Optimus Think

Automate and Digitize: Where Should Credit Unions Start to Build Efficiency?


Buzzwords are great. They get people thinking about moving, acting, building, doing something. They create a buzz! When we think about the buzzwords ‘automate’ and ‘digitize’, what do they really mean for Canadian Credit Unions? The correct ‘consulting’ answer is – it depends. It depends on four of the five Ws – what, where, who, and why are the topics of automation and digitization. The ‘when’ can be figured out later, but sooner is always better than later!

In order for a Credit Union (CU) to figure out where to start it is vital to understand:

  • What the pain points are
  • Where to start
  • Who is impacted
  • Why there is a need for change

The majority of CUs have already started down the path of some digitization (online banking, platform modernization, mobile banking etc.), but what are some of the other areas that are less exploited to date but can be leveraged for further optimization? How does one start an automation project and what are some of the areas of biggest return? Let’s delve into these questions.

Identifying Pain Points

The first steps in any automation project are identifying the pain points and understanding what the use cases are, determining who is impacted by them, and establishing why change is needed. Each use case should provide a potential solution to the pain points that have been identified. This involves a thorough review of manual processes, particularly those that take the longest, cost the most, or provide the least value.

There are several manual processes within the operations of credit unions that can be prime use cases for automation:

  • Member enrolment, which is traditionally paper-based, can be time-consuming. Automating this process can significantly reduce the time it takes to onboard new members, thus improving the member experience.
  • Another area ripe for automation is loan application processing. Manual entry of loan application data can lead to errors and slow down the process causing further downstream issues with quality and inconsistency of data. By automating this, credit unions can increase data accuracy, speed up approvals, and deliver a better service to members.
  • Routine customer service interactions such as balance inquiries, fund transfers, or password resets can be automated using conversational AI-powered chatbots or interactive voice response (IVR) systems. This not only enhances efficiency but also allows personnel to focus on more complex member issues, thus driving higher overall productivity.
  • Other areas ripe for automation include account creation and management, decision-making processes, and back-office processing.

Building a Business Case

Once you’ve identified potential use cases for automation, the next step is to build a business case for digitizing or automating the opportunities. This involves not only calculating the potential cost savings but also considering the benefits in terms of improved member experience.

Every business case should encompass a clear vision for digitization and/or automation. This begins with defining the goals, such as improving member satisfaction or increasing operational efficiency. The business case should also assess the current state of technology infrastructure and determine what changes need to be made to accommodate automation. Business cases should highlight the quantifiable benefits, upfront and ongoing costs, return on investment (ROI), Payback Period, and an assessment of risk.

Conducting a Pilot

Before rolling out automation across the board, it’s wise to conduct a pilot program. This allows you to test the waters, identify any potential issues, and make necessary adjustments before implementing the changes on a larger scale.

Reviewing Results and Implementing Quick Wins

After conducting a pilot, review the results and implement any quick wins. These are changes that can be made quickly and easily and that will have an immediate positive impact. This approach not only improves efficiency but also builds momentum and support for larger automation projects.

Quick wins are small, incremental improvements that can be implemented rapidly and can make a significant difference. In the context of automation, quick wins could include automating simple tasks that are currently performed manually. For instance, setting up automatic email responses to common member queries can be a quick win. This not only improves the response time to member inquiries but also frees up staff time for more complex tasks.

Exploring New Opportunities

While many credit unions have already begun to automate some processes, there are still plenty of opportunities for further optimization. For instance, artificial intelligence (AI), optical character recognition (OCR), and smart forms are all technologies that are currently underutilized but have the potential to greatly enhance efficiency.

A Final Thought

Credit unions that want to improve efficiency should start by identifying their pain points, building a business case for digitization/automation, conducting a pilot program, implementing quick wins, and exploring new opportunities. By following this approach, credit unions will enhance efficiency and also improve member experience, reduce costs, and stay competitive in today’s digital age.

Optimus SBRs Technology & Data Services Practice

Within our Technology & Data Services Practice at Optimus, our goal is to help our clients fill in the white space and align business and technology teams to ensure success. We move beyond the provision of resources and deliver innovation – we seek out practice efficiencies, leverage tools and automation where appropriate, and bring a bold, problem-solving orientation to our work because ultimately, technology needs to deliver the right things the right way.

How can Optimus SBR assist you?

Optimus SBR has relevant experience working with Canadian Credit unions in various areas, such as:

  • Digital Banking System Evaluation and Selection
  • Managed Technology Services
  • IT Strategy & Execution
  • End to End Data Services
  • Risk Management, including privacy, operational resilience, culture risk, cyber risk, third party risk, etc.
  • Branding and Change Management
  • ESG Strategy & Execution

Let’s have a conversation today to help plan for the future!

Contact Us

Doug Wilson, Senior Vice President and Technology & Data Practice Lead

Paul Smith, Vice President, Management Consulting Services


Optimus Think