From Call Centers to Digital Banking: Zach Eychaner’s Journey

“What’s your end vision for what that loan experience should look like? And what are the things that need to be part of that process for you to feel comfortable that you can do the thing you need to do as effectively and as efficiently as possible?”

EPISODE:

96

with guest:

Zach Eychaner
VP of Digital Experience

ELGA CU

Episode Summary

In this episode of Digital Banking Podcast, host Josh DeTar interviewed Zach Eychaner, VP of Digital Experience at ELGA Credit Union. They explored the crucial role of digital strategy in credit unions, emphasizing the need for personalized member experiences and the importance of staying true to the organization’s mission. Eychaner shared his insights on how technology can help credit unions serve their members better without losing the personal touch that defines them.

Eychaner discussed the challenges and opportunities credit unions face in the digital age. He highlighted the importance of leveraging data to inform decisions and ensure that the digital tools being implemented are truly meeting members’ needs. Eychaner also shared his perspective on the necessity of collaboration among credit unions to share best practices and innovate together.

The conversation delved into the future of credit unions, stressing the need to avoid complacency and continually adapt to changing member expectations. Eychaner’s experiences from his time in call centers to his current role provided valuable lessons on how to maintain relevance and deliver value through effective digital strategies.

Key Insights

Importance of Personalized Member Experiences

Zach Eychaner emphasized the need for personalized member experiences in credit unions. He explained that digital technology allows credit unions to have one-on-one conversations with their members, which is crucial for addressing individual financial needs. Eychaner highlighted that as credit unions grow, it becomes challenging to maintain this personalized approach. However, advancements in technology can help scale these efforts. He also stressed the significance of delivering relevant information to members, rather than using generic communication methods like banner ads. By leveraging data and technology, credit unions can ensure they provide value to their members and stay true to their mission of serving the community.

Collaboration and Shared Best Practices

During the episode, Eychaner discussed the importance of collaboration among credit unions. He believed that sharing best practices and working together can help credit unions stay relevant and innovative. He pointed out that credit unions have a unique opportunity to pool resources and knowledge, which can lead to better services for their members. Eychaner also mentioned the concept of CUSOs (Credit Union Service Organizations) as a way for smaller credit unions to access expertise and support from larger ones. This collaborative approach helps ensure that all credit unions, regardless of size, can continue to serve their communities effectively and remain competitive in the financial industry.

The Risk of Complacency in Credit Unions

Eychaner highlighted the risk of complacency within the credit union industry. He warned that merely continuing with the status quo could lead to irrelevance, especially as fintech companies and other financial institutions innovate and attract members with new solutions. Eychaner urged credit unions to constantly evaluate and improve their strategies, focusing on their core mission while adapting to changing member needs and technological advancements. He emphasized that credit unions must be proactive in telling their story and demonstrating their value to members, ensuring they remain a vital part of the financial landscape. This proactive approach is essential for credit unions to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

Guest At A Glance

Zach Eychaner
VP of Digital Experience

ELGA CU

Find Eychaner On:
LinkedIn

Deeply passionate about financial democratization and member engagement.

Zach: [00:00:00] We as an industry have wanted to, have talked about how, imperative financial education is, to us and, it’s what we are committed to and drive toward and yet look at the trajectory of people’s confidence in their level of financial knowledge, it hadn’t moved a whole lot. So, and that isn’t to say that they don’t want to learn more. They do, but the methods we’ve tried haven’t worked. So we need to stop putting out blog posts that nobody looks at.

[00:01:00] ​

Josh DeTar: [00:02:00] Welcome to another episode of the digital banking podcast. My guest today is Zach Eychaner, VP digital experience for ELGA Credit Union. know, when I started this podcast, I don’t think I actually had conscious thought about how important it would become for me to highlight amazing people and the incredible impacts they have.

But today it’s foundational this show. My goal is to shine a spotlight on people that in my humble are changing the world. Now, that doesn’t always have to look like ending world hunger, although that would be amazing. Sometimes it looks like the little impacts people are making that will ripple into something bigger. When Zach and I were getting ready to start recording today, he told me what inspires him about credit union industry [00:03:00] is the notion that, Oh, you can do banking and still have a soul. You see, that comment comes from an early job as teller with a bank that ultimately acquired by one of the big four. said when he really looked at his job was to bend over backwards for the people who have everything and do as little as possible for people needed it more anyone. Zach said, and I quote, it ripped my soul. Many winding paths and life experiences have shaped Zach be someone with deep, genuine empathy for other humans trying to live happy and fulfilling lives.

It shapes almost everything he does from the relationship he has with his two sons to the relentless passion he has for empowering the democratization financial freedom credit help provide to their communities. One thing you won’t find with Zach is a bunch of fluff and stuff. You get you get.

He says what he means. believes in his soul that credit unions have tremendous opportunity ahead of them, but without some course corrections and [00:04:00] without the right plans place, face a very real possibility of losing relevance as the world moves digital. Although digital is nothing without the people. have lots to unpack this episode today, including we will probably try and see how we can weave his love for nerddom and science fantasy into how credit unions can leverage tech and the future to change lives the better. You know, if we do this right, future is right, is bright. we do this wrong, will only be bright for some.

And I think that’s really powerful statement. And it’s one of the reasons why I am so genuinely excited to have on as a guest of the podcast today, Zach. You know, I said in my opening, like it’s really become important to me to shine a light really special and don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’re one of those people.

I can just hear the passion and excitement in voice. So I’m excited to have you on the show. Thanks joining me.

Zach: it’s great to be here. Excited to be on the show with you, Josh. Looking forward to talking to you today.

Josh: Yeah, thanks. You know, I [00:05:00] always get super excited to have, you know, folks like yourself on the podcast from credit unions, because I think what’s always interesting to me is to see the unique ways that each credit union is kind of approaching what I see as a really pivotal time in our industry. Right?

Like we are deep in the thick of, you know, this kind of generational shift into technology. And our leveraging of digital services. And we’re taking what traditionally was a very, you know, relational brick and mortar type of, you know, interaction between a business and customer, i. e. a credit union and a member.

And then trying to bring that into the digital world. And I always get really excited when I talk to folks like you that I think have very unique perspectives on like what that can look like today, but also like, what is the, if there’s no guardrails on it, like what can the future look like? so as you think about kind of the, I guess, The opportunity, as you stated, of like what credit unions can [00:06:00] do for their members, but the challenges associated with kind of this new game that we’re having to play or this new arena we’re having to play in, like, what does that look like for you?

Zach: Yeah, I think the opportunity is outstanding. I think digital allows credit unions to do what we’ve wanted to do for a long time, which is really have those one on one conversations, right? Really sit down with a member and, and, you know, go through a credit report and look at their budget and have those conversations.

But When you get to a certain size and you continue to scale it gets harder to do that. We have a 100,000 members And if we were to sit down with every single one of them We’d have to hire a lot of people to kind of make that happen, right? And so With the advancements in technology the advancements, you know in different Tech companies out there that are you know getting hyper focused on serving those needs and addressing those needs.

There’s a lot of opportunity to really level the playing field for people and allow people who might not have access otherwise to a lot of really good, really relevant information that can help make a difference in their life and [00:07:00] really empower them to do the things that they want to do and when they might not know how to otherwise.

And so that’s, that’s the, you know, the huge upside is being able to just get in front of people with what’s relevant and information that we can serve to them that, that, you know, helps them on that, that journey that they’re on, wherever they’re at in their life because You know, what we do at Credit Unions, what you do at banks, or anything else, like you’re, you’re providing the mechanism through which people can do the things they want to do, right?

The jobs they want to pursue, the lives they want to live, the children they have, the homes they live in, the cars they drive, all that stuff, all, you know, the backbone of a lot of that is how are you paying for those things? How are you managing your life through that, right? And so, there’s just so many great tools that are coming, but, but, With that there’s also people who are out there who are developing tech who want to Scale it and make as much money as possible sell off to a big company or whatever else and so at that point [00:08:00] the sales pitches can become very You know you need to do this and you should be doing X Y or Z and and it It’s really easy to get caught up in what can be seen as a shiny object or something that’s not necessarily supporting your actual strategy, your actual mission. and you start doing digital instead of really trying to execute on a strategy because there’s so much going on that you can just do digital forever. and then there’s the whole black mirror side of it, right? Of, you know, if everybody has access and there’s people who can’t get access, then all of a sudden that could become, you know, the dark side of things where, where. you start to have like really hard cast systems of, of people who, you know, have everything, have access to all the information and those people who are still kind of boxed out. so I love working at a credit union because we want to provide this technology, we want to do the things that we can and we want to do it, you know, low to no cost, if possible.

Josh: You know, I’ve kind of given our, listeners some insight in previous episodes of just kind of how my process works to get set up with a guest. But, you know, one of the things that I [00:09:00] do is I always send each guest kind of this intake form. Tell me a little bit about yourself. tell me a little bit about the topics that you would like to discuss on the podcast.

And you know, this is perfect case in point. Like one of the reasons why I was so excited. One of the first times I met Zach, I was like, I’ve got to have you on the podcast. and he lived up to it in putting this in his, intake form is You know, this word, one word in specific that you use, Zach, really caught my attention, and it’s a word that, quite frankly, hasn’t been super prevalent in my own vocabulary until recently, and then when you used it, it really piqued my interest, and it was this, the word is democratization, right?

And when you and I were talking and just prepping for the podcast, you know, you told me that what was so incredibly important to you was to really level the playing field. Right. And to make sure that people have access people, not some people like just people, blanket statement, you are a person, you got a [00:10:00] heartbeat, you got breath.

Like you are people, you deserve to have access to the same great tools and financial abilities, right? That anyone else should have. And I think that’s a really noble statement, but at the same time, what I think is really cool is seeing how you’ve kind of looked at, well, okay, that’s all well and good.

But like, how do you actually live up to that? Like you can make the statement all you want. We can put that up as one of our strategic objectives in our boardroom at the credit union. But like, what are you actually doing to live up to that? And at the same time, you know, I’d like you to kind of think through this as you, as you respond is, you know, you, you alluded to the fact of even just doing that at scale, right?

And talking about how we’re starting to see, you know, a consolidation of credit unions. I mean, we’re even starting to see fairly large credit unions merge into other fairly large credit unions. but even more significant on a smaller scale. But so as we start to lose some of those two and 3000 member credit unions, it really are like [00:11:00] very entrenched in their community that are talking to their members every single week, one, two, one in branch.

How do you one, make sure they stay relevant because I think we, you and I will both argue on the same side of the fence here that we cannot lose them, right? But at the same time, it is very important for larger credit unions like yourself to grow and to scale, because then you can continue to leverage, you know, the pool of resources to do this stuff at scale better.

So now we’re talking about, you know, how do we keep scale out of the equation using these tools? And then how do we take what makes that small example, relevant and scale it? So As you look at those things in your credit union, like when you guys all sit around the table and talk, how are you thinking about, you know, this idea of, you know, your place as a credit union, given your size and your scale and your reach, and how do you use technology to scale kind of that democratization of financial [00:12:00] services for your members?

Zach: Yeah, and it’s tough, just like you said, right? Because you’re a smaller credit union, you’re usually going to be much more hyper focused into one certain group of people, right? Who have similar needs. And you’re still addressing that group. And as you get larger and you’ve started to expand into having groups of people with different needs all over the place, right?

And, and so it becomes really important to Leverage, the ability to personalize the information you’re providing to the people so that what you’re giving to people is relevant, right? Throwing out a banner ad, to everybody, at this point is, is, it’s not relevant, it’s not useful, it’s confusing, because it’s only going to be relevant to a handful of people.

So you’ve got to really figure out the best way to not lose sight of what your overall mission is, right? And it can’t be so diluted, that everything falls under that, [00:13:00] right? If it’s going to improve people’s lives, cool. I can do that a lot of different ways, right? Like I can burn your house down and now you’d be happier because you don’t have a mortgage payment.

Like, but that’s probably extreme and it’s probably not. So you got to be careful, right? That you don’t lose sight of what your real mission, your real purpose is. And then that’s it. make sure that the things that you’re doing, because it could be something that sounds cool or is helpful to some people, but isn’t driving forward the actual strategy and the actual mission that the credit union should be having.

And so that’s a hard thing to define, to share out possibly, because of the fact that, that there’s so many different ways to support and to help with what you’re doing. as a CDFI, you serve, you know, low income folks and we make loans to people that, you know, a lot of credit unions don’t even do. We do that and because we’re a credit union, we’re pretty simple balance sheet kind of driven, right? We need deposits to make loans. And so when you’re serving people who don’t have a lot of income, they don’t have a lot of deposits. And so now you’ve got to figure out, you know, how do you flex your strategy then and say, we need to [00:14:00] attract more deposits for people. But we don’t want their loans, so we can take those deposits and give them out in loans to other people. And so now how can we create a digital environment where that becomes easier for people, becomes attractive to people to kind of bring their deposits over, so that you can then make loans to people where they need it, when they need it.

And if we try to, you know, get staff for that and 24/7/365, because that’s what we would need to do. You just can’t do it. So now we’ve got to also find a way to actually have a mechanism in place to get those loans to people when they need them, where they need them, how they need them. and it, you know, to the point even that we have a mobile branch now that we’re wrong, that we’re rolling out and we’re gonna be launching very soon, to get into communities where people possibly don’t have cars, they don’t have access, they don’t have those things.

Like that is a thing that feels so much more less like digital, obviously, right? Because we’re getting people on the street and putting them out there. But then part of that is going to be also showing people how they can have [00:15:00] access using a phone, using a computer, using something else they may have access to to handle these things when we’re not there. Right. and so, yeah, I think how credit unions also, you know, if we stay on brand, we stay on mission. Ways we can support those smaller credit unions too is is through QSOS and through coming together. There’s that, that ongoing collaboration to say, Hey, we get four, 3, 000 member credit unions to come together.

They can pool resources and they can do more than they can do by themselves. Right. And so it’s recognizing the value that they’re bringing to the group that they’re serving and how can we as a larger credit union be a part of that and say, Hey, we can give you, expertise, we can give you some knowledge, some guidance, some, you know, Processes that work things that are are troubling and and work through that so that we can support you and serving the people that you’re serving because we know you’re doing great work and at the same time we’re gonna then take our scale and the resources that we have that are more than a 2, 000 [00:16:00] person credit union and less than a 500, 000 person credit union but we can you know through the appropriate partnerships with the right companies we can really make things happen. Relevant and different and make sure that we don’t lose sight of all those different pockets of people who need stuff from us and have special needs and, and, and have that. And what’s been great about, you know, what I love about digital is that the data is there, you know, you just got to look at it, right?

We can sit around and planning from a strategy standpoint. 15 years ago was a survey with a 15 percent response rate if you’re lucky. And you’re using that to inform the entire, you know, next year, three years, five years. Now we know what people are looking at. We know what they care about. We know what they don’t care about.

and so taking that information, we get 100 percent data. We get all of that back and then say, this is what’s really relevant and this is what’s not relevant. And so let’s now kind of keep honing that message and honing those tools that are serving the things that people really want. [00:17:00] That’s.

Josh: talked about doing digital versus having a digital strategy. I think you’re kind of alluding to that in your last. So expand on that for me. Like, what does that mean to you?

Zach: One of my fears, I think, for credit unions as a whole, but, you know, community banks and, heck, anybody can do it, right? Doing digital is, partnering for press releases, or feeling, like, credit unions, it’s the same problem that I had when I was leading contact centers and saying, like, you can push products at a credit union and still feel good about yourself at the day because we don’t have bad products. Right. You could do digital and feel like you are helping people by doing the right thing and through giving them tools that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. But the question is, was that what they really needed? Because there’s an opportunity cost, right? For every partnership that you make, there’s one that you don’t.

And, if you’re doing digital, you’re [00:18:00] partnering, you’re not looking at the big picture, right? If you haven’t defined what that strategy looks like and what, you know, your end goal is, what the end game is and what a digital credit union looks like to you, then you start that next big pitch or when the ceo comes back from a conference where somebody was talking about X, Y or Z.

And, you know, the whole topic was about generative AI and how many different ways are we using it, right? Like then that drives the narrative versus bring it back to the strategy, right? If you lose. We haven’t defined where you’re going. You can keep moving forward, but it’s gonna be really erratic. And at the end of the day, it’s going to create a really weird experience.

and one that could be disjointed. You’d be doing something state of the art in one really weird use case or kind of, you know, business case, whatever. and have standard things that we use all the time, feel really Really old and antiquated and like they don’t make sense, right? And so you start to set weird expectations to that can’t be [00:19:00] delivered on.

And it just, it can feel really, really, disjointed. And I think that that’s the part where, as we start spending more money and spending more money on technology and increasing those budgets and doing more, that if we’re not, putting it in a way that’s driving our strategy forward and focused on where we want to be at the end, we’re going to spend an awful lot of money to find out that we didn’t get the return that we wanted and we didn’t become the institution we wanted to be, and then it might be too late.

Josh: You know, I think that’s one of the things that’s really interesting about the credit union industry in specific, right? Is, when you talk about money, cause in all reality, everything that you do, Zach is spending your members money, right? And whether they realize it or not. They are doing business with you and they are giving you money that is ultimately their money and then they’re hoping They’re putting their faith and their trust in you Expecting that what you are going to do with that money is [00:20:00] find a way to return tangible value to them And that’s a really big challenge And I think especially when like you were saying, you know, a lot of times we identify that How am I going to return value to you is we used to send out a survey and we’d get a small, you know, percentage of our membership respond.

And then, you know, you’re implementing things. And if you implement something that returns value to 4 percent of your membership, but it makes up 50 percent of your budget, like, well, you friend have a problem. And so, you know, how are you looking at that? I think that creates an interesting, you know, kind of space for you to play in, right?

Zach: Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent. And it’s why making sure that you have a data strategy with your digital strategy, so that you can really measure what you’re doing and make sure that the things you intended to do you’re doing. And if you’re not, don’t throw good money after bad. Right. You have a sunk cost, accept it and know when it’s time to cut and do something different.

Right. [00:21:00] And, historically the credit unions that I’ve, I’ve worked with, talked with, I’ve been around, really good at looking forward, rarely looking back. And while that sounds cool, you may have a ton of products that you don’t need anymore. You may have processes you don’t need anymore. You’ve got a lot of things that you’re doing that make no sense or things that you rolled out that you got through that you always meant to go back and look at and that you’re not doing.

And then, it’s always better to look forward. Taking that data, looking back, and making sure that, again, the things that you’re doing, that you’re rolling out, you had a desired end state. Did you achieve that? And if you didn’t, no harm to that. You’ve got to try something, right? Doing something is better than doing nothing. but you should be measuring, you should be looking back, and then you should be pivoting if you need to. or, you can put more into something. It’s like, wow, that’s really returning. Like, we need to just lean in even heavier there because that resonated a level we didn’t even know. or didn’t anticipate and now we need to just really like, that was the thing, let’s really lean into that piece.

Josh: You know, that resonates really well with me as a marketer, right? Because, you know, for us, sometimes it’s really hard to admit that like, we came up with this really cool campaign and then the [00:22:00] world thinks it’s really stupid and you’re like, Oh, you know what? I already dumped a ton of money into this sucker.

Like, we’re just going to run this thing into the ground. I don’t want anyone to ever hear from me that it wasn’t successful, but a lot of times you got to take your ego out of it. Yeah, I’d be like, Hey, you know, that thing that we said was going to be awesome and we put a bunch of money in. Yeah. It, it stinks.

It’s, it’s no good. Like we got to abort mission. We got to about face, we got to try something different. And into your point, like that is really hard on both the emotional level. but it’s also hard on the KPI level, right? It’s really hard to say I dumped a hundred thousand dollars into this project.

And I said that I was going to see, you know, a 2x ROI on it. And actually it’s negative. We got nothing out of this. And that’s really hard. And sometimes it’s, it’s, you know, even easier to try and save face and say, well, we’re just gonna, we’ll double down. We’ll keep going into this. And then that’s when we’ll see the reward out of this.

I know that’s a little bit of an extreme [00:23:00] example, but, you know, even as you are accredited and you’re looking at your digital strategy or some of the products and services that you offer, like this is an evolving world, things don’t stay still, they don’t stay stagnant. And so if you look back on and say, we’re the exact same credit union, you know, that we were in the 1950s, that’s a problem.

Now, I’d argue that you have to be the same at your core, at your soul, at your value proposition. But what you look like and how you actually, you know, demonstrate that and bring that value out probably should look very, very different. And sometimes that’s hard for us to admit. Hmm.

Zach: 70 years ago, right? And so if, if, if you’re trying to be, who you were then and offer the same products you were then, like you, you haven’t grown with where the world has grown to, right? It’s that start where the people are and then help move them forward, right?

But you can’t start where they were, because that’s not a great place to be. I [00:24:00] can tell you that there have been digital features that I thought were just going to be so cool. They sounded great. They make people’s lives so much easier. And I threw them out there and they were out and we had a hard time getting data on them, but it was okay because you know, it was a good, it was, it was cool.

It was different. It was really helpful. And then find out that the service was unavailable, didn’t work for two months and not one person said a word. Okay, well, what I’ve learned now is a that didn’t matter, but that stuff is okay if you’re learning from it, right? And that’s, that’s what I’ve been talking with the team about here at times, too, is we’re going to try something and it might sound ridiculous and it may fail colossally, but we’re going to come out of it smarter than we started because now we’re gonna have another data point.

We’re gonna know what didn’t work and that’s going to help us be smarter. For the next thing we execute and something that’s near that that we execute. We’re gonna like it’s gonna help us understand you know the things that work the things that resonate and the things that don’t and Knowing what not to do is [00:25:00] every bit as valuable as knowing what to do Right because it really does help shape that and it means less mistakes going forward if you cover those things up Then you you can’t learn from the failures, right?

You’re like, hey, we did this before. Was it successful? I don’t know. Then do we try it again?

But, and we probably do because now that becomes a thing we do every year, you know, every year we do X, Y, or Z, right? We do skip a page. We do small dollar loans. Did they resonate? Did they perform? Did they make a difference or are we just going through the motions now?

Because that’s what we did. And it’s so easy to keep looking forward to look at what’s next and not take that, that time to assess what’s going on, right? That’s that, that whole, whole digital transformation piece, you know, Standard rules on the RPA side before you automate something should even be doing it anymore,

right? Like you’ve got to be, be willing to learn and you’ve got to be willing to fail. And, and I think that starts at the top, right?

Because, worked at a great, great organization that [00:26:00] said all the time, we want you to try things and it’s okay if you fail and we want you to try things. It’s okay if you fail.

And then the executive team would have colossal failures and they wouldn’t share them. They were embarrassed by them. So you can say that all day long, but when the team only sees you sharing successes, then they feel like, yeah, but everything you guys try works, right? So like, I don’t want to try so because I’d be the first one to fail.

And then are you gonna look at me poorly because all your sub is succeeding. And so it’s like, you’ve got to be transparent on that. You’ve got to share those things that you failed on where you’re trying and what you’ve learned from it. And if you can create that culture, I think that you can definitely, start finding the best ways to serve the people who you’re trying to serve.

And. and make the difference you’re trying to make.

Josh: Isn’t it funny how easy it is to say a lot of the things, and I think most of us, like most of us humans are well meaning, right? Like there’s some, there’s some pretty bad actors out there, don’t get me wrong, but for the most part, we’re all pretty good people. And I don’t think we go into things intentionally trying to be malicious.

But a lot of [00:27:00] times we do, you know, we make statements and then we don’t actually follow through them with our actions. And that’s a really hard thing to do when you’re the one that has the target on their back. And, but when you can do that, it creates a really special culture. but I think you really nailed it, at least in my opinion.

Transparency is a big part of that, right? I, one of the things I like to preach all the time to my team Is it? If the answer to the question is, when I say, why are we doing this this way? If the answer is, well, that’s how we’ve always done it. That should be an immediate red flag and we should say, okay, so is that still the right way to do it?

And sometimes, Zach, I don’t follow my own advice, right? Because sometimes you’re just in the moment of it and you are, you’re like, just so entrenched in the process of it. Like, this is how I’ve always done it. This is how I’ve always done it. And then somebody calls out like, hey, dude, just throwing it out there.

Like that’s probably not the best way to do that. And you’re like, oh crap. Yeah, you’re totally right. Like, [00:28:00] but then having that transparency to say, you know what? You’re right. And actually, like I let us down a wrong path for a while because of that. And I’m going to make that right. And I’m going to fix that.

And, you know, kind of showing some vulnerability, but I’d love to get your perspective on this because I brought this conversation up a few times on the podcast with guests. but. I think where, you know, again, we’re talking about like, this all sounds well and good. This is all great. But you’re also in a very heavily regulated industry, right?

And there’s got to be some guardrails around Failure is fine Unless what happens is Monday morning all of your members realize that the credit union is failing And they’ve squandered all the money and there is none left and you’re going to get just what is insured and then best of luck finding a new institution.

Like that’s kind of a problem. I think we could agree to that. So like, there’s got to be some guardrails around failures, but at the same time, like if that is [00:29:00] always your driving force. And so when the conversation comes up, like, Hey, why are we doing it this way? You’re like, well, because this is how we’ve always done it.

And we know it works. We know I won’t get fired for this. And we know we won’t lose all of our members money. Like that absolutely has to go into that conversation for you guys. Right. Yeah.

Zach: the mindset shifted and you can talk in extremes and get really kind of fun with it because of the fact that at the end of the day, we’re a financial institution that’s going to, you know, who is extremely well regulated, to have, you know, internal audits and external audits and exams and all these things going on all the time to make sure that, you know, our books are good and we’re, we’re good stewards of all the money that we have. Right? all of that starts there, right? And so you have that. And I, but the, the challenge that I see is, is even in taking risks that don’t cost money and won’t get you out of business are still things that, [00:30:00] we’re afraid to try. And I think that some of it is because even if, you know, as an executive. or somebody up for management, you tell your team, like, Hey, I want you to try this. If it fails, that’s fine. And you let him go. If they’re not comfortable in that, they’re gonna probably still not do that, even though they were given permission. And so you almost have to go in there and be like, let’s sit down.

Let’s talk about how you’re gonna do one of those things, right? Let’s try messaging. It’s different. Let’s, you know, do those things and then budget for Not R&D, but you know, I, I love, I love A/B testing, right? As soon as I learned about it, that was the coolest thing ever. Like, Hey, this is great.

Why not try two or three ideas at once instead of just one and see which one really actually kind of makes a difference. And, and playing in those spaces even isn’t necessarily a, a competency that, creatives are comfortable with, right. Of, you know, let’s, let’s try different things. With the same group of people because one way should work and that’s that’s how we do this when we talk to [00:31:00] people who have a lot of money, we talk at this level and we talk to people who maybe need some money.

We talk about, you know, payments at a rate and we just whatever that might be. But you know, it’s the same reason I get frustrated. People talk about how you target and talk to Gen Z and to just take an entire generation of people and say that they all want to hear things the same way is it. It is frustrating to me because, like, I have a 20 year old son, and he should, by everything I’ve ever read, hate cash with a passion. And he is concerned whenever he talks about his bank account, and I’ve moved credit unions a little bit here and there over the last, you know, few years, he’s like, should I come too? And I’m like, you do whatever you want to do. If what’s working for you works, that’s great. And he’s like, well, if I go to your credit union, do I have an ATM? And the kid’s always got a pocket full of cash on top of the other things he’s doing too. And so like where an ATM is drives where he picks his account. And in his generation, that shouldn’t matter because brick and mortar doesn’t matter anymore because the bank branch is dead. the, [00:32:00] all of that stuff, you know, how we talk to people, how we communicate, how, how we serve the people and help them understand, you know, what the guidance is and how we’re there to help them. that should be something that we’re tinkering with and we’re changing and we’re looking at, you know, the nuances that exist and kind of recognizing that and understanding that we’re not gonna have the answers. Like one of my favorite things to tell people all the time is like, I have no idea, but I know we can find out like that. I don’t ever try to pretend I know everything because I don’t and and I like to lead with that. Like no idea. But I know some pretty smart people. You got some questions. We’re gonna figure some of this out. We can kind of pin this down, right? Um, that stuff is, is that, you know, it goes back to that kind of leading by example, like be vulnerable first. And you’ll create a space where people will be vulnerable as well. And they’ll start to kind of open up and throw an idea like, well, here’s a thought. Maybe we could try this. Like, let’s, let’s do that. And if there’s, it was not going to cost you a hundred thousand dollars and shut down three branches, give it a shot because what’s the worst that happens?

It doesn’t work. And you get to learn and you get to have that [00:33:00] faith and trust in somebody and build up their confidence to try something else next time. Right. it’s just, there’s a lot of opportunity there and we just, we just miss it. and I’ll say, you know, not knowing a lot of stuff has been awesome for me too because it’s that part where like I, I don’t get ingrained in my ways because I don’t know what a lot of people are doing in a lot of spaces.

And so I can go to an apartment and be like, walk me through what you’re doing right now. Okay. Well, okay. Hold on. What was that you just did? And why did you do that? And like, I don’t know. I’m genuinely curious. And I

hear something go like, well, do you have to do that? And then you see him pause. I’m like, I don’t know.

I was told I have to, but like, Just, like, have those conversations, dude. I think that, like, creating, creating, a structure around that would probably be a great idea to say, like, go tour and shadow a group you know nothing about because you could identify those things a lot more because it’s not, you’re not filling in the gaps automatically, like, oh, you do that because of that thing that, yeah,

we have to do that, we have to, like, you know that, like, if you can’t fill those gaps and then you have to have that [00:34:00] explained and all of a sudden it slows that process down to really assess what’s happening.

Josh: You know, you just made me think of, I, heard this old wives tale long ago and it just brought it back to memory. you know, the story goes, so this, mom is making the Thanksgiving turkey and it’s, like her first year hosting at her house doing the Thanksgiving turkey. and you know, she’s a young mom herself and, you know, Her young daughter comes up and is helping her and she’s getting ready to put the turkey in the oven and she chops the top of the turkey off.

And the daughter goes, well, why do you do that? She’s like, well, because, my mom, grandma always did that. And so the little girl goes out and asks grandma, she goes, grandma, Mom said she cuts the top of the turkey off because you did like, why did you top chop the top of the turkey off? She goes, well, I did that because my mom, your great grandma, who’s sitting over there, you know, in the [00:35:00] rocker, she used to do that.

So the little girl’s puzzled. She walks over to great grandma. She said, great grandma, mom says, you know, she chops the top of the turkey off because. You know, her mom did. And she says, because you did, why do you chop the top of the turkey off? She goes, Oh honey, it’s because back in the day we used to get a turkey that was too big to fit in our oven and I had to chop the top off so he’d fit.

Right.

Zach: Yep.

Josh: I just, I think that’s such a great story for exactly what we’re talking about. Like so many times we just kind of keep following through the process and you’re like, would you need to chop the top of the turkey off? Or can you save that? You got an extra, you know, pound of meat to feed the family.

Like, but it’s just, if we get so entrenched in the process and sometimes we do, we, we almost make. you know, sacred cows out of these types of things. And we’re like, why you can’t touch that? Like, you can’t, you have to chop the top of the turkey off. Cause like, that’s what mom did. And that’s what grandma did.

You know, actually you don’t have to, it dries the bird out. It makes it kind of tastes crummy. You can actually just keep the top of the bird on, you know? I don’t know. It just, it [00:36:00] was funny. It made me think of that. I hadn’t recalled that in some time.

Zach: Yeah. One of the questions that I was asked, and I would see asked a lot by a former CEO that I’ve taken with me and I’ve watched people around the credit union here start to use it more and then come back. I love that. I was like, I know, right? It’s it’s it can be infuriating at times. Somebody asked you the question or it can be like, that’s it’s ridiculous.

But, the question is pretty simple. Like, but what if we did?

Josh: Hmm.

Zach: Right. So we do this and this. Cool. What if we didn’t do that? And it was even like, what if we didn’t process card disputes? We just did. We just gave all the money back. We said, yeah, forget it. And it was like, well, it costs you this much money.

Like, well, that’s, well, we can’t do that then. That’s crazy. We’ve got a business, right? We’ve got to process these things, but like anything that’s being done anywhere.

What if we didn’t do it? Right. Are we going to go to jail? Are we going to lose our jobs? Are we going to, you know, shut down and lose all of our money?

Or is it like, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t do anything. Actually, it would make things easier for everybody. Like, oh, cool. Well, then [00:37:00] maybe let’s stop. Right. And so that, that’s been one of my favorite things to just kind of, you know, pull out everyone’s file. Like when I’m looking at something and go through it for my own or here at, you know, credit union, I’ve been at now for six months, where I can look at kind of how things are going and be like, eh, let’s What if we didn’t do that thing?

Like in a lot of it, it sounds like, you know, it’s driven by, you know, it made sense at the time 20 years ago and it has been a set it and forget it. And, you know, that’s the end and, just the efficiencies that come out of that. And, and, and again, all of those things are important because all the extra steps you do, all the extra things that you’re doing when you then try to digitize.

becomes harder, right? That’s all friction. You’ve got to figure out how to translate later. And so the easier you can make a process at any given point, the easier it’s going to be to actually digitize that and create a positive experience. And, that’s why those things are so important to just [00:38:00] start to figure out because everything’s interconnected now, right?

And when we want to throw out a great digital experience, we want it to work really well. Okay. The partners people have already partnered with, the processes that they do, the, the, the risk they take or they don’t, all of those things impact the end result of what you can deliver, right? And so, again, going back to kind of that’s, that’s why people become so important in the digital process, right?

And what the digital experience can be, because if we’re, if we’re stuck in legacy thinking and legacy processes. And then we want to modernize those processes like we’re doing the wrong thing, right? Like we’re just, that’s not how you’re going to be successful.

Josh: you know, when you were talking, earlier too, you’re talking about how just, you know, sometimes you can buy the best tech or something in the world, but it’s ultimately, it’s the human, like that is, that is the most important like key to this whole thing. people that are a part of that process. you know, you [00:39:00] go out and you buy a Ferrari and then you say, okay, but you know, we’re, we’re going to take the engine and we’re going to restrict 200 horsepower out of it.

And we’re going to take, you know, all the downforce aids off of it and we’re going to put cheap tires on it. Well, now you don’t have a Ferrari, like you can’t go out to the racetrack and race anymore. Like you don’t have a race car anymore, but you bought a race car. And I think that goes back to what you’re talking about.

If you know, it’s really important to not just do digital. It’s important to have a strategy. Like if you’re always a hammer looking for a nail versus identifying what nails do you have and then what hammers do you need that are going to be the appropriate hammers for those nails and really aligning that to the strategy, both short term and long term.

Is what will make sure that you kind of align those more equally. Is that fair where you’re like, well, we bought a Ferrari and we’re using a Ferrari and here we really needed a Honda and we bought a Honda, right? And not vice versa. And at the same time, like the [00:40:00] way you’re actually implementing it is in a way to kind of maximize, you know what you have in theory aligned to and picked to be able to meet those objectives.

Um,

Zach: you know, working at this credit union as, as we start to modernize is that there is a lot of legacy technology. And what’s good about that is that, you can spend the time that you need to identify all of those points that, Don’t need to be there anymore.

The things that will create friction as you go forward and you can maximize, you know, your processes. You can maximize the technology that you have and then learn what the limitations are. And then you can list them and tell everybody like, well, we can’t do this or this. Like, cool. Did you write that down somewhere?

You should be keeping a list because at some point you’re gonna look back and say, should we should we keep this partner or not? And when you have a list of all the things you couldn’t do, like it’s a great Yeah. Yeah. It’s a great spot to have a conversation with them to make sure that they really can’t do it and to You know now what you’re looking for when you find a new partner, [00:41:00] right? but just at some point you need to identify what is you and what’s the technology like What’s the credit union? What have they built in, in processes and everything else that’s creating that poor experience? And what is just a straight limitation of the technology that you have in place? And, if you don’t get the first part right, the part that’s you, if you can’t clean that part up, then bringing in a partner who’s telling you all the great things they can do for you and that you can do with them, then when you find out how it all comes together and how your processes exist and everything else, like you can, you can just very easily make the best technology or that Ferrari, right?

Drive like a Honda real quick. you can do that if you don’t look at the, the self limiting processes, procedures, friction, the, you know, risk aversion, the whatever it might be, right? What are those things holding you back? And then how do you get everybody on the same page? Because If you have [00:42:00] a, a person responsible for digital and that’s who drives digital and, and that’s, it’s their job to digital.

I’m over here doing collections or whatever, right? Like if I’m only in my space and I don’t understand how all these things I do are impacting the other side, then it’s always going to be a less than ideal experience, which means that the opportunities that you have to really level the playing field to make things work.

Because. I can tell you, you can do this yourself online, but if I’ve made that experience cumbersome and full of friction and confusing, then I haven’t really given you an attractive option and therefore you don’t have the option, right?

Josh: you know, I think that’s one of the reasons why I really like having conversations about digital with you is, you know, don’t get mad at me for saying this, hopefully you’re not a technologist, right? Like, that’s not your background. And, I, one thing that you said to me really kind of stuck with me, you know, you said a lot of where you draw your inspiration from is from your days in the [00:43:00] call center.

Right. And I love that because that’s where you really, and truly like going back to what we were talking about earlier, right? Like you’re trying your job as an executive at the credit union, overseeing digital, your job, like your stated mission is to find ways to deliver value to your members through the money that they are giving you trustee over through digital services, right?

So how do you know what’s actually going to provide value to them? Well, talking to them, like being a part of their conversations, understanding You know, hey, when somebody’s calling into our call center, when somebody’s stopping into our branch, like what are the ways that we’re supporting them? And then, like you were saying, like, how do we identify, you know, one, is that even the right thing?

are we doing it in the right way? Then, you know, can it be digitized? Can the process be optimized? Now we have a problem. Now we can go look for a solution. Right. And I just think that’s a really, really astute perspective to add to when we’re looking at digital banking. Yeah, you gotta have the right [00:44:00] technology, right?

Like, again, if you need a Ferrari to accomplish the things and you get a Honda, like, you’re doomed from the start. Like, you’re never gonna win the race, right? But At the same time, like you have to have the perspective of while we’ve got to be able to bring the right people into vet to make sure that we’ve got the right technology for whatever it is, right?

For a card solution for a little L. O. S. For core, whatever it may be. Like, let’s identify. Okay, can this technology actually support our strategic objectives? But then you have to be able to have the conversation of what are our strategic objectives? Like, how do we actually define success out of this thing?

So that the inverse doesn’t happen and you don’t end up with the Ferrari technology and you’re using it like the Honda.

Zach: Which is exactly why you’ve got to, you should have already identified what those jobs to be done are, right? A credit union’s reason for existing, right? We provide a service, that service is accounts, cards, whatever, right? Loans. That’s, that’s what we do. the only reason we use [00:45:00] technology is because technology makes our jobs easier and it makes it easier to deliver that service.

So, it doesn’t matter, like, me being ignorant of some of the deep technical pieces of it serves me because I don’t get lost in the weeds of how it’s doing what it does. Because, that doesn’t really matter as much as, Yes, there has to be security, yes, there has to be stability, like those things are table stakes, right? But once you get beyond that, it’s does it allow people to do the things they need to do, the service we want to provide, and are they using it to do the thing? Because if either of those is no, then we have the wrong answer and we need to figure out what that is. And so it really comes back to, you know, engagement, adoption, usage, and are you getting the results that you intended to get when you rolled the thing out. and if you’re not, whether it be mobile banking and digital banking, and a new app, and [00:46:00] texting with members, and chat, and whatever it is, right? Your core, core conversions are painful. Nobody likes to do them, right? And hopefully everybody gets on board doing like sidecar cores and that kind of stuff now.

But, um, Identify the jobs to be done that you’re trying to get hired for at your organization. Like, what are those things? And let that define your strategy, and then you know where you’re trying to go, and then you’ll find the right partner. There’s so many partners out there, and people who are really good at doing a lot of things.

And, I’m sure that people on the tech side, you know, who are selling to credit unions and appreciate the heck out of it too. Like coming to somebody who’s like, here’s my plan. Here’s my roadmap. That’s where I’m trying to go. How can you help me do these things versus show me everything and I’ll tell you if I like something or not. Right. Like that, that’s gotta be a harder place to have the conversation. Right. Because,

it goes like we need, what this credit union needs and what we’re committed to finding, right. Is true partners. Not just certain, you know, [00:47:00] SaaS companies, right? I want a partner. I want somebody who’s going to

help me do the things I’m trying to accomplish and work with me, alongside me to do that.

And if one more vendor that I know just has customers start trying to call me a partner again, I’m gonna lose my mind and turn off my email because it’s become such a buzzword and it just

drives me nuts because of the fact that I know so many people don’t live that. Like,

I will always feel like a customer until you prove you’re a partner of mine.

So just so the world knows, we’ll throw that out there. But

Josh: No, it is true. I mean, I think, again, you know, we’ve kind of talked about it, like it’s talk is cheap. Like it’s easy to say the thing. It’s hard to do the thing. know, kind of like you were saying too, I think you made a really important point on just this, you know, let’s let’s talk about it. Let’s be super transparent here, right?

Like we’re talking about a vendor and a customer potential partnership, right? And as you’re going into that for whatever it is, right? I mean, heck, if it’s [00:48:00] for, you know, signage for your branch, whatever it may be, if you’re evaluating a partnership, this is a two way street. and I think a lot of times that does get lost.

I’m just going to be totally honest. Like I, I see that in some of the different conversations that at least even we have. And it is, it’s, you know, just show me everything that you have. Well, you know, you have to, my wife gives me a hard time for this, Zach. I don’t know any other, I just use a lot of car analogies.

So you can give me a hard time about it too. But like, there’s a lot of companies that make good cars, right? You got Honda and Toyota and Mitsubishi and, you know, You know, Hyundai and whatever. So you’ve got all these different that make a reasonable car for a reasonable price. They all fit in a similar market segment, right?

If I just go to all of them and I say I would like a car, show me what you got. Show me the best. I’m going to see a lot of different things from some of them. Like somebody may come to me and if I just get even the personalities of the salespeople, the dealerships, right? Like I go to the Honda [00:49:00] dealership and he’s like, Oh, we have this crazy, like, you know, civic race car one.

And it’s the coolest thing and everybody wants one. And then, you know, I go to Chrysler and they’re like, Hey, you know, we have the best minivan on the planet. Oh, two totally different products for two totally different segments of the market, right? Whereas instead, if I go to them and I say, you know, Hey, I’m a single 21 year old dude who really wants to like impress my buddies with his fun, loud little car.

And I have zero responsibilities. Yeah, that like little race car is going to sound great. But if I’m like, Hey man, I’m a 40 year old dude with two kids and the family to cart around, I got soccer practice next week. Like that minivan is going to resonate really well for me. So that really helps to inform the conversation of, okay, great.

Okay. That’s actually really helpful. Like I understand what your strategic objectives are and. I think the credit unions are really similar in that regard, right? Like there’s a lot of things that you are identical to every other credit union in the country on, right? And even sometimes if you look at just [00:50:00] our board strategic objectives as bullet points, a lot of times those are probably very similar across the entire industry and it’s very market dependent, right?

If deposits are down, guess what’s going to be on top of pretty much everybody’s strategic objective. Got to increase deposits, right? So there’s going to be some just like check mark the boxes stuff that we have to do, but it’s how do you find those unique differentiators within your own organization and be really, really good about being able to articulate those because that’s really helpful in that process of being able to go and say, Hey, now I’m not looking for cars.

I need a minivan. And these are the things that are really important to me. Like I got a three year old that crushes Cheerios. Like it’s going out of style. So if you have a built in vacuum, let’s talk. Okay. Right. Like having those kinds of conversations like great. Okay. You know what? Hey, I’m going to be totally honest, man.

I don’t have a built in vacuum. So if that’s a deal breaker for you, [00:51:00] then I know Honda’s does whatever. Yeah. I’m just making this stuff up at this point, right? Like, then that’s a really great conversation. And that’s being able to say, Hey, you know what, like, I’m not going to be able to identify or, you know, align to your unique strategic objectives and your unique kind of goals and value prop to your members.

And that can really help you to identify the right partners too.

Zach: yeah, absolutely. And, and,that’s why again, I just keep beating the drum for like have a strategy, know where you want to go. I had the conversation here. We’re looking at, you know, a, a new LOS platform. I have zero say in where we go. And they were like, You know, is X, Y, or Z a deal breaker? And I was like, well, what’s, what’s your end vision for what that loan experience should look like?

And what are the things that need to be part of that process for you to feel comfortable that you can do the thing you need to do as effectively and as efficiently as possible. And when you map that out and after you write [00:52:00] it up, then you’ll find out real quick, what are the deal breakers and what are like, that’s a cool thing, but. It’s, it’s cool. I don’t need it though. Right? Where these other things are things that absolutely have to have and just helping take that step back and just think because, right again, if we’re, if we’re doing digital, we’re seeing everything and we’re going to see something that looked super cool.

That might, it might resonate. It might not. but does it support your goal and your plan for where you want to go? And it’s so

awesome. And if it doesn’t, then just have that conversation, right? Like, Hey, unfortunately, this is gonna work for me, right? yeah. That’s why I warn every, every vendor to, I always tell them, I’m high maintenance and I care about everything.

So, if you, like, you can’t baffle me with bullshit and then turn around and think that I’m going to just not ever talk to you about it again, like, like I want monthly calls. We’re going to get on there. We’re going to see how we’re doing. You, like, you better have my stats because I will and I’ll be asking questions on how we, you know, adjust these things and, you know, why are we getting adoption here is because of, you know, Cognitive load being too high with too many apps, let’s, let’s play with that.

Let’s figure it out. And, and, and [00:53:00] that counts because I have a pretty clear idea of where I want to go, and what I want to be offering at the end of the day. And, and, and when I have that, it just makes this conversation so much more meaningful, I think. I know for me, because at the end of the day I have those calls and it wasn’t a, yeah, we’ve got a bunch of problems, but it’s necessary evil.

So we’ll keep that under the rug and we’ll just talk about, you know, the weekend upcoming vacations, the next conference, and then we’ll dip or like, that’s great. But like, are you getting what you needed to get? And if not, like, I don’t know, it’s probably easier to cover up what those mistakes were.

Just like you said. I said before that, you know, I don’t wanna say that I signed a contract for three years. That’s pretty expensive. That was with the wrong partner, or wrong vendor, or wrong, whatever. Right. But like if you, if you don’t own that at some point, right, like the results will be there.

Josh: Yeah. I know that kind of goes back to what we were talking about of just, it’s really easy to say that. And I think a lot of times,, all of us are well meaning [00:54:00] in it in that like we’ll be transparent, but a lot of times when like the, the situation actually comes up, it’s really hard to do that.

You’re like, man, I don’t know what, you know, what are, what are people’s perceptions of me going to be if I share this information? And so we all know how this works. Like we all know how this works. Like our moms taught us this when we were little kids, right? Like you tell the lie and then you keep doubling down on it.

It just compounds. By the time it comes out, it’s a hell of a lot worse than if you had just owned up to it. And they’re like, yeah, I threw that ball. I broke the glass. That’s my bad, right? But still, even as adults, like how many times do we, even ourselves, I’m sure Zach, like you and I probably were sitting here preaching it, but I’m sure we still do it.

Like nobody’s perfect. Right. We’re like, ah, crap. Like maybe if I just sweep that one under the rug for a little bit, maybe I’ll figure out how to like solve for it before it gets out. And sometimes you’re like, no, you know what? Crap. I should just, honestly, we should have just like ripped that bandaid.

Should have just had that conversation. And it’s really hard. Even as [00:55:00] grown adults for us to be like, Hey Zach, I’m gonna call you up because, we screwed up and I’m really sorry. Like that, nobody wants to make that phone call. That phone call is so hard to make, right? You know, it’s going to be better if you do it, but it’s

Zach: Well, and

Josh: hard to make it.

Zach: and what I can say is that, one thing I don’t expect from anybody I work with, right, is perfection.

And so I do watch, like, how do they react when something doesn’t go the way they wanted it to, right? When they do make a mistake or somebody doesn’t execute the way they should have.

Like, their reaction, their response will tell you if you have the right partner or not, right? It’s because the person’s going to own that and tackle it and dig into it and be like, here’s what happened, here’s how it happened, here’s what we addressed and found out about it, and here’s how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. that’s the person I work with. The person who’s spinning and kind of blowing smoke and all that, like, I recognize that too and we’ll just keep that in mind when, when, when the time comes, right? Like, so yeah, I mean, but, but yes, I’m, I’m guilty of it. Absolutely. It’s probably two things I’m gonna think of as soon as we stop talking.

I’m like, oh, [00:56:00] I didn’t follow up on that. Did I already, I need to get that thing done or I was kind of hiding that part. Let me go. Yeah, let’s, let’s just tackle it because it’s the right thing and it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier if I just do it now than, uh, you know, keep avoiding, ignoring or covering it up, right?

Josh: Yeah, but you know, I think that’s one of the other reasons why I really love this podcast, right. Is this is such a cool opportunity to have these kinds of conversations with people, like, I don’t know, even if you and I were to meet at a conference, right. Or absolutely. If we were to meet in some sort of like sales presentation modus, like we would never have this conversation.

And I think the beauty of, you know, humans and like just being on this planet is our ability to connect and collaborate. And there’s, you know, so much that can be gained by just talking to people. It’s crazy. And you do, you like, you walk away from these conversations and every single time, like I get done recording a podcast, I feel so fortunate.

Like I feel very blessed to be able to do this as a part of my job [00:57:00] is. To be able to just talk to people with no agenda, with literally no objective at the end of this thing, to just talk to people and get to hear their thoughts and get to share it with others. Because if I’m walking away with nuggets, then my hope is that other people walk away with nuggets.

And, you know, I mean, I was just, I was having a conversation with our, SVP of product recently. And like he and I had a conversation, something about, parenting and just like living up to, you know, I make my kid say, sorry, when he does something wrong, but like, how good at my, at when I do something wrong for him, like when I say, sorry, like, how good am I at that?

And, you know, he and I were having this whole conversation and literally both of us were like, I owe one of my kids an apology. And he was like, yep, me too. I was like, yeah. Honestly, like I needed this conversation to remind myself of that. And literally last night, like I had to sit down with my son and I was like, Hey buddy, I’m super sorry.

Like daddy did this and I shouldn’t have, and I need to apologize to you. And like, you know, but again, like it’s, it’s that collective power. [00:58:00] conversations with people that brings some of that stuff to the surface. And you just need to hear that at the right moment, at the right time and delivered by the right person.

And so the more you connect with people, the more opportunities you have for those things. And that’s why I think it’s cool to have, you know, folks that are just super open and transparent on the podcast to come in and talk about like, yeah, as we’re okay, we bring this all the way back to trying to think about how do you evaluate, you know, technology to keep credit unions relevant.

I think the last hour articulates why people are such a big part of that equation, right?

Zach: Yeah. Oh. 100%.

Josh: Yeah, so I want to come back to something else that you said earlier when you talk about the people side of things, and one of the things you talked about was just, you know, how, like the collective collaboration of credit unions can be such a superpower. and just, you know, being able to say, Hey, we’re going to take some learnings that we’ve brought at scale to a smaller credit union.

And then we’re going to actually take some things from a smaller credit union. It’s like, Hey, that’s great. You’re doing that at scale with technology, but [00:59:00] check this conversation. I just have with a legit member in our branch because they were physically there and you’re like, Oh wow, that’s super cool.

Like, how could we be thinking about that? And then looking up to a credit union, that’s, you know, five times your size and looking at what they’re doing. So, but you had made a comment about wanting to just, I don’t know if I can put this on you, but like your kind of aspirational goal is to help, you know, the industry at large kind of have a blueprint for, you know, how do we really kind of collaborate together to collectively uplift credit union’s ability to stay relevant as technology becomes kind of a quintessential pillar of that relevance.

Zach: Yeah. Yeah. And when I look at it holistically, it’s daunting, right? It’s huge to say like, you know, Hey, what I want to do is help, share a vision that, that is applicable across multiple credit unions and could be the key to the survival of the very industry. Uh, if you do, you know, these things. That’s a lot, right? And so, I’m still in the kind of [01:00:00] prove the theory camp, right? Like, okay, like, before I can tell you what the best move is, what the best ideas are, like, I need to execute these things and show that it works. And I feel like once that happens, because CreateUnion is talking, we do collaborate, we’re not afraid to, you know, hop on a call with each other.

And, you know, I was talking with some people from California just the other day about something. And, and, you know, they’re, you know, there were, you know, there’s a reference call For a fintech, and it quickly turned into compared notes and all kinds of stuff, right? And like, we’re not afraid to just have those conversations, right? as we do that and share those best practices and really, really normalize, The importance of digital, not just as a separate function, like there’s lending and there’s branches and there’s digital, like it’s not a channel, right? It’s, it’s more than that. It’s, it’s really, it truly is the future. It doesn’t mean the death of anything, right? Just like ATMs didn’t kill the branch or tellers, like digital doesn’t mean branches go away. People want people when they want people, right? They [01:01:00] also don’t want people on stamps, so they have to have them, right? Like it should be their choice as much as possible. And so when you do that and you, and you recognize that and you value their time and their effort and their energy, that’s how you make sure that you stay stable, especially in, you know, when, when in the financial services industry, like that’s, that’s where we’re getting clobbered.

That’s, that’s where, you know, the chimes come out and have acquisitions at levels that we couldn’t dream of because they just do really well with that one piece. And so, learn from it, execute on it, grow from it. And then, if credit unions stay in a legacy thinking mindset, without looking back at, at the things that don’t work anymore, and, uh, Getting rid of the secret cows that exist that have existed forever.

Like, well, yeah, but three CEOs ago, like they created that. It was like new and amazing and like, cool. And now it’s done and it just, it’s not useful anymore. Let’s get rid of it because it’s just taking up space. because [01:02:00] cognitive load is real. It’s real. It’s real. It’s real, right? We give so many choices.

Like if you have 17 checking accounts and you’re doing it wrong, right? Like that’s too many for people to try to figure out. but anyway, we’ve just, we’ve got to get to a spot where We’re serving people in a way that they want to be served. We want to respect the channel that they want to use. We want to respect their time and their energy and their effort and know that people don’t wake up wanting to do banking.

They don’t go to bed wanting to do banking. They more worry about it than anything else and don’t know where to go. And if you’re my son, you’re looking at Reddit to get information on finances. And that terrifies me.

And I need to figure out a solution. That’s

not that for his car, for, for anything, it’s always Reddit.

It’s the, that’s the,

the source of truth for him for some reason. and that’s just, We’ve got to make a difference in in how we’re approaching this and we need to do it quickly in and there are a Handful of credit unions that have started to execute on that really well and there are a handful that are looking at it or maybe you know a couple dozen, but the vast majority of credit unions are still moving too slow on something that [01:03:00] is absolutely imperative to our success as a as an industry and this industry only works in If the majority of us are successful, right?

Or the whole idea of credit unions becomes, you know, we rise together, we die together,

right? Kind of thing. Like as much as we all want to think that we’re unique and special and different. I’m definitely no exception to that. And we’re like, yeah, but my credit is better than any other credit union because I happen to work there.

And that’s been true at every credit union I’ve worked at and it’s changed multiple times in my career. And every single time going to bed now is the best one. Right, that’s that tribalism thing, but,

but, but yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, what people perceive of credit union is what they perceive of the credit union that’s near them.

And if that one is not doing well too, then like that, that just, there’s, there’s no way to show that we’re a relevant provider of services in a way that, that people will want to consume. And that could be the end, right? We could, we could be [01:04:00] blockbuster.

Josh: That’s a scary thought, huh? I mean, it is really crazy to see how many, I’ve referenced this a few times, so, you know, sorry for folks that listen to every episode if there actually is anybody that does that, but, you know, there are so many people getting financial advice from TikTok and Reddit. Yeah.

Have you ever looked at some of the advice that’s out there, Zach? It is terrifying. I mean, terrifying. But the problem is, is, you know, if you say anything with enough conviction, people will believe you. Right. You see some, you know, 19 year old kid on Tik TOK with a Lamborghini behind him. And he’s telling you how his financial strategy helped him take five bucks to turn it into that in three months.

And all you need to do is do what he does. Like, yeah, if you’re a 19 year old kid, that sounds super attractive. Like, why would I go schlepping at McDonald’s flipping burgers for, you know, minimum wage when I can just do what this guy says, I’m gonna have a Lamborghini in three months. Like, great. I’m in, [01:05:00] you know, and in all reality, like they’re, they’re absolutely setting themselves backwards significantly by taking on this advice, but it’s said so confidently.

And I think there’s just so much opportunity for credit unions to step into that space, in a lot of where, you know, the acceleration of reach. Isn’t it at all.

Zach: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

We, as an industry have wanted to, you know, have talked about how, uh, imperative financial education is, to us and, and it’s, it’s, it’s what we are committed to and drive toward and yet look at the trajectory of people’s confidence in their level of financial knowledge, it hadn’t moved a whole lot. So, and that isn’t to say that they don’t want to learn more. They do, but, but the methods we’ve tried haven’t worked. So we need to stop putting out blog posts that nobody looks at.

And we need to go where they are and meet them there and serve them [01:06:00] there. And then, you know, provide them resources once we’ve got them interested and shown that there’s valid good information out there.

But if it’s going to be reading a, you know, seven paragraph article, you better TLDR that thing.

Josh: you know, I was just at, the financial brand forum in Vegas the other week, Zach. And I got ambushed by, Jim Morose from the financial brand. And he asked me two questions that I really liked and a shout out to Jim, Jim, I’m giving you credit, but I’m stealing your idea. I’d like to ask Zach, these two questions.

Cause I’m curious what Zach’s thoughts are. and the two questions that he asked were just, what do you think is the greatest opportunity and what do you think is the greatest challenge facing community FIs and specifically for you credit unions right now?

Zach:The greatest opportunity, is to tell our story more. People care about what we do and why we do it. If we would just let them know, like, why are we keeping that such a secret? I don’t understand. and it was the biggest threat, complacency. [01:07:00] and like, the, the truth is, It’s not competition. It’s not.

That’s not the biggest threat. Like, yes, competition is a threat, but only if we’re not doing our job, right? If we’re complacent and we’re, and we’re, you know, something that killed me was, a few years ago now, uh, there was this big, like, uprising from credit unions that the government wanted to have the post office start doing, check cashing and like, you know, Some actual banking services is sort of the underserved. Okay. He’s like, yo, that’s what Koreans are for. Like, if that’s what you were for and that’s what you were doing, they wouldn’t be looking for a new solution. You know what I’m

saying? Like, that’s that, like, like,

Josh: the truth bomb.

Zach: well, like that was why

I never saw fintechs as competition. Like if they’re coming in and doing something and we’re like, but that was our job.

Like, well, then you’re not doing it. Like if

somebody can come eat your lunch, then you weren’t, you weren’t protecting it or taking care of what you should have been. And so wake up, stop being complacent. Realize that there’s real people out there, and you can’t just wake up, turn on the lights, and unlock the door, and the business is going to keep coming. Like, you have [01:08:00] to earn it. You’ve got to earn this stuff all the time. That changed years ago, and the problem is, is that the balance sheets haven’t reflected the impact that’s coming. And

it’s, it’s that, like, that’s what’s scary, is that if you’re still making money, you feel like you’re okay. And, again, like Blockbuster was making money and making fun of Netflix at one point, right?

And then it’s, it’s not, it’s not an exception. It’s just a big one that everybody can recognize, but there’s a lot of that that’s happened. And, and, and we will be one of those in the future if we don’t do, and that’s, that is, community banks and it’s credit unions. And if community banks tell your story, do the things you do, and the hard part there is you can have, you know, You have paid boards that can be bought out and you don’t have a vote like a credit union can’t merge to our credit union without the credit union members saying we want to do it.

And if they’re engaged enough to care and they vote, they can potentially shut that down. Happened recently that, one merger that had gone all the way through and had been approved [01:09:00] and blessed didn’t pass through the members. And so it’s dead in the water, right? Not a bank. You can’t do that. But if you keep telling that story, you have, people are going to, you know, not want you to go away, not want you to get, you know, consumed by a super regional or the big four or whatever.

And then community financial institutions are the ones who can make all the difference. And it’s tell the story, let people understand why you’re there and then recognize that you need to grow, change and, and, and, and adapt to where the world is now and what people want now. and not just do what you’ve always done because you’re still making money the other day.

Josh: Dude, if I could just cut out that last like two minutes and drop it on every CEO of every credit union’s desk in the country, I feel like we’d all be a lot better for it. I mean, look, you’re getting feisty, so I’m willing to get a little feisty with you. I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I think, that was really cool of you to say, Zach.

I think, you know, there’s competition everywhere, right? And if you’re not prepared to meet the needs of consumers. They’re going to look for it, right? And [01:10:00] so our job is to maintain relevance by providing the services that they need. And I think to your point, like credit unions have a really great story, right?

We have a lot of the things that people are looking for. And so I think a lot of times what, you know, the challenge that sometimes, you know, our credit unions face is that they, they see that these FinTechs are starting up and they’re like, well, we’ve been doing that. We offered that and you’re saying, well, yeah, but obviously you didn’t do it well enough or whatever because it didn’t get out.

But to your point, I think a lot of it is literally just getting awareness. I think that’s one of the biggest problems that this industry has is just a lack of awareness. And you know, like I said, you’re, you’re willing to get a little feisty. So I’m willing to get a little feisty. I think one thing that a lot of people are just not willing to admit is coming is we are entering the single largest wealth transfer in human history.

Look at your membership base, look at where the [01:11:00] primary amount of revenue you generate off of which accounts, look at your primary deposits and look at their ages. not saying look at your average member membership age, because a lot of credit unions are starting to be like, Hey, you know what? I’m feeling pretty good.

Like our average membership age is maybe a little bit lower than the industry average. Okay, great. Okay. I would love to say that this is correlation and causation, but validate this for me, but go make sure that when all of a sudden that aging out membership base, like, I’m sorry to say it’s, it’s dark, but they’re going to pass away.

It’s going to happen. This is life. We all end at some point when that ends for them. Where does that business go? And what does that do to your business? I think you’re right, Zach. In the next five or 10 years, we’re going to get hit with some gut punches where people like, but, but we were fine. What, what happened?

Zach: Hey, stop paying attention. no, and it’s, and, but, and then look at, look at where the money is going to go and then [01:12:00] take, financial services off the board and ask what the, what the younger generations care about right now. Who do they want to do business with in anything, whether it’s food or cars or any business, it’s purpose driven community focused, like that’s where they want to do business.

And so if we could just tell the story, like it’s, it’s been a punchline kind of like in a ha ha, people are silly kind of way for a long time to go like our members still don’t know we do mortgages like 10 years ago. Okay. I mean, you’re saying the quiet part out loud right there. Like, you don’t know how to tell a story.

Like, if they don’t know what you’re doing, that’s on you. And that goes to the, you know, marketing is important. It’s not, it’s not some nice to have, whatever it is in the marketing department. Like, you, like, you know, Put resources there. Put money there. Tell stories. Storytelling is so important because that’s how the message gets through, right?

We are, we are tribal people. We want to be part of the community. That’s how we’re wired for survival and everything else. so [01:13:00] we want to hear the stories because the stories tell us the things that you’re doing more than you tell it, like 75, 000 hours in the community. I don’t care. What? Tell me a story like that.

It’s a number. I don’t know what that means, right? You like you walked in a parade suite. What difference are you making and how? Tell me the story and drill it down to one person. Because one person who looks somewhat like me is going to resonate 1000 times more than these big numbers you want to throw out there, right?

Like, tell the stories, tell the stories so that people can understand what you do and why you do it and why it’s so important that you exist. And what they’ll lose if you’re not there anymore.

Josh: you know, one of my favorite as a, you know, a marketer, like I love to, I love to watch commercials. Like I love to look at ads. I love to see what people are doing. And, you know, one of them that, that really struck me a while ago was, a tech company that was doing online fitness subscriptions [01:14:00] to help people figure out how to use, you know, everyday objects in their house to do workouts at home.

And it’s just this completely silent, no words are spoken commercial. And it’s this guy in probably his late seventies, not in good shape. You tell he’s struggling to get out of the chair and he goes into his garage and he just picks up some heavy object and he’s trying to pick it up. He can’t really pick it up.

And then it shows the evolution of this and he’s getting it picked up higher and higher. This is the only thing he ever does. And finally he gets up to here and then he’s getting, and then the, you know, the tone of the commercial changes and he’s smiling and he’s happy and he’s picking it up. He’s picking it up with enthusiasm the commercial ends.

And it’s him at his kid’s house for Christmas and he picks up his granddaughter to hold her up to put the star on top of the Christmas [01:15:00] tree. I’m in tears, Zach. Like I’m just like bawling. I’m like, now that is a commercial. I’m like, now that inspires me. And the reason I bring that up is you could probably just go into your member services center and throw a rock in any direction and hit 10 stories like that.

Right. Tell one of them, tell one of them, show your community that you just helped a member hold their kid up, you know, their grandkid up to put a star on top of the Christmas tree. Like that is showing me, okay, that’s why I want to do business with you. That’s the impact you’re going to have for me.

Right. So I think there’s just, there’s so much opportunity in the cool stories that credit unions have. anyway, I don’t know how we got down that, but

Zach: I’m gonna get all kinds of fights getting worked up.

Right? then, yeah, yeah, the soapboxes come out. That’s what happens. But like that to me, like the, the lack of awareness around that, that [01:16:00] I, I experienced and it’s all anecdotal folks. I, you know, I have any data to back that up. Right. But what I’ve seen in the conversation that I’ve had, there’s a lack of, awareness at the upper management level, in credit unions consistently with how they support their marketing teams, the vision that they give them, the freedom that they give them to tell a story. the fact that they tasked them with telling a story in the first place, right? it feels like a call center more often than not.

And if that’s the case, then, we can’t sit back in 10, 15 years when we’re no longer at credit union industry, we’re finding other jobs and wonder why it happened. Like we. We should know.

Josh: that’s super powerful words. What do you, you know, I, I have to try and find the way, but I think it’s pretty obvious, you know, thinking science fiction and crazy future. Like, what do you think the future holds? And I I’d love to use kind of the. So, what if we don’t like, what if we don’t do anything?

What do you think it looks like? But what do you think it [01:17:00] looks like if we do do something, man?

Zach: let’s start negative because why not be cynical to kind of start things off so I can kind of end on a more positive note maybe, right? But, if we don’t, then credit unions are another cute story, that you can tell like the milkman and everything else. It’s like those things we used to have and they were kind of cool. becomes a, you know, an old story, a look back topic of a movie for a feel good kind of old Americana vibe, right? Like that’s the future. The future is, big banks, ultra sized credit unions that act like banks, uh, and a constant political battle over taxation. That is what the narrative and the story gets to be told, right? but if we do, if we do, if we get it right, if we start to realize and start to really just lean into those places that are going to make the difference, then the story becomes, how credit unions saved the entire middle class. Right. And made a difference and, and, and kept, the big banks and the big corporations in check.

Right. Like we, we gave them an alternative that [01:18:00] made them feel good and, and, and they were a part of, right. Like the, the, the credit unions even today, we’re a cooperative, like a farmer’s market or anything else. Like we are a group of people that come together, put all their money together to help other people. And when you realize that, and you know that, like the, the impact of that is huge. it becomes a modern day, it’s a wonderful life, right, which is basically like every creative story, right? just people coming together to help each other. And when you do that, you see the good you can make in your own neighborhoods, the good you can make in your own community, and the importance that connections can have.

Josh: That’s super cool. I want to end with that because I love that. Zach, I really appreciate the time, but before I let you go, I have two final questions for you. So one, where do you go to stay up to date on what’s happening in the industry? What kind of stuff do you follow?

Zach: follow, uh, the, Banking on Digital Growth podcast, James Robert Lay. I like to watch what that man does, like to talk to him

occasionally when I get the chance and, learn a lot from him. speaking, Jim Maroose. [01:19:00] Banking transformed, I believe is that podcast, right? that’s where I first heard about Debbie and we actually just had a press release come out that we signed with Debbie.

So, you just never know where you’re gonna pick up a good nugget, right? I

love Jim Rose. Ron Shevlin, team over at Gonzo Bankers, payments.com, financial brand, usual suspects, hit Google sometimes, but then, When I was looking for new technology, I talked to my fintech partners, everybody else, like who, who do you like, who do you

respect, who treats you well? so I just try to use my network, connect with as many people as possible, hit fintech meetup, you know, some of those large conferences where you can meet a lot of different people from different industries and just kind of, kind of see what’s out there, right?

Josh: That’s awesome. Yeah. I like the, you said it’s a very much an ecosystem player, right? I’m like talking to friends is a huge one. well, if people want to make friends with you, if they want to connect it to you, or if they want to learn more about ELGA and what you’re doing there with the credit union, how do they do that?

Zach: Yeah, I’m not huge on social media, but I am on LinkedIn. and then a website is www. elgacu. [01:20:00] com. that’s where you can learn about what ELGA is doing and kind of what’s next. we are a positive work in progress. We’ve done some amazing things and we were doing cooler things as we go. but yeah, you can be up on LinkedIn.

love to talk. if you want to sell me something, you can send a message in there and I might ignore it, but it’s okay.

Josh: Yeah, no, don’t, Zach and I were talking about this earlier. Please, please just spare all of us with your like completely uninformed cold outreach that has zero understanding of how you could potentially provide value. If I had a dollar Zach for how many people reach out to us through our website to sell us like window washing services, that Like I could be retired, man.

I’m like, please just stop. So that is my just little like cold hearted. It is what it is to all you wonderful salespeople out there. I love you to death, but just please, please be thoughtful. Zach, seriously, again, thank you so much for coming to be on a guest. It’s an absolute pleasure. Ciao. I’m with you.

Zach: Yeah. [01:21:00] Thank you, Josh. It’s been great.

2024-06-27T12:40:42-07:00
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