Daniel Johnson

Embracing Disruption (October 8, 2019)

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I Googled the words “digital disruption” today just for fun. My search yielded 82 million results in 0.67 seconds. I bet if I did another search a week from now, Google would generate even more results. I’m ok admitting that this is all very exciting to me.

What is digital disruption? According to Technopedia, it’s what happens when advances in technology change our markets and our societies. Let’s think about this for a second, because we are literally living in the age of digital disruption. Nothing has impacted our markets and societies more than the around the clock connectivity of the smartphone and all of its associated digital technologies, social, content and purchasing platforms. It’s changed the way we work, play, interact, purchase, plan, find information and even how we manage and spend our money.

The group of platform companies at the forefront of this age of digital disruption have dominated the industry so completely that they have their own acronym: FAANG . This stands for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. These big five have made it their mission to transform the consumer experience by removing barriers that have traditionally caused friction. Each of the FAANG giants has in its own way redrawn the customer journey, allowing it to happen seamlessly from the palms of a person’s hand. In doing this, they’ve redefined how we operate in this world.

But what does FAANG have to do with how we operate as a credit union? In a word, everything. It’s changed what our members expect of us. It’s changed how they want to interact, bank, engage, join and learn more about what we believe in and what we can do for them. It has elevated its day to day online experiences. They want us to match that level of experience, and rightfully so.

I think about this a lot as CEO. I want to understand all that I can about how the FAANG companies have done this. I want to apply that understanding in a way that emboldens our team to achieve our mission of improving our members’ experience. While each FAANG company is a completely unique entity, they share the quality of bold, visionary thinking. They’re not afraid to upend old models to improve the customer experience and they’re not put off by resistance. Here’s what I admire about each of them and want to parallel in our approach to building frictionless experiences for our members.

Facebook has redefined community. In a space of just 15 years, it has changed the way we connect, share, consume content and align ourselves with like-minded people. Facebook reminds us to think more widely about the people and communities we serve both physically and virtually. Building strong networks whose experiences can be shared and enjoyed by our larger Innovation family is key.

Apple is all about making things easy. When you buy an iPhone, for example, there’s no need for a how-to manual. Despite the unimaginable amount of computing power packed into that little touchscreen, the user experience is easy and completely intuitive. You can watch videos, download maps, listen to music, pay for a purchase, text, talk and solve almost any problem with the ‘there’s an app for that’ philosophy. Apple reminds us to think differently and not to be afraid of challenging traditional banking practices in our mission to make member experiences as frictionless as possible.

Amazon describes itself as ‘customer obsessed”, which is very apparent in a digital shopping platform that’s so seamless it’s almost invisible to the customer. Amazon prioritizes the customer experience above all, making it their core business to understand what people are looking for and filling those needs by partnering with sellers across the globe. Amazon has also changed the playing field with the transparency of its customer and product reviews. They don’t shy away from feedback, even if it’s negative. We’re looking at implementing these kinds of practices at Innovation as well, as it will allow us to adjust products and services with real-time feedback rather than waiting for an annual member satisfaction survey.

Netflix found a point of friction and provided a simple but revolutionary way to overcome it. People wanted an alternative to the video rental store, so Netflix found a way to offer low-cost online content that’s easy to plug and play 24/7 from anywhere. With 139 million subscribers globally, Netflix continues to keep customers happy by always evolving while keeping things simple. Netflix shows us how to do things and is an amazing model for Innovation to follow.

Google prides itself on using ‘people analytics’ to build a better world. These analytics are a combination of hard data and human feedback and Google uses it to systematically improve performance, remove friction and help people find what they need. Innovation can use the data our members authorize us to use to help us better connect with them in a more meaningful and valuable way that builds sustainable long term relationships.

FAANG has revolutionized the customer experience. They inspire me to consider all of the ways that Innovation is and will embrace the business model from product to platform (even though all but Netflix are direct competitors) to the benefit of our current and future members.

Looking ahead, we’re currently in the process of becoming a Federal Credit Union. This will create a significant and positive disruption of the financial services space in our country. Our member-first value proposition is unique compared to those of large national retail banks. Extending our reach will help us live our cooperative values on a national scale. The market share we’ll gain from this endeavour will enable us to invest in solutions that will allow us to empower even more Canadians financially and invest in the communities that they live in.

In terms of what we’re already doing, the truth is that Innovation has been embracing disruption for positive change for years. Our No-Fee Bank Account is truly that, with no strings attached. Member Rewards have paid members over $30 million over the past 12 years and we’ve shared our profits with our communities . We’re also embracing an omni-channel workforce to make it easy for members to connect with us. We’re finding innovative ways to expand our services and are literally driving our branches to underserved communities. We’ve also established an Enterprise Resource Planning professional, whose primary role is to explore all of the ways that we can become a frictionless credit union. We are changing in positive ways, evolving into what our members need us to be and not what the industry says we should be.

The FAANG gang has taught me about how to do things intentionally, deliberately and with purpose. These disruptors don’t just add a new product or feature on a whim. Every offering is well thought out based on consideration, analysis and practice. This is the path we are on at Innovation as well. Like the FAANG group, we’re not about disrupting just for the sake of disrupting. It’s about growth, challenging the status quo and looking for new ways that will improve the continued focus on our current member experience. This is innovation. And that is what we are all about.

Embracing Feedback Helps Us Grow (September 9, 2019)

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As the CEO of Innovation, what’s most important to me is that members are happy with how we’re doing. It’s why we’re continually exploring how effectively we’re meeting their financial needs and ensuring that we’re acting with integrity to thank them for the trust they put in us. As I see it, there are three very simple ways to know more about what our members think of the job we’re doing. The first is to ask them. The second is to be open to what they have to say. Thirdly, we need to respond to their feedback quickly and in a way that lets them know we’ve heard them.

We’ve been asking our members for feedback via our annual survey for many years now. The information that flows from this survey gives us an amazing tool to gauge our strategy and helps us understand the attributes that our members expect us to have or aspire to. Engaging with our members in this annual process has inspired us to expand our dialogue in a more real-time manner, in the form of our MemberFirst Feedback initiative.

MemberFirst Feedback makes it easy for people, whether they’re Innovation members or not, to connect with us directly from the home page of our website. They’re also encouraged to let us know how we’re doing in person at any of our advice centres or over the phone at our call centre. This feedback is then logged by our staff into our MemberFirst portal and sent directly to each and every member of our executive and leadership team. Each case is reviewed and discussed by our entire leadership team, who in many instances respond to the member personally. We measure and monitor each situation as it arises, drawing upon what we learn to help us improve our services and reduce friction for our members.

A recent example of how MemberFirst feedback submissions have benefitted our members involves Interac e-transfers. Our members were letting us know that the 30-minute delay between the time an e-transfer was sent and received was frustrating to them. We had initially put that delay in place to reduce fraudulent activity, but we listened to what our members were saying and removed it. We still closely monitor e-transfers for fraudulent activity, but the change was immediately positive for our members. Not only had the friction they were experiencing been removed, but they also appreciated that their opinion was sought, heard and valued at Innovation. If they hadn’t had an easy process for voicing their concern around this, we would have been unaware of what we could do to change their experience for the better.

Whether it comes in the form of a compliment or a complaint, embracing feedback is essential to our growth. It allows us to measure and monitor each situation in real-time. It also helps us to identify trends and identify how we can reduce friction for our members. It requires us to listen and respond quickly and do all that we can to fix problems for our members as they arise. If one member is challenged with something, there’s a good chance that others are experiencing the same thing but choosing not to say anything. That’s why we review and respond to every compliment, concern or complaint that’s entered into our MemberFirst Feedback portal. This nimble approach helps us understand and make improvements that will lead to an even better banking experience for our members.

All of us on the Innovation team view feedback as an extraordinarily powerful tool for our growth, so we never shy away from it. It’s the pulse that tells us how we’re doing and pushes us to be the best credit union we can be. It keeps us humble, transparent and determined to evolve our products and services in the ways our members need them to. We love to hear the good stuff so we can recognize and celebrate staff who are doing a great job, but we also need to know if we’re falling short in any way. If even one member experiences friction in our products or services, we want to hear about it and have a shot at fixing the problem. Embracing member feedback keeps us on our game, ensuring that we’re always transparent, always moving forward and always evolving as a financial institution.


Our Innovation Nation (July 10, 2019)

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We talk a lot about being an Innovation Nation - a team of loyal leaders who adapt quickly to change and are open to adopting new ideas and technologies to help us better serve our members. This positions us as a disruptor , allowing us to stay competitive, live out our values in all that we do and change the member experience for the better.

Being a leader goes beyond technology, though. Leading in the digital age requires a balance of our reliance on technology with our need to foster deeper connections as a team. As we grow and expand our channels and mobile offerings , it’s not uncommon for staff members to chat virtually on a regular basis without ever meeting in person. How do we build sustainable relationships in this way? How do we apply this to building relationships with our members?

One of the ways we do this is to come together once a year at our annual staff conference. This exciting event brings our whole team of over 400 people from 24 advice centres together in one space where we can meet face to face and engage in some pretty fantastic team building and learning. We also have a lot of fun.

Heather Christie, one of our Relationship Managers from Swift Current, has shared about her experience at our annual staff conference. “There’s nothing like being in the presence of your team. My favourite part of the conference is when we are all doing something as a group made of individuals who become one unit. Whether everyone is laughing or drumming, we all have our purpose and are doing it together without notice of job titles. We become Innovation Credit Union for one brief moment.”

Staff Conference
This is valuable insight for me as it can be challenging to lead a team that is so diverse, especially from a geographical standpoint. Our conference creates a level playing field, where everyone is equal and equally valued. The structure of the conference gives us the opportunity for shared experiences that bring us closer together and we come to understand how our similarities and differences make us stronger.

The goals of the staff conference are three-fold. One is to have some fun, infusing lots of laughter into our value of “work hard and play hard”. We take time for our staff members to interact and enjoy each other’s company and ensure that there are opportunities to regroup and reflect on our common interests. This builds connections and relationships that strengthen our team. The second goal is to learn new things and exchange ideas. This comes from one another, learning about ourselves and our co-workers. The third goal of the staff conference is learning. We learn about Innovation’s progress and ensure we’re setting better plans as an organization. We learn from guest speakers who are thought leaders that offer us different perspectives and inspiration. We work towards solutions together so that everyone feels like they have a part to play in our growth and direction.

Judy Douglas, a call centre representative from our Meadow Lake Advice Centre feels that the conference is very affirming for the Innovation team. “The conference brings all of the staff together to share ideas, concerns, network and enlighten us about industry disruption and solutions. The speakers, the information and coming together as an organization for the day is so energizing and refreshing. I feel like it's a great reset and restart.”

All of these things manifest into a powerful energy that reiterates our purpose, rekindles our relationships and builds a strong and resilient team. No matter which part of Canada we hail from or how long we’ve served at Innovation, the staff conference opens the floodgates for creativity, camaraderie and connection and turns a group of individuals into a family.

I think Heather sums it up really well by saying, “When everyone gets the message at the same time, in the same way, it gives us something in common that we can circle back to in future meetings. Nothing can replace being in the presence of your team.”

I couldn’t agree more and I know that Heather and Judy’s sentiments echo those of our team. Bridging the worlds of people and technology is a delicate balance. Our Innovation Nation is stronger because of our highly skilled and devoted people and our conference demonstrates that hundreds of people can become one, even if just for one day and this carries us forward until the next one.

Teamwork for the Win (May 29, 2019)

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It’s the stuff dreams are made of. An undefeated season. A home-ice arena packed with over 2500 cheering fans. A tense shutout game that was no score until the third period. A provincial championship and, finally, an emotional victory skate for an elated team of young men. If you follow Midget AA hockey, and especially if you’re a Swift Current Broncos fan, you know exactly the game I’m talking about. April 3, 2019 for the win. Because I’m lucky enough to be on the Midget AA Broncos’ coaching staff, I got to witness every moment of this game up close and it will go down as one of the most remarkable days of my coaching career.

That it all took place in the Innovation Credit Union iPlex in Swift Current brought my two worlds together in a way that has stirred a lot of self-reflection for me. It was an amazing game, but it was the result of an even more amazing season of hard work, relentless preparation and enormous heart. We painstakingly planned our strategies and playbook, analyzed hours of game footage to understand our strengths and where we needed to improve. We learned from our failures and celebrated our successes. It was all the very definition of team effort. When those young athletes circled the ice with the Jack Loveridge Memorial banner on April 3rd, they carried it for all of us - from the dedicated group who had guided them through the season to the supportive community cheering them on from the stands.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fairy tale season. An undefeated regular season doesn’t happen by accident. The Broncos had talent and grit, but what secret ingredients made this particular team and season so special? What was our role in helping them achieve something so rare?

Reflecting on these questions has helped me to better understand myself as a coach - or CEO - of Innovation Credit Union. Given my passion for hockey, coaching and continual improvement, this is a topic I will likely ponder for the rest of my life. But at this stage in my thinking, here’s what the Swift Current Abbey Resources Midget AA Broncos have taught me about how to be a better coach to my teams both on the ice and in my credit union.

  1. Focus on values We picked players who value things like teamwork, respect, work ethic and the ability to celebrate others. This is a winning model that we strive to follow at Innovation as well. We use value pins to celebrate staff who are living our values consistently and setting an example. More often than not, the staff who receive these pins humbly give credit to their colleagues, sharing the win and building and even stronger team.

  2. Choose and retain a talented team What we do to attract, retain and career map our staff at Innovation is similar to how a coach puts a winning team together. We hire and train skilled people and ensure they’re placed in positions where they will shine. We also cross-train our staff so that they can cover for each other when it’s needed. This helps us grow as a team and better understand how to work together to support our members.

  3. Preparation is everything Coaches meet often to prepare practice plans, implement, review, revise and adapt. Players enjoyed off-ice training and pre-game mind and body preparation. At Innovation, our leadership team empowers our staff to really know the playbook. This helps each staff member understand their role in terms of our short, medium and longer term strategies. This better prepares them to keep their eye on the goal and push towards it as a team.

  4. Play hard and smart Success and fulfillment on any team are tied to moving fast, being focused and constantly evolving. When the team has been well-supported and celebrated, they’re more likely to arrive prepared to give their best against all kinds of challenges. This kind of thinking will position our Innovation team for the win, whether it’s for a member, a colleague our communities.

  5. Celebrate success It’s easy to get caught up in the details and focus on gaps, but I always want to be the kind of leader who celebrates success and offers praise to help to foster a sense of shared goals and results. I can always do better at this.

  6. Acknowledge the entire team It’s so important to acknowledge the off ice crew - the managers, association, fitness coach and other contributors - that form the framework for a hockey team’s success. Where Innovation is concerned, this is similar to the excellent governance framework that is vital to everything we do to be a success for our members. Acknowledging this in meaningful ways strengthens our foundation, emboldens our team and leads us to achieve even greater things.

  7. Ask for help As hockey coaches, we know when we need outside help to build special skills. I’m aware of this at Innovation as well, so I’m dedicated to bringing in outside experts who can elevate our team and take us further in all areas of our business. Nurturing these kinds of partnerships benefits the whole team and is in the best interest of our members.

  8. One-on-ones We spent time with each Bronco this season to chat about how things were going, discuss short and long term goals and determine how we could work together to help each player improve. This is something I believe in deeply as a leader. Applying it to my role as CEO ultimately leads to growth that benefits our entire organization.

  9. Reflect and improve In the spirit of empowering the team, we asked each of our hockey players to watch video highlights of their performance and to provide constructive feedback and self-assessment. This included feedback from player to coach. While we don’t watch game tape together, facilitating this process for the Innovation staff helps us take stock, while at the same time creating transparency, dialogue and collaboration.
I know I’ll be reliving and reflecting on my Swift Current Abbey Resources Midget AA Broncos winning season for a long time to come. Watching our team fight for every win and play through injuries has inspired me and I want to bring that inspiration to the very talented team here at Innovation. Talent alone doesn’t win championships in hockey or in business. This is why planning, preparation and support are fundamental to leading a winning team. We also need to play our own game, not change our strategy to match our opponents. With the right people, preparation and values in place, other teams can adjust to keep up with us. This is how the Broncos operated this past season. But it’s also how we do things at Innovation. I’m so fortunate to be a coach here at the credit union that is truly an #InnovationNation poised for long term success.

Midget Broncos

Responsible Banking: Doing the Right Thing (March 8, 2019) Expand/Collapse

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In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll open by admitting a strong bias for doing the right thing for people, particularly when it comes to profits. As the CEO of Innovation Credit Union, my team and I look at profits as a tool for real and lasting social change. We do more than earmark some of our earnings for social impact projects. Profitable companies should contribute to society. But if the contribution is more about marketing optics than really making a difference, the impact on social change is minimal and rarely lasting.

Our shareholders are not a handful of the top 1%, as is the case for national retail banks. Our shareholders are our members, good people who trust us to be responsible with their hard earned dollars. To thank them for their trust, we work hard to be profitable and then we use those profits in a way that benefits them, their communities and the social causes they believe in. We call this Responsible Banking and it’s the central pillar of all that we do.

Responsible Banking is something I’m deeply passionate about. To me, it encapsulates what it is to do things right, then turn around and do the right thing. This values-based position guides our entire team. It challenges us to think differently about our profits, how we make them and how we use them. At the end of the day, everyone at Innovation wants to see our profits returned back to our members in the form of benefits, expanded services, competitive rates and member rewards. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Our Responsible Banking mandate ensures that we do more than pay lip service to members being our priority; we practice it everyday and in every decision we make. We don’t make empty promises to get new business in the door; we provide every member with long-term rewards that benefit them financially and position them for a better future. When it comes to helping out, we do a lot more than write cheques. We roll up our sleeves and pitch in whenever we can. When our staff isn’t volunteering, they’re cheering their children on from the stands. In fact, if you were to pop by the rink on any given evening or weekend, you’d be likely to see me cheering on my kids as well. Go Wildcats!

Another way we practice Responsible Banking is by doing all we can to hang in there when the going gets tough. While big banks have left small towns, we’ve worked diligently to find solutions to help us avoid branch closures. We’ve retrained all of our traditional frontline advice centre staff to digitally serve Innovation members from any geographical location via a secure digital queue of phone, Skype, email or online chat. Not only does this keep our valued staff employed, it allows our branches to remain open even as the entire banking industry’s foot traffic to branches declines.

We also understand that sometimes there’s no substitute for an in-person exchange, particularly in underserved communities. That’s why we’ve used our profits to purchase two mobile advice centres, which our members affectionately refer to as ‘MACs’. These MACs are essentially our credit union on wheels and enable us to ensure that everyone has access to financial services by literally driving banking options to them throughout the province. This is Responsible Banking in action. Every time a MAC hits the road, I know we’re doing the right thing. We stand by our promises, finding innovative ways to rally around our communities, making strong member relationships even stronger with committed staff who stay the course.

I work with a team of inspiring people here at Innovation. All of us share the Responsible Banking vision and we’re determined not to create an environment where tomorrow is just another version of yesterday for our members. We think big, embracing strategic innovation that creates change and fosters growth that’s good for our members, our communities and our world.

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From the desk of our CEO

Federal Continuance

For information on upcoming changes to DEPOSIT INSURANCE if we become a federal credit union, see our disclosure notice. Creditors who have concerns may contact Innovation Credit Union.

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