Dan Davis of Financial Plus Credit Union is a member of the Iowa Innovation Group
Dan Davis of Financial Plus Credit Union is a member of the Iowa Innovation Group

The problem:

The Iowa credit union industry took a look at itself and identified some needs. For one thing, there is too much gray hair, both among its leadership and among its consumers. Also, its share of the financial services market in Iowa is about 10 percent, well above the norm for the industry across the country, but in Iowa, the number has been stagnant. Every organization needs to grow.

The innovation:

Creation of the Iowa Innovation Group, which is made up of 15 executives selected from the Iowa Credit Union League’s 118 member financial institutions. Group members serve seven-month terms, and meet under the guidance of the Filene Research Institute, a consumer-oriented nonprofit think tank that serves the national credit union industry. The group hopes to present its first innovative ideas at the Iowa Credit Union League’s conference in September. “It is my hope that this is something that we can conduct on an ongoing basis,” said Jim Niederhauser, vice president of member services for the league.

How they did it:

The idea for the group was the result of a conference last year in which the focus was on innovation, surprisingly enough. “Innovation is crucial to the sustainability of our system,” Niederhauser said. The group might not develop just one bright idea, but rather several. The Innovation Group had its first meeting April 16 and will meet again through the summer. The Filene institute will help it define goals and move toward those bright ideas. Group members were selected after a rigorous review and interview process as well as a series of tests to gauge managerial style and personality. Over time, the Iowa Innovation Group should identify a younger group of industry leaders as well as new products and services that will attract younger consumers. To make certain innovations don’t wither on the vine, the Iowa Innovation Group will adopt Filene’s “i3” process that follows creative thoughts from the idea to innovation to implementation stages. It is a process that has worked elsewhere, although not for the far-reaching objectives put forth by the Iowa Credit Union League, which might be the only statewide organization in the country to task a group of members with laying the groundwork for the industry’s sustainability, Niederhauser said.

The payoff:

Bringing a new generation of credit union leaders and consumers into the industry.