Posted on: January 11, 2021 | 10 min read

How Members First Federal Credit Union Overcame Hardship with Governance and Analytics

Through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the globe were disrupted. By adapting their data strategy and leveraging analytics, businesses like Member’s First Federal Credit Union persevered. In this interview, executives at Member’s First Federal Credit Union talk through tactical and strategic methods they employed to get through the hardest moments of crisis.

Below is a summary transcript of an interview with Anita McAllister, AVP of Data & Analytics, Members 1st Federal Credit Union, Karen Roland, AVP of Marketing at Members 1st Federal Credit Union, and John Bastone, Head of Customer Success, CCG.

(Description: Video screenshot with John Bastone – top left, Karen Roland – top right, and Anita McAllister – bottom left)

John Bastone [02:20]: So first off, when the cover is the elephant in the room and the theme of our webinar today, which is COVID- 19, and I'll start with you as well, Karen.

Obviously, the current crisis continues to dominate our personal and professional lives. I imagine as a marketer going into this year, you had some well-laid plans, like all senior marketers, on the initiatives you needed to have in place to drive things like number acquisition, growth, branding or experience stuff like that. What was the moment, or when was the moment in the mix of this crisis you realized that plan might be subject to re-write?

Karen Roland: Really, we went through a couple phases. As soon as we really entered the pandemic, it was really about ensuring that our associates had what they needed to work from home, so we very quickly did that working with me and a lot of the IT team, and that went really seamlessly, which was great, and then it was really focusing obviously throughout all of that, but what do our members need?

And as the pandemic continued to mount, it was about getting relief options for them, as we knew some of our members were losing jobs, they may need a low of a rate loan, short-term loan, they may need to skip loan payments, so we set up a variety of those mechanisms, just to stay focused on helping our members, then as the pandemic continued, it really wasn't up managing the operations and some of the government restrictions limited our branch capacity.

Karen Roland [04:29]: We went to appointment only. There was a lot of communications that we in marketing were focused on internally and externally, but it also one of the most significant ships were in really re-prioritizing some of our digital strategies.

Luckily, we had already had (website) chats implemented, which was a great thing to have in place, and since many people really wanted to bank in the comfort of their homes, so that was the way we could provide support. We also, for those who maybe weren't as familiar with some of our digital banking features and functionality, we rolled out a lot of tutorials and how to’s just getting them comfortable with how to make a mobile check deposit and things like that.

And then the other thing we did after that was to allow a new feature in our digital banking platform called MyConcierge, and that's really driven by our personalization engine, so that people can get relevant focused offers and recommendations for them, as well as a tie-in.

All of our members have a personal concierge that they can access right through their app as well, so they can continue to have those discussions like, how do I even start saving for retirement? Or how do I say for college? Should I refinance my house? Things like that. So, we feel like we have a lot of the digital service and consultation areas covered, which is great.

John Bastone: That's a lot of stuff. And Anita, data and analytics would be impacted in some capacity. As there's this emphasis on digital, on new things that you should be offering existing members? Give us a sense of how your plans have changed.

Anita McAllister [06:50]: Yeah, I think in my area, we've realized it very early on (that crisis hit). I started getting calls from the CIO saying, drop what you're doing, I need data. And it was all centered around channel usage and behaviors of our members, so just trying to understand now that out of necessity, that they were needing to make appointments in the branches, using drive through, the call center was being inundated. It was about getting that data to understand why they are calling and can we re-route them to the digital channel and just things like that. To really understand the behaviors.

So, a lot of what we had planned for this year, it just seemed to... It didn't happen in the order that we had intended, it really kind of ramped up that we had to get some of the data out very quickly, and Karen did a great job explaining as far as who serving up data for that it's contextualizing engine within our digital platform. Branded, MyConcierge, it's about getting that data to marketing so that they can provide those personalized experiences.

John Bastone [09:38]: In working with many of the companies across many industries that (CCG) works with, this notion of having a single version of the truth in and around your customer, you remember that the businesses you serve has been an enduring concept as long as I've been in and around the analytics, but within the credit union space, can you speak Anita, What are some of the challenges you've got and being able to really consolidate (analytics) that in a way that's meaningful for the dozen or so business leaders, stakeholders, you work with?

Anita McAllister [10:11]: Yeah, I would say one of the things is over the years, we've grown very quickly and we have leaders in various areas of the business own certain systems and as they're bringing them on, sometimes we're not prepared upfront enough to think about that data in hindsight to go back, it's very difficult. If you're prepared up front as you're implementing those systems and really recognizing, Okay, what's the relevance of this data, what will be used for? Getting some of that metadata up front so that you're better prepared for what you'll be using it for in analytics role. So it's really about data acquisition, I think, and getting some of those policies and standards up front that I think we still need to do a better job with, but that seems to be the challenge of just really recognizing who are the data owners and making sure that they understand how this all plays into that bigger picture.

John Bastone [11:05]: Great segue to another concept I wanted to talk to both of you about, which is the notion of data governance, and this one's for Karen, one of the strongest areas I think we (CCG) had during this time of pandemic, hasn't been around a better reporting or tech. We're getting flooded with inquiries around people and process considerations for data governments. Anita mentioned the notion of metadata management and what the processes you have in place to identify data stewards, how do you design the metrics that matter. From your perspective, leading a line of business, what are some of the ways a lack of data governance impact or could impact your ability to get your fundamental job done?

Click here to learn more about CCG’s Data Governance Framework.

Karen Roland [12:18]: The lack of data governance is a huge gap. in kudos to Anita and her team, they've done so much pre-COVID, but really ramped it up to her point this year. All of our decisions come down to data, and if we don't have integrity in that data, it's really tough to make decisions from, and the type of decisions we're making now because of the level of personalization and because of our focus on experiences could be really monumental if we get it wrong, cause we're looking at things like really just trying to map our member experiences and what are the journeys and to Anita’s point, that could be five, six, seven, eight different departments and different systems that all have a critical... 

Karen Roland [12:58]: A touch point in that. So how are we measuring if each step of that journey is effective or not, because we must... Our focus is on simple, fast, and relevant, so we're trying to evaluate our processes for that, especially our key ones, whether it's joining to become a new member or getting a loan with us, so we're really focused on trying to improve those processes. So, it's critical that we have the right information there, where are there hurdles.

Anita spoke to a 360 degree of the member, how can we get that central view, and I think that's one of the most challenging things is how do you start layering this data together? And again, it really has to all have integrity behind it, because when we start building our campaigns to talk and more contextualized and personalized way, if that doesn't fit with who we're talking with, we have egg on our face, so it has to be relevant offers to those members of a certain person that we've defined, so it's very critical to get that right, and then one key piece is more internal, but very important is just getting the data to make the right operational and effectiveness decisions in marketing.

John Bastone [20:09]: We’ve had the pleasure of working together. Have you had any aha moments during this crisis about the road ahead?

Anita McAllister [21:38]: I would say it's an aha moment, but we kind of knew this a little bit also, was going into something new, like the cloud capabilities in Azure and just having those (CCG) experts on hand, we've had so much churn in talking about implementing a Databricks environment and also having a data like set up and just having some of the resources and to give some of their expertise and guidance has just made things just go so much faster, and I think it's the comfort level and the confidence that if you don't have really great governance where you are providing a lot of sandbox opportunities for people to experiment out in the Cloud, you really, really need that help upfront to really give you that structure and really in my guidance to really do it. Right. So, I would say that was very, very important, so I really appreciate that as well.

Click here to learn more about Cloud Strategy with CCG.

John Bastone [22:29] Great, I appreciate that. As one last question, I'll pose this for Karen, started out talking about COVID-19. Are there any lessons learned by virtue of what you and your colleagues have had to go through in this crisis that you feel may leave you in a stronger position, assuming things get better, starting in 2021?

Karen Roland [24:21]: You must have the data and the analytics to be able to measure things and tell the stories from the Consumers point of view. I think that's one of the biggest challenges that we still have in our journey with data and analytics is how do we put that into insights and stories and really make it meaningful? So we're going to be focused on that in 2021 and as well, I'm just continuing to build a thought leadership around our members and making sure that we have all the pieces of the puzzle to make sure we're serving them well and delivering great experiences that they expect.

This transcript was edited for clarity and conciseness.

Are you a business leader that adapted through the COVID-19 pandemic, or want to learn more about data and analytics with CCG? Click here to connect to a cloud specialist and learn about funding options for your cloud, data, and analytics initiatives.

Written by CCG, an organization in Tampa, Florida, that helps companies become more insights-driven, solve complex challenges and accelerate growth through industry-specific data and analytics solutions.

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