BREA, Calif.-A lot has changed for Matt Weidler in the year since he was named the winner of the inaugural THINK Prize from CO-OP Financial Services. But one thing has not changed: the development status of Weidler's winning idea.

Weidler, asset analyst at Evangelical Christian CU here, won the $10,000 prize for a concept that would connect cell phones and ATMs, allowing consumers to use ATMs even if they didn't have their card with them. CO-OP currently has no plans to fully develop Weidler's concept.

Kathy Herziger-Snider, CO-OP's VP of product development, said that while CO-OP is working to expand services and access methods currently available via ATMs, Weidler's project is not a part of that plan.

"We will continue to assess our options for ideas like Matt's to better position our credit unions to merge the leading edge technologies and new payment services into the traditional touch points," said Herziger-Snider in a released statement.

Weidler said that he always assumed the project's future was up to CO-OP. "Essentially, an idea like mine that's highly technical has to go through a vetting process with their technology engineer folks to find out not only if it's possible, but if it's the number-one thing we want to put on our roadmap," said Weidler. "I don't know their technology roadmap. ... What I'm hearing is 'This is a great idea, but it has to fit within our technology roadmap, and we may not stop everything and do it now.'"


Not Just A Guy At A Desk

Weidler said he felt "a degree of disappointment" that his project had been put on the backburner, but maintained a positive attitude.

"I think it's a good idea and I think our members would respond positively to it, but I'm sure they're working on something else, and that may be more exciting to members," he said. "At least I had an opportunity to share my head, and the powers that be that decide what the best ideas really are, I know they have that and can evaluate it. A year ago I was just sitting at my desk with a good idea and nobody to share it with."

Beyond that Weidler said his place within the credit union community has been elevated by winning the prize.

"Prior to the THINK submission I was very unaware of the other young professionals in the credit union movement, because you go to conferences and all you see is board members and CEOs and VPs and so forth. ... So the THINK prize elevated me to a position in the industry where young professionals have sought me out, so all of a sudden I'm aware of this whole grassroots effort by twenty- and thirty-something credit union professionals to gain a voice in this industry."

Weidler said that the experience has also helped him realize he's not just someone that works at a CU but is part of a larger movement. "It's fueled a passion for credit unions with me," he said, adding that he has since established a career development network for young professionals at his own CU. The $10,000 prize money is sitting in a savings account to be used as a downpayment on a house. Winners are encouraged to use the funds to further develop their project, but are not obligated to do so, just as CO-OP is not obligated to develop it further.


Promote & Inspire

This year's winning idea-from Paul Yang of Premier Community CU in Stockton, Calif.-centered on making real-time P2P payments at the ATM. Yang could not be reached for comment, and CO-OP's Herziger-Snider said that while the winning idea "is attractive on many fronts and is a good example of ideas that leverage the credit union infrastructure and brings in new payment alternatives."

While CO-OP is exploring P2P for 2012, it is not clear whether or not Yang's idea will be integrated into that strategy.

"Our goal with this competition is simply to promote and inspire creative thinking on industry issues," said Herziger-Snider.

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