Bonifii and a consortium of Credit Unions to leverage R3 Sandbox for Digital Currencies to develop and test stablecoin use cases
R3 Sandbox for Digital Currencies is a learning and development platform for digital currencies and digital assets experimentation used by global financial institutions and regulatory bodies. The Sandbox brings together commercial banks, credit unions, central banks, payment providers and exchanges to collaborate with one another in a ‘ready-made payments ecosystem’ to evaluate Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) use cases, learn, transact, and test roll-out strategies and designs.
“In 2020 we debuted CUPay, built on Corda, as a proof of concept providing a peer-to-peer financial exchange of electronic funds transfers via blockchain for domestic and international payments. Participating in the R3 Sandbox for Digital Currencies will enable our community to create fit for purpose solutions which meet the evolving needs of our members.”
-John Ainsworth, President/CEO, Bonifii
“As a founding member of Bonifii, formerly CULedger, Desert Financial continually seeks to drive innovative solutions to meet the needs of our members. With the evolution of digital currencies, we look forward to participating with Bonifii, R3, and other industry partners to evaluate and develop CBDC use cases that will enhance the lives of our members.”
-Ron Amstutz, EVP, Desert Financial and Vice Chairman, Bonifii
“Our partnership with Bonifii has helped create a better experience for our members through its digital network and peer connections. We believe in making banking smart and simple and having great digital service resources helps us achieve that. With the addition of R3 and its catalogue of technology and services, we are excited to see what the future of digital services brings and how it will benefit our members in the ever-evolving climate.”
-Andy Kempf, CEO, 4Front FCU
“As a technology forward Credit Union, Visions FCU is excited to join the R3 community of contributors with Bonifii and other credit union consortium partners. We look forward to helping drive innovation across the financial services industry.”
-Cynthia Schroeder, SVP Digital Assets Team, Visions FCU
“As innovation in blockchain technology continues to accelerate, R3’s Digital Currency Sandbox will help us continue to learn fast, innovate and identify new opportunities for credit unions as part of our overall efforts around the digital currency ecosystem. PSCU is proud to participate, in partnership with Bonifii and other industry leaders, to further explore new blockchain-based concepts around payments.”
-Denise Stevens, SVP Chief Product & Digital Officer, PCSU
R3 Sandbox for Digital Currencies* is built on Corda, the market-leading, permissioned peer-to-peer (P2P) distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform that enables the building of applications that foster and deliver digital trust between parties in regulated markets.
“R3’s Digital Currency Sandbox was developed with building innovative solutions in mind and that is exactly what Bonifii is doing. We are pleased to welcome Bonifii to the Sandbox and look forward to continuing to support Bonifii’s exciting work.”
-Cathy Minter, Chief Revenue Officer, R3
With financial institutions in the Sandbox from both the public and private sector across the world, the Sandbox is a robust avenue for participants to exchange ideas and learn from one another through direct digital collaboration.
CuneXus, the first and only digital storefront for financial institutions’ account holders, today announced a strategic partnership with Zest AI, the leader in software for more inclusive underwriting, improving consumer access to affordable lines of credit.
The CuneXus platform helps financial institutions proactively deliver personalized offers that are already approved, making loans and other financial services readily available within digital banking. Zest AI’s Model Management System produces robust and compliant AI-driven credit risk models, which help financial institutions identify good borrowers often overlooked by legacy scores. By using fairer underwriting models within the CuneXus platform, credit unions and banks can extend firm offers to more members and customers. This approach will also help consumers lower on the credit spectrum build healthier credit scores, improving their long-term financial wellness.
Jose Valentin, Vice President of Corporate Development at Zest AI, commented, "Any opportunity to help people gain better access to affordable credit is a win. Zest's AI-driven underwriting, coupled with CuneXus' perpetual lending platform, has the potential to drive more inclusion and approvals for millions of consumers."
Jaynel Christensen, Vice President of Lending at the credit union, explained, “Since leveraging Zest AI, our instant approval rates jumped from 7% to 25%. This means that 18% of our members, who previously waited for a decision on a loan application, are now getting approved immediately. This has not only improved our funding rate but has also boosted our member satisfaction scores. Zest AI allows us to lend deeper than we typically have in the past and we are pleased to see an increase in the diversity of scores being approved.”
Dave Buerger, Co-founder and President of CuneXus, commented, “Credit unions and banks should be equipping consumers with every opportunity for financial excellence. The CuneXus – Zest AI partnership aims to achieve just that, providing financial institutions with the opportunity to widen access to affordable credit and improve financial health for many. It’s a good thing for both the underserved and the financial institution, a real win-win.”
The National Association of Credit Union Services Organizations (NACUSO), the only trade association focused on growing and protecting the CUSO movement, is accepting entries for the 2022 Next Big Idea Competition through March 17, 2022.
The Next Big Idea Competition is NACUSO’s version of the popular TV Show "Shark Tank" designed to showcase innovation, collaboration, and advancements among the credit union industry. This year marks the tenth year of the competition, and the third year in which CO-OP Financial Services sponsors a cash prize pool totaling $10,000. The award for first place is set at $7,500 with second place set to receive $2,500.
The competition provides a platform for visionaries to present their ideas and initiatives that will drive the movement forward; advancing the service and solutions provided by credit unions. Contestants are encouraged to submit ideas or initiatives that meet the following criteria: improve earnings, enhance member service, deliver new products and services to members, and/or improve delivery channels to members. These initiatives can be at any stage in development such as early stage and in need of investment, ready to be delivered, or already in motion currently growing and changing the industry.
A selection committee will select finalists to compete, and by March 28th all entries will be notified of their competition status. The Next Big Idea Competition will be held in-person at the NACUSO Network Conference at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts in April. On the afternoon of April 26th, the selected contestants will have seven minutes to present on stage followed by eight minutes of questions from guest judges. At the end of the presentations, the audience will vote to instantly select the winners.
To submit an idea or review important information related to the 2022 Next Big Idea Competition, visit www.nacusonetwork.com/nextbigidea. The deadline for submissions is March 17, 2022.
CUSO model will allow Arkatechture to accelerate Arkalytics’ expansion into the credit union market.
Arkatechture, a technology company dedicated to empowering organizations with a better understanding of their business through data, has formed a CUSO with ORNL Federal Credit Union and Tucson Federal Credit Union to help accelerate implementation of the firm’s data analytics platform Arkalytics into the credit union market.
According to Arkatechture Founder/CEO Jamie Jackson, partnering with two credit unions that are already very data savvy allows his firm to learn from them and their data usage to enhance Arkalytics’ capabilities for more and more credit unions nationwide. “It all equates to creating a better member experience, allowing credit unions to grow their membership with new innovations that enable them to perform better,” says Jackson.
ORNL Federal Credit Union’s SVP, Data Intelligence Becky Curry, acknowledges how Arkatechture knows how to turn visions into reality. “When you take Arkatechture’s technical expertise and combine it with issues and opportunities facing credit unions – which can be applicable to most credit unions, anything is possible,” says Curry.
She adds that the CUSO will allow her credit union continue to build on what they have already established tech-wise, as well as looking for more opportunities for more third-party integrations that can make their platform even more valuable.
One of Curry’s goals for Arkalytics is to be able to use it at all levels of the organization, which will provide the needed information for smarter, data-driven decisions.
Tucson Federal Credit Union’s Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Stacey Wilkerson says that Tucson looks to be an active and equal partner in the CUSO, providing the credit union’s time and talent to giving feedback on technology, being a beta client, and looking for ways to help propel Arkatechture forward to help more credit unions.
“At the same time, we look to strive forward to meet our strategic initiatives with Arkatechture’s technology,” Wilkerson adds. “Helping them create this CUSO with ORNL FCU is the most strategic and effective way to achieve this goal.”
“We are very excited to help even more credit unions do good within their communities – and we believe data is going to be a big part of that,” says Arkatechture Founder/CEO Jamie Jackson. “Having valued investors like ORNL FCU and Tucson FCU will allow us to bring Arkalytics to the market much quicker and more strategically, helping more credit unions with our technology.”
Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU) is changing its name and brand to better serve Christian consumers, businesses, non-profits, and ministries.
Following an extensive year-long process to better understand how the ECCU brand was perceived by its staff, members, non-members and the broader Christian community, ECCU leadership determined a new name and brand would better appeal to prospective members and help fuel future growth. The research specifically highlighted challenges of the former ECCU name in providing a common definition and understanding among prospective Christian members who were uncertain if they would qualify for membership.
“With ECCU being a digital financial institution, the new AdelFi name brings instant appeal to tech-savvy Christian consumers, while also demonstrating our continued commitment to our mission to give our members opportunities to invest in their faith.,” said Abel Pomar, President and CEO of AdelFi.
The name AdelFi strongly aligns with the institution’s mission. It derives from the Greek New Testament word Adelphos/Adelphe/Adelphoi, which means “brethren/sister/brother,” with “Fi” representing the company’s commitment to financial expertise, and biblical stewardship.
“Our new name will also feature the tagline ‘Better banking. Higher purpose.’” said Jimmy Lee, AdelFi Vice President of Marketing. “In recent years the credit union has improved its digital banking services, and under the new brand we will continue our commitment to supporting the spread of the Gospel by giving back 10% of profits every year to Christian non-profits, ministries and organizations.”
While AdelFi offers a variety of banking options including checking, savings, loans, home mortgage and credit cards, all available through a digital banking experience, the financial institution provides more than mere banking transactions.
With a global membership, AdelFi’s members join in partnership with fellow Christian believers working together to protect their God-given financial resources, improve their fiscal lives and substantially impact the world for Christ through purposeful investing. Each member account contributes to funding loans to churches and ministries that spread the Gospel and helps provide banking services to missionaries serving internationally, as well as grants to ministries and Christian non-profits.
Talent development leader CUES and Cornell University have teamed up to bring the Women in Leadership Digital Certification Program to the credit union industry.
“Women typically face unique challenges on their way up the professional ladder, challenges that continue once they are in a leadership position. Women can learn to overcome these obstacles and achieve more in their careers, while still maintaining a balanced life,” said Nicole Morrison, CUES VP/Marketing. “That’s where Women in Leadership, from CUES and Cornell University, comes in. We’ll take a deep dive into typical roadblocks, and look at ways women can perfect smart strategies to mastering strong leadership qualities without being penalized.”
The program pairs eCornell’s award-winning certificate programs with live-taught online classes developed by Cornell University faculty. The course was designed to avoid Zoom fatigue, with self-paced study featuring content from top-rated programs with proven curricula. Attendees will also learn directly from Deborah Streeter, Professor Emeritus, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University, during two online sessions.
“Women in Leadership is an important addition to CUES wealth of offerings, as it helps us fulfil our commitment to DEI,“ said Christopher Stevenson, CAE, CIE, SVP/Chief Learning Officer. “And the course isn’t just for women; men should also attend to learn how to advocate for their colleagues and direct reports.”
Women in Leadership will cover:
“We are proud to continue our long-standing partnership with CUES with these innovative blended learning programs,” said Paul Krause, Vice Provost, External Education/eCornell. “In today’s rapidly changing environment, the combination of online courses and tailored live instruction can deliver learning to CUES members in a way that has a lasting impact.”
The innovative course starts March 16 and runs two months. Women in Leadership is available to everyone in the industry, but CUES members receive a significant discount on the registration fee. Additional features include:
Learn more about Women in Leadership here. See all Cornell certification courses at cues.org/Cornell. Learn more about CUES at cues.org.
Hanscom Federal Credit Union Charitable Foundation recently announced the “12 Acts of Community Kindness” donation recipients for the fourth quarter of 2021 and first quarter of 2022. The Foundation has donated $1,000 to each of the nonprofit organizations chosen for an ongoing campaign to increase its charitable reach.
Each nonprofit organization represents one of three focus categories for the Foundation: service area, funding area, and SEG (Select Employer Group)/other area. Service area organizations are those that local to the area the credit union serves in Massachusetts and Virginia. Funding area organizations are those that provide services to groups close to the credit union’s mission, including ones serving veterans and the unhoused. SEG/other area organizations are those that are either affiliated with the credit union’s select employer groups or aren’t well defined by the other categories.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, the organizations chosen were Friends of the Beverly Public Library, Dog Tag, Inc., Shriner’s Children’s Hospital Boston, and the Jennifer Lynn Kane Scholarship and Charitable Trust. Friends of Billerica Public Library, Fisher House Boston, and Bedford American Legion Post 221 were funded in the first quarter of 2022.
“We’re proud to be able to continue this campaign and reach more organizations doing such great work,” said Laura Galeski, Hanscom FCU’s social responsibility manager. “Both the credit union and Foundation are focused on investing in our community, and supporting these organizations strengthens so many different facets of what makes our communities great.”
The Alaska USA Foundation donated a total of $25,000 to local nonprofit organizations in Alaska and Arizona, working hard to provide services to the armed forces and programs to support children.
$10,000 was donated to the American Red Cross of Alaska to support the Armed Forces program that provide services to service men and women, veterans, and their families by providing emergency services, supporting family resiliency, and providing care and comfort in military and veterans medical health care facilities.
$5,000 was donated to Educare Arizona to assist with providing early childhood learning, family support, and health care. Their goal is to close the achievement gap for high-risk, low-income children.
$5,000 was donated to Kid in the Corner in support of their Penny Pledge youth suicide prevention program. The program provides youth with education and concrete steps they can take to prevent youth suicide and take care of their own mental health.
$5,000 was donated to Southwest Human Development to help fund the Reach Out and Read program on Luke Air Force Base. This program focuses on early literacy work with active-duty military families with young children.
“We are pleased to have an opportunity to provide support to local nonprofits in Alaska and Arizona,” said Dan McCue, executive director, Alaska USA Foundation. “They fill the needs in our communities that would otherwise go unmet. The Alaska USA Foundation is honored to provide financial support for them to fulfill their worthy missions.”
Twenty-three of the credit union industry’s most innovative leaders come together to form the newest cohort of the Filene i3 Program. Now in its 18th year running, Filene i3 is a two-year innovation leadership program equipping top credit union professionals with the mindset, tools, and network to lead and shape the credit union of the 21st Century.
Filene Fellow Dr. Jeffrey Robinson of the Center for Innovation & Incubation describes innovation as applied creativity and states that, “while it’s nice to have ideas, turning them into practices, products or approaches that improve upon something else is what defines innovation—and credit unions will need to focus on innovation within their organizations to remain competitive.” Filene’s i3 program provides industry leaders and innovators with a methodology to creatively apply innovative ideas through incubation and implementation.
“The program’s applied learning model teaches participants Filene’s method of innovation by guiding them through the development of a prototype solution for a challenge facing their respective credit union or community,” said Filene’s President & CEO, Mark Meyer. “With access to Filene’s research, experts and fellows—plus technical assistance on designing solutions and opportunities to build on successful prototypes—participants are set up for maximum success personally and to bring maximum value to their organizations.”
Joining the ranks of more than 300 credit union leaders already within the Filene i3 community are:
“Joining i3 offers me the opportunity to connect and collaborate with diverse, forward-thinking credit union thought-leaders and change-makers,” said David Hullet, VP of Commercial Lending & New Business Ventures, and one of two new i3 participants from WEOKIE FCU.
“It is exciting to be part of a group of credit union professionals who focus on overcoming challenges facing credit unions,” said Korey McMahon, WEOKIE FCU’s Chief Growth Officer. “These connections that are made with other i3ers are going to be beneficial for many years to come.”
Filene i3 members work in cross-functional teams to explore and address the credit union industry’s most pressing challenges. Participants learn cutting-edge innovation competencies grounded in three core categories: Facilitating Innovation, Accelerating Learning, and Leading Change. Learn more about the program and learning modules at filene.org/i3.
“I am both humbled and honored to have been selected for the Filene i3 program,” said Marella Nardotti, NextMark CU’s VP of Marketing. “I believe that i3 will help me elevate my fiery passion for the movement and provide me with the tools to tackle industry challenges and gain new insights towards becoming a market leader. I look forward to digging deeper and understanding how and why our members transact with us, what their diverse needs are, and what we can do to better serve them. Ultimately, it’s all about anticipating those needs, and redefining what’s possible.”
The new i3 members begin their two-year development journey following Filene’s GAC Breakfast later this month, and will present their progress to-date to the credit union industry at Filene’s big.bright.minds in October. Meanwhile, i3 Wave 16 completes its second year in the program. A ceremony will be held for the graduating i3 class on March 30 with all active i3 participants and their organizations invited join in celebration of Wave 16’s accomplishments.
Today, PSCU – the nation’s premier payments credit union service organization (CUSO) – published the February edition of the PSCU Payments Index, the goal of which is to provide information and insights to help financial institutions make informed, strategic decisions on the road ahead.
In this month’s iteration, we look at several macroeconomic indicators affecting consumer preferences and behaviors, including the Omicron variant and unemployment rate, among other factors. The Consumer Confidence Index decreased in January, impacted by challenges from rising prices and the ongoing pandemic, while supply chain disruptions and market shortages are now expected to continue through 2022. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.6% in January, to 7.5% – its highest point since February 1982 – according to data released by the Labor Department on Feb. 10. And, despite the continued pandemic-related headwinds, consumer spending remained strong throughout the month of January. This month, we present a Deep Dive into Food – the combined Grocery and Restaurant sectors.
“Entering 2022, the evolving path of the pandemic remains evident,” said Norm Patrick, vice president, Advisors Plus Consulting at PSCU. “While consumer confidence dipped in January for the first time since before the holiday shopping season, consumer spending remains very strong. Credit card purchases outpaced debit once again, with the Travel and Entertainment sectors reporting the highest overall growth in consumer spend. As we look at Food purchases in this month’s Deep Dive, the total spend has grown – in part due to rising prices and continued bulk buying – but the spend mix continues to shift, falling back to more of a pre-pandemic pattern.”
A sampling of key takeaways from the February report includes:
The full report is available for download here or can be shared as a PDF upon request. Additionally, feel free to subscribe here to receive updates when the PSCU Payments Index is published each month.
Author: Mike Lawson
Married to a most gorgeous and wonderful wife, raising 5 kiddos (including twins!), enjoy helping others tell their stories, and love surfing SoCal waves. Keep it simple.