. BCU has been an incredible partner throughout the development of our platform, helping us understand what it will take to enable business agility from the credit union perspective. The level of data maturity BCU has ushered in at their credit union is leading in the nation.

Aside from overcoming the usual demo jitters, John and I faced another potential hurdle. Because the audience came from such a wide range of industries and backgrounds, we wondered how well they would be able to relate to the credit union industry’s intensely fragmented ecosystem.

To help wrap minds around the challenge our industry faces, we explained how each of today’s 5,800 credit unions is composed of 10 or more systems. Every one of those systems is offered to the industry by 10 to 15 different providers, each offering unique levels of customization to every credit union.

Aside from the obvious data challenges this presents, it also makes it difficult for credit unions to plug new solutions into their systems. Solution providers, too, have difficulty scaling quickly within the credit union industry because of the intense level of custom engineering and credit union subject matter expertise each implementation requires. Neither of these circumstances bodes well for the industry’s pursuit of digital transformation nor for business agility.

Enter AdvantEdge Analytics and Microsoft.

Through our relationship with Microsoft, our team has created the AdvantEdge Analytics™ Data Platform, which enables one consistent way to view all credit union data. Built on top of Microsoft Azure, our solution is capable of deploying a completely new, security-first data management solution for a credit union in minutes. Or as John put in during the Inspire demo, “What you did in minutes took us years to do on our own.” (Stay tuned to our News and Insights page to read more of what John shared from the Inspire stage).

As it turns out, the fragmented ecosystem we were concerned may not translate for our audience was uniformly appreciated. Nearly everyone we spoke with after the presentation could relate to the challenges of innovating on top of outdated and disparate legacy systems.

Attendees of our session said they were inspired by the invention of a single platform capable of seamlessly installing solutions to empower an entire industry vertical. John and I realized we had hit a nerve; that the tech community was hungry for innovation that fosters the notion of an ecosystem. It really begins to resonate when you imagine an ecosystem powerful enough to expand exponentially, transforming an entire industry for the betterment of consumers’ financial lives.

That is our vision at AdvantEdge Analytics, and it was thrilling to see it begin to proliferate in such an influential ecosystem of technology giants.

Although I’m tempted to say Inspire was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the fact is I’m getting ready to do it all over again this week. As I type, I’m boarding a plane to Seattle for the Microsoft Business Applications Summit Microsoft Business Appications Summit where I get the honor of introducing this incredible platform to even more innovators in the tech community.

To listen to a recording of Eric and John's Inspire demo, click here.

AdvantEdge Analytics is the data analytics arm of our business. It's the only credit union data and analytics solution provider offering data transformation strategy and actionable insights via data management, reporting and performance management and predictive analytics. Learn more about it at

Friday, August 3, 2018

Microsoft and AdvantEdge Analytics: A Potent Combination for Data Analytics

John Sahagian, Vice President/Chief Data Officer, BCU

I recently had the pleasure of co-presenting with AdvantEdge Analytics Chief Technology Officer Eric LeVin at the Microsoft Inspire 2018 conference in Las Vegas. It was our collective job to show attendees how AdvantEdge Analytics and Microsoft were reimagining data access for the credit union industry. No small job, but a thrilling one nonetheless.

It was a tremendous opportunity to introduce fellow technology leaders to the credit union movement and to the collective vision we have for leveraging data to improve the financial lives of consumers.

With so much hype surrounding analytics, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning, too many organizations are jumping in head first without fully understanding how the technology can make a difference for their end-users.

Here’s just a bit of what I shared from the stage. If you’d like to hear the entire presentation, it’s been recorded, and is currently hosted at Microsoft Inspire 2018 online.

A Potent Combination to Drive Analytics Forward
For BCU, which has worked with CUNA Mutual Group, of which AdvantEdge Analytics is a member company, and Microsoft for many years, the collaboration between the two companies is really exciting. Ninety-seven percent of credit unions in the U.S. work with CUNA Mutual Group. When you take that kind of an industry footprint and combine it with the power of Microsoft, that’s a very potent combination.

Analytics is Absolutely Critical… But Time Consuming
Let me tell you a bit about our analytics focus at BCU. While we have 60 locations, most of our 300K+ members do not have access to a branch. For us to deepen engagement, we have to get to know our members by analyzing their behavior and transactions. So, for us, analytics is absolutely critical.

It isn’t unusual for a credit union’s data analysts to spend upwards of 40 percent of their time simply extracting data out of systems that stubbornly don’t talk to one another. Only when they’ve pulled that data out can they start doing the analysis a credit union needs. As an industry, we have to get to a level of maturity in which our analysts spend just a fraction of their time on extraction so they can point their expertise in the direction of actionable insights for the business.

We believe that’s exactly what AdvantEdge Analytics and Microsoft are making happen.

Data is Only the Beginning
The opportunity before us is to transform the entire credit union industry. It begins with data, but it’s really about laying the foundation of an ecosystem that will reframe the way credit union members engage with their cooperatives. Eric does a great job of explaining this; you can read more about that in his own Inspire 2018 recap.

The experience of attending and presenting at the conference reminded me, at once, how special and how similar the credit union movement is to other legacy industries working to evolve for today’s digital consumer. Many of us face incredibly analogous challenges, a lot of them centered on successfully navigating the data analytics journey. That became crystal clear at Inspire 2018, and it also solidified for me that with great partners, that journey will culminate in an incredible future for the movement.

Learn more about BCU at

AdvantEdge Analytics is the data analytics arm of our business. It's the only credit union data and analytics solution provider offering data transformation strategy and actionable insights via data management, reporting and performance management and predictive analytics. Learn more about it at

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Discovery Conference 2018: How an Economist Sees the World

    By Eric Nelson
With Discovery Conference 2018 fast approaching, CUNA Mutual Group’s own Chief Economist Steve Rick shed some light on the global economic outlook, and what credit unions need to be thinking about now and into the future.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to join us today, Steve. Can you describe your role as Chief Economist for CUNA Mutual Group? What sorts of factors and indicators are you constantly keeping an eye on?
My role is tracking the economic, regulatory, technological and competitive factors impacting credit union operations now and into the future. Interest rates are the price of money, which is the most important price in any economy.  So it’s very important to keep an eye on the factors that move both short-term and long-term interest rates which have a direct impact on credit union’s net interest income.  Job and income growth along with inflation are also important economic indicators to track to see how the overall economy is performing.

Q: No doubt there’s been a lot in the news lately about the changing dynamics of global trade. Do you see the fall-out impacting credit unions? And ultimately, members? If so, how so? 
On a macroeconomic level, tariffs will lower economic growth and raise inflation, both of which are detrimental to credit union members.  Nobody wins in a trade war, so hopefully, all negotiating parties will back away from a full-blown trade war.

Q: Last year, CUNA Mutual Group moved the Discovery Conference up to August to give credit unions time to implement lessons learned into their strategic planning cycles. Why is this critical?
Many credit unions begin their strategic planning cycle in August and September with their planning retreats in October and November.  By moving the Discovery Conference up to August, credit union management teams will have enough time to be able to absorb and then incorporate the information from the conference into their annual plan -- and also their multi-year strategic plan.

Q: Can you give readers a preview into what you’ll discuss at Discovery Conference 2018?
I will be discussing how we expect the economy to perform over the next 2 years and when the next recession may occur.  Then, I review how this will impact credit union loan and deposit growth as well the credit union earnings.

Q: You’ve participated in many previous Discovery Conferences over the years. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with attendees to make the most of their experience? 
Monitoring the external factors impacting your credit union is becoming more important as the pace of change in the business environment accelerates.  The Discovery Conference offers an excellent opportunity to track the most important trends that will impact your credit union in the next couple of years.

For more information or to register for Discovery Conference 2018, go to

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Community Impact Through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

By Desiree Canto, Community Relations Specialist
Here at CUNA Mutual Group we have 12 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). The ERGs are available to all employees and include – but are not limited to – women, multicultural, military veterans, people with disabilities, LGBT+ employees and allies.

ERGs – also known as affinity or business-resource groups – are led by employees with common interests. They promote personal and professional development, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion.

“It is important for us as an organization to be accepting of one another and embrace each other’s cultural backgrounds, nationalities and races,” said Ligia Vado Sequeira, Analytics Analyst, and member of the AMIG@S ERG (our resource group for Hispanic and Latino employees). “This makes us more understanding and enables us to develop better solutions for our customers and give them superior customer service.”

In addition to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, our ERGs are making a positive impact (1 min. 30 sec.) with employees and in our communities.

“Community involvement and partnerships are a big part of our overall ERG and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy,” said Joe Hankey, Diversity & Inclusion Manager and ERG Leader. “Having an impact on our local community is really important.”

This is evident in our communities. According to Paul Terranova, Executive Director at Lussier Community Education Center, a Madison-area community center, CUNA Mutual Group employees help in many ways – volunteering in their programs, helping plan their signature fundraising event, and donating produce they’ve grown to their food pantry.

“Through ERGs we always look for ways to make a difference in our community,” said Julietta Johnson, Claims Specialist, and an African American ERG co-lead. “We are fostering collaboration, settling for nothing less than equity and living our corporate values, while also being able to give back to our communities.”

Learn more about how we give back and focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a business.

Whether it’s in a group or individually, you can always make an impact on your community by supporting local non-profits. Tell us what volunteer opportunities you participate in on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, July 27, 2018

July 2018: Credit Union Trends Report

Our Credit Union Trends Report for July 2018 is now available online. The report covers data from May 2018 and includes details on credit union memberships, loans, savings and more.  

Highlights include the following:  

  • During May, credit unions picked up 475,000 in new memberships, and loan and savings balances grew at a 9.9 percent and 5.7 percent seasonally-adjusted annualized pace, respectively. 
  • Firms hired 244,000 workers, nominal consumer spending increased 0.2 percent, and long-term interest rates rose 0.11 percentage points. Consumers are feeling confident about their future financial conditions and will keep the economy moving forward through 2019. 

  • At the end of May, CUNA’s monthly estimates reported 5,722 credit unions in operation, two fewer than one month earlier. Year-over-year, the number of credit unions declined by 231, greater than the 180 lost in the 12 months ending in May 2017. 

  • Total credit union assets rose 0.3 percent in May, better than the 0.1 percent decline reported in May of 2017. Assets rose 5.4 percent during the past year due to a 5.7 percent increase in deposits, a 2.1 percent increase in borrowings and a 5.7 percent increase in capital. 

  • The nation’s credit unions increased their loan portfolios by 1.3 percent in May, slightly above the pace reported in May 2017. Loan balances are up 9.9 percent during the last 12 months. With loan balances growing faster than savings, credit union liquidity is tightening up as the credit union average loan-to-savings ratio reached 83.4 percent, up from 80.2 percent in May 2017. 

  • Credit union memberships rose 0.41 percent in May, above the 0.36 percent gain reported in May 2017. Memberships are up 4.7 percent during the past year due to robust demand for credit, solid job growth and credit unions having comparatively lower fees and loan interest rates. 

  • Credit union loan delinquency came in at 0.64 percent in May, below the 0.74 percent reported in May 2017, and below the natural delinquency rate of 0.75 percent. Delinquency rates typically reach their lowest point in the 2nd quarter of a year, so expect the ratio to begin rising in the second half of 2017.
To access the full report, go to