Craig McLaughlin, CEO at Extractable, discusses the development of a member-first digital strategy with Visions Federal Credit Union.
The financial services industry is evolving at pace; driven by new digital-first experiences that are personalized, always-on, and laser focused on customer experience. In order to remain competitive in such an environment, businesses, whether they are incumbents, fintechs, credit unions or insurers, must develop and implement a robust and forward-looking digital transformation strategy.
But not all transformations are not created equal.
Focused exclusively on financial services, Extractable, a Silicon Valley-based digital consultancy, takes a unique approach to digital transformation. Following the Design Thinking model coined and championed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school), Extractable tackles transformation from the ground up — with the user. The group works closely with clients in banking, investment management and insurance to deeply understand their customer’s unique needs. They leverage primary customer and market research in tandem with quantitative data analysis to define the actual usage and performance of digital systems. Additionally, they work closely with management teams to align departmental business goals to a digital strategy, placing equal emphasis on cultural transformation.
“Our work is really around applying our proprietary research, knowledge and experience to ensure that those companies we work with get the most out of their digital channels,” notes Craig McLaughlin, Extractable’s CEO. “For us, customer experience and user centricity are in our DNA, having served clients in Silicon Valley for over 20 years. We seek to extend that expertise, looking to bring together first-person user research in terms of who the company’s customers are, and marry that squarely to the overarching business goals and, holistically, what each department is looking to achieve. Finally, we bring that together in the form of a cohesive digital strategy,” McLaughlin explains.
“A lot of the time, what ‘digital’ is trying to do is not necessarily the same as what the organization is looking to do more broadly,” he continues. “So, we typically spend a lot of time with CEOs and others in the business to understand what the traditional strategy looks like, and then develop ways in which we can manifest that into the digital realm. It’s about bringing all the disparate teams and departments together under one strategy that is absolutely cohesive and unified, and laser-focused on a single goal — This is particularly true for financial institutions such as credit unions.”
The need for such a strategy, says McLaughlin, is being driven by the broader trend in the sector that sees customers shift from using brick-and-mortar financial services, such as bank branches, to their digital counterparts. This has been accelerated by the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, he explains. “People have been shifting away from visiting branches for some time, but we’re now seeing that they just can’t do that even if they want to. So, for companies in the industry, whatever their learning curve was around switching to a digital-first strategy, that’s being pushed and accelerated. A lot of us, as a result of COVID, will adapt to and adopt the digital world, and that really changes things for these organizations.
“With that in mind, I couldn’t imagine being a CEO of a bank today and saying, ‘our strategy hinges on the building of branches’,” says McLaughlin. “Really, they should blend the digital and physical and deeply consider how that combination enables them to stand for something special. The big question to answer is, how can an incumbent FSI manifest their unique brand story into a set of digital and physical experiences that can be delivered in concert — at scale.”
Extractable’s customers include many of the largest credit unions in the United States. Extractable is currently working with Visions Federal Credit Union, a New York-based CU that offers a host of services such as savings, checking, loans, mortgages and investments, and online banking. Visions FCU is also working with Extractable to launch a member-focused digital transformation. “It’s a fantastic credit union with a very clear vision in terms of growth,” says McLaughlin. “One of the great things about the company is its culture and leadership, which is the single most critical success factor when you’re driving change.
“Where we come into that work is carrying out research into the organization’s members and prospective members, with a view towards developing a user-centered digital strategy,” he adds. “Every credit union we work with has something unique, and Visions has a great opportunity for growth. We’re particularly impressed with the organization’s ability to prioritize and focus on collaboration and using data insights to guide decision making.”
The transformation at Visions is still in its early stages, with Extractable focused on the discovery and research work that informs the digital strategy. This, shares McLaughlin, includes developing an understanding of each department’s goals, and the specific areas of focus for growth that can be improved with digital.
“It’s really all about establishing a plan for how the client can delight the existing member and win the prospective member — digitally,” he says. “With that roadmap in place and alignment with the credit union leadership team, the focus shifts to how those goals can be achieved through the digital experience.”
McLaughlin emphasizes, “we are adamant that technology should never come first. Great digital success doesn’t depend on the tools used to build the experience; it depends on the right experience for the user.” He concludes: “When that experience is aligned with organizational strategy — that’s where digital growth begins.”
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