David Baldarelli on keeping member quality of life and security at the heart of digital transformation...
As a credit union, Meridian (MCU) is 100% owned by its Members: their interests are first. Profits are returned to them not in dividend payments, but in the form of innovative products, technology and services along with a focus on community and overall member well-being.
“We’re ruthlessly focused on our members and employees, we’re really all about focusing on wellbeing: financial, physical and mental,” says David Baldarelli, SVP, Digital & Analytics and COO, motusbank.
Baldarelli led the campaign to develop motusbank, a subsidiary of Meridian. It took four years of heavy lifting – both technology build and regulatory approvals – before motus launched in April 2019. The name Motus is Latin for new movement, representing disruption and rebellion, an idea MCU wants motusbank to embody, with a new movement in banking. This new movement is putting customer welfare and a sustainable relationship between the platform and its members at the forefront of its development.
MCU is aware that modern cultural shifts have left consumers expecting more from their financial services. “So Financial Institutions in Canada are now being compared to the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, Uber, because this is who they’re using for their day to day,” says Baldarelli. “They’re expecting the same from financial companies. The legacy way of doing things is no longer accepted.”
The financial sector has been forced to adapt and evolve to changing demands from consumers, as younger generations requiring more immediate access to their finances enter the market. “Three or four years ago, digital didn’t contribute much at all to the overall new membership growth,” explains Baldarelli. “When you fast forward to today, digital is the number one new member acquisition channel across all of our districts.”
The launch of motusbank has realised a surge in new membership for MCU. As new members benefit from a holistic approach towards banking with a company that doesn’t assume the needs of its users but rather approaches them for the sort of change they want to see as members. “One of the biggest things is to never assume that you have the answer,” says Baldarelli. “It’s important to listen to what your members are saying, to spend time in operations, the contact center and branches as well as obtaining a holistic understanding of the business.”
Specifically on digital member experience, MCU worked closely with TELUS Financial Solutions. Keith Nugara says: “Through collaboration with Meridian, we aligned on its digital member experience and national strategy, resulting in Meridian’s use of TELUS Financial Solutions robust technologies that are designed to streamline processes and aided Meridian to gain a competitive edge by focusing on its member digital journeys. Through this collaboration, our customers will continue to benefit from our respective strengths including strategic and targeted payment solutions that enable electronic payment, digital data collection and more efficient analytics.”
Balderalli adds: “Member journey is a critical piece of our digital national strategy. Our partnership with TELUS Financial Solutions enabled us to provide members with enhanced digital financial services coast to coast, streamline internal processes and focus on growing our business.”
Demand has led to company branches becoming more interconnected through technology such as cloud services, making it much easier to share and process data across multiple platforms. This comes with its own risks though, as cyber security threats continue to adapt at a comparable pace and networks present more points of entry. Working with MX and Personetics, MCU has developed AI analytics to process mass data more efficiently, making it possible to identify and adapt to potential threats across a much larger data sample. “We are going to have the ability to analyze hundreds of thousands of members’ data and transactions, running it through an artificial intelligence engine and coming out with valuable, relevant and meaningful insights which will help them improve their financial wellbeing.”
MCU has built its own proprietary digital and analytics platform, allowing them to process member data within their own network and leverage the rapid up-scaling required to keep up with modern security challenges and the influx of new members. One such partner was SAS. “We brought in SAS to the organization and it’s really allowed us to take our analytics to the next level. We’ve started building logistic regression models, and neural network models that basically help us with identifying credit risk, product propensities and helping us segment our members.”
Motusbank has given MCU a reliable and innovative National platform to growth its membership and enhance its brand. Baldarelli explains the initiative has seen “great success! So far, we’ve seen tremendous growth with motusbank. We’re three to four times where we thought we would be in terms of new members and balances.”
This success has put MCU in good stead for the future, but it won’t be without its challenges. “Competition is a big thing on our radar. Especially with the likes of the Facebooks, Googles and Amazons. From an economic perspective, we’ve had a really good run over the past 10 years, but we think those good times won’t be there forever. Finally, our capital is precious. Making sure that we’re leveraging our capital in the right way and optimizing it to ensure we’re getting the most bang for our buck is important to us.”