To Jump Start Collaboration, Think Compensation

Register now

INDIANAPOLIS-For the credit union community to thrive, greater collaboration must take place-but a number of tough issues will need to be resolved, including compensation.

That's the consensus shared by a panel of CU and technology experts at a recent Passageways-sponsored event. The group stressed that examples being set by social networks demonstrate the results that can be achieved through collaboration. But what could slow increased cooperation among credit unions is a lack of formal employee compensation for sharing ideas, and even a growing mindset to not share.

Shift Is Already Happening

Mike Atkins, CEO of Open Technology Solutions, Centennial, Colo., said that the shift inside the CU community to collaborate on a larger scale is happening "sooner than people believe. For our industry, collaboration is a matter of survival. I think this will happen very rapidly, within the next year."

According to Christopher Beltran, co-founder and VP-product development for the West Lafayette, Ind.-based Passageways, when conversations around a concept increase-which is happening with collaboration today-actions soon follow. "Those conversations drive greater confidence and a trust starts to build collectively across the industry."

CUs build more trust to share, and vendors gain confidence to create tools to make collaboration occur more easily, offered Beltran. "It is only a matter of time, about a year, before you start to really see some change, because the software vendors are catching on to providing tools to enable collaboration en masse." Passageways has introduced a secure community portal platform that encourages collaboration and sharing (see related story on this page).

It will take more open-source technology, the panel agreed. Curtis Falk, community portal leader for Open Solutions in Glastonbury, Conn., emphasized a move away from siloed applications that prevent individuals across different companies from viewing each other's calendars, for example, and limit the ability to share data. "Those things will eventually go away in favor of tools that help people in different organizations work together."

But for collaboration to really go mainstream, people "have to get paid," pointed out Passageways co-founder and VP-business development Paroon Chadha. Technology companies have to make money from new collaboration platforms, and employees have to be rewarded for ideas that not only help the business but organizations outside their own companies, as well.

Randy Karnes, CEO of CU*Answers in Grand Rapids, Mich., explained that inside his company collaboration is encouraged among different work groups through "bounties. We have hourly and exempt staff who are paid more when they work on ideas beyond their formal arrangement. And we post bounties within our customer base. For example, we offer a $2,500 bounty this year for the best spec in our network."

But Karnes said that thinking can hit a roadblock at some credit unions that do not see the value in sharing ideas outside their own walls or in paying staff for them. "Almost immediately we get into old-school thinking of moonlighting."

Business Model Must Change

What must change is the business model, stressed Karnes. "What needs to go away is the mindset that we won't share. We should have built into the design of our business that we will give ideas without being asked-a default to share." That, he said, would drive a resurgence within the CU industry and bring the same enthusiasm to collaboration that it now has for cost cutting.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
MORE FROM AMERICAN BANKER