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Last week at CO-OP’s 11th annual THINK conference, over 750 credit union leaders from around the U.S. gathered in Chandler, Arizona to collaborate and learn strategies to achieve excellence through digital transformation. With the theme of the “Race to Excellence”, there was a strong focus on navigating the complexities of rapid evolution and revolution in order to meet the growing needs of financial consumers. Technology is changing faster than ever, presenting new challenges and opportunities for credit unions; but one thing is for certain, together through strategic partnership and collaboration our industry is well-positioned to thrive.

Credit unions have a tremendous opportunity. How many organizations have 50 million+ people, have financial relationships with those people, and have trust? Apple. Amazon. And credit unions. – Jaron Lanier.

A lot was covered over the course of THINK’s 18 keynote presentations and 35+ Power Sprint sessions and we’ll be sharing those insights throughout the coming weeks and months. For now, here are three key takeaways from this year’s THINK conference:

1. Embrace Change and Redefine Excellence at Each Stage.

On Day One at THINK, we heard several perspectives on how to define “excellence” but the common sentiment was that it is an ever-changing concept. Even as one of the most accomplished athletes of all time, Michael Phelps described having to redefine what excellence meant to him throughout his career. CO-OP CMXO Samantha Paxson added, “Excellence does not live in a single moment, but it is moment by moment, day by day.”

Having a member-centric strategy is crucial to helping redefine excellence for your credit union. Every new technology initiative, whether it’s open banking or machine learning, should be anchored around humanizing the customer experience. As financial commentator Chris Skinner explained, “Today’s digital age demands you focus on the consumer first and build backward. It’s the opposite of what we have traditionally done. In the digital age, the most important piece is the humanity.”

2. Machines Will Not Replace Us. They Will Help Us.

Virtually every industry is poised for disruption by AI and machine learning. We heard some pretty bold predictions for what the future of AI holds from keynote speakers Jaron Lanier and Thomas Frey but both noted that there is an unprecedented opportunity for credit unions to use AI to their advantage and to reshape their businesses.

CO-OP was excited to unveil COOPER at THINK, our first entrance into leveraging machine-learning and eventually AI to fight fraud and improve the experience for credit unions and their members. Focusing first on fraud detection and prevention, COOPER will help us find the “needle in the haystack” and completely change the way we predict fraud patterns. As President and CEO Todd Clark described, COOPER will not replace our fraud analysts but instead help them to do their job better. Credit unions can similarly look to harness the power of their data and machine-learning to drive new opportunities for growth.

3. It Takes an Ecosystem.

As an industry, credit unions must rely on strategic partnerships and collaboration to overcome the many hurdles in the race to excellence. That collaboration was on full display at THINK and it was encouraging to see so many credit union leaders sharing ideas and working together to creatively solve problems. We shared CO-OP’s roadmap for building an ecosystem of solutions that will allow credit unions to meet their members’ needs with immediacy, relevance and personalization. Just as our credit union partners are vital to helping us develop that business strategy, your members are essential to your own digital transformation. Open banking and APIs will lead to new product innovation but integrating those products is key to success. That’s why our motto is: integrate to innovate.

THINK will continue to serve as an innovation content platform beyond our annual conference; as such, we will be sharing some of the presentations, insights and other content from THINK in the hopes that it will continue to inspire credit union leaders in their race to excellence.

To get you started, read our latest whitepaper, “7 Strategies to Accelerate Your Digital Transformation.”

And start planning for THINK 19, May 6-9, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Take advantage of the early bird rate of $999 until October 31, a 50% savings.