Acquiring member data is not a problem for most credit unions, but using aggregate data for analytic and predictive modeling is often a hurdle. This quandary led Raleigh, N.C.-based State Employees’ Credit Union to adopt a progressive business intelligence (BI) analytic solution.
“We were looking for a solution that would enable us to put important data and metrics in the hands of our branch and department managers on an hourly or daily basis instead of waiting for monthly reports,” said Jamie Anderson, SECU’s SVP of management analytics services.
The $10 billion-asset institution, which supports, 2.3 million members, is not alone in investing in BI tools. According to a 2017 report from Best Innovation Group’s Consulting division and OnApproach, titled, “National Survey Findings: Credit Union Data Analytics and Decisioning Trends,” the number of CUs purchasing data analytics tools rose 70 percent in just 12 months.
“The priorities of the investments have been in analytic tools, staffing, warehouses and visualization systems (dashboards),” the report stated.
In early 2015, SECU rolled out the WebFOCUS solution from NYC-based Information Builders. According to Jon Deutsch, the company’s VP and head of financial services and credit union practice, the solution allows a credit union “to make the most of its data – no matter where it resides – by breaking down data siloes that restrict insights.”
The solution, he added, can access data anywhere it “lives,” which, in turn, “grows the value of analytics exponentially as an increasing number of sources are integrated and analyzed as one.”
BI at work
While Deutsch explained that WebFOCUS can be used to identify trends, capture sales opportunities, improve processes, reduce costs and enhance member experience, among other uses, SECU has found success with its “Report Library” feature.
“We leverage the work the data analysts do within WebFOCUS InfoAssist to build out a Report Library available to other departments and branches. This helps cut down on duplicate efforts and assists in maintaining a consistent view of data and metrics,” explained Anderson.
When asked to offer an example of an in-house improvement, Anderson pointed to a project that assists with reporting delinquent loans to branches through a portal. Prior to implementation, management had to wait for monthly delinquency loan ratio reports to be collected and distributed by district and branch.
“The portal allows us to provide management and branch personnel daily updates on current delinquency ratios and month-end delinquency by institution, district, branch or product,” said Anderson. “Users can select one or multiple branches, districts, products and month end dates to look at data in different ways. A branch summary report allows users to sort by loan base or 30-minus, 60-minus and 90-minus day ratios.”
The portal, Anderson added, also allows for the user to “drill down into their branch report and see the individual loans” that are currently delinquent. “This provides the individual loans that make up the delinquency amounts and removes the need to go into the three separate servicing systems for their delinquency list,” he noted.
Anderson explained that when the solution was initially launched in 2015, a new business “side department,” management analytics, was created to implement and manage the tools. The first team was comprised of a manager and data integration specialist.
“The group had access to information systems resources, such as server admins, DBAs, mainframe admins and programmers to support the environments,” said Anderson. “All of the IS resources are shared resources that have other responsibilities and other applications to support.”
Over the last few years, the application has grown, which has required the CU to hire roughly two employees every six months to augment the management analytics group.
“We currently have one manager, six data integration specialists, five data analytics specialists and one analytics support specialist,” noted Anderson.
BI lessons learned
Not unlike a member-facing application that employees might use every day, Deutsch said Information Builders’ InfoApps are designed to be “intuitive.” To this end, the solution’s self-service tools require minimal training and, in most cases, employees are up and running in 20 minutes or less, he added.
“This quickly removes the burden from internal IT staff so they can focus on other strategic initiatives and quickly expand the analytics environment,” said Deutsch. “Additionally, InfoApps are designed with business use cases in mind, requiring the fewest clicks to find answers and driving optimal user adoption.”
Anderson said SECU learned a variety of lessons just from beta testing. For example, instead of trying to do a “general high-level portal that replicated existing reports,” Anderson said his team should have “started with an area where the data scope was smaller,” but the need was greater.
“Later on, we were able to do one of these projects and it was much more successful because it created something completely new and valuable instead of just improving and changing the framework and delivery of existing process,” said Anderson. “We also realized that we should be willing to change and adapt plans given new knowledge and/or requirements.”
Anderson added that executives shouldn’t let the “sunk cost of the time and effort spent on a previous project or analysis” deter making “big” BI-related changes.
“Sometimes you have to take a few steps back to make a big jump forward,” he said.