Data Analytics Doesn’t Need To Be Daunting

Credit unions with a core processing platform and basic business intelligence software can start identifying missed opportunities today.

Is your credit union considering a dive into the world of analytics? You might be readier than you realize. Tapping into data that will help you identify what members need involves nothing more than asking a question and using information already on hand to answer it

I’m not downplaying the power of comprehensive data dives executed by teams that know how to pull together information from disparate sources to provide unprecedented actionable business intelligence. A credit union doesn’t have to have those kinds of resources and scale, though, to conduct data-driven research and make effective strategic decisions about products and services.

What a credit union does need, most already have:

  • Curiosity.
  • Creativity.
  • A core processing system.
  • Microsoft Excel.
  • A visualization tool such as PowerBI (subscriptions are available for $10 a month) or Tableau (free versions are available).

The best part of my job involves meeting and talking with credit union people around the country. Lately, a lot of our conversations have revolved around how they’re using data in new ways or how they need to start doing so soon.


From the leaders who are already well into this journey, I’ve gleaned five starter steps from their experience.

  1. Take baby steps.Start simply using just one or two data sets to prove the value of what you’re doing. Whether you address an efficiency or growth opportunity, identify an expected ROI on your first initiative and don’t try to swallow the whole ocean.
  2. Find a partner.It’s easier if you partner with a specific department on a specific opportunity. Ask lots of questions and determine the precise problem they’d like to solve or opportunity they’d like to seize.
  3. Looks matter.Take some time to familiarize yourself with a visualization tool like PowerBI or Tableau. These powerful new ways of visually analyzing information are the key to unlocking your data’s potential.
  4. Words matter, too.Create a data dictionary that contains agreed-upon definitions about what makes a member, loan types, and more. Don’t assume everyone has the same understanding of these basic concepts.
  5. Jump in.Apply your question to the data, and have at it.

To build momentum around the credit union’s data journey, and to convince the management team to invest in it, make sure your goal the ultimate answer to your question adds value to the member experience as well as makes business and monetary sense.

Here are three ways credit unions can extract actionable information from their core:

  • Identify who is paying car loans with other lenders through ACH and offer those members a better deal.
  • Identify who’s paying a lot of out-of-network ATM fees and build a map of in-network options into their mobile app.
  • Identify where members shop and partner with those local merchants on rewards offers.

Of course, you can also use your data tools to determine where your members are and what they’re doing to make capital-intensive decisions like whether or where to locate a branch. Your ability to do these things will depend on your software’s capabilities and knowing when to seek help from technology partners, but you might surprise yourself.

Don’t go it alone. Learn more about the buzz around analytics by joining the Credit Union Tableau Users Group. More than 350 people attended the group’s last webinar. Learn more today.

Every credit union will determine its own path, but Callahan can help by providing insight from credit unions that have shared their experience with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union ($4.1B, East Lansing, MI) talked with us about how it assigned analysts to specific departments to align capabilities with departmental needs. Read more in How To Build A BI Team That Drives Results.

I also recommend this piece about how Wings Financial Credit Union ($4.8B, Apple Valley, MN) is building its capabilities with internal champions one department at a time: How To Embed Analytical Minds Across An Organization.

These are large credit unions with management willing to invest in analytics and business intelligence. But there’s opportunity for credit unions of all sizes. I know of at least one $300 million credit union that has deployed a data warehouse. You don’t even need that to begin your journey. If you have the basic software tools and ingenuity, you’ve already taken your first steps.

This article appeared in Credit Union Strategy & Performance. Read More Today.

October 30, 2018

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