What Does Tech Transformation Look Like at Your CU? (Part 1)
Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union’s Cloud Journey
By Paul Timm, VP of Marketing, NAFCU Services
We recently hosted a great conversation on cloud technologies for credit unions. We have lots of these but this one was especially interesting because it included a case study from Affinity Plus FCU. Joining us were cloud experts George Estrada from AWS, Bipin Sahni from Persistent Systems, and Lisa Anderson from Affinity Plus FCU. We all know that investment in cutting-edge digital transformation was often led by big banks with big budgets. But over the last couple of years, the tide has shifted dramatically. As cloud technology has advanced and become more affordable, credit unions have myriad options to upgrade their digital capabilities - both member-facing and back office. And in the last year we’ve seen so many CUs adapt and respond with incredible agility. Part of that is the credit union secret sauce of being (by definition) incredibly focused on member needs. But add that to the rapid deployment and lower cost available via cloud platforms, and credit unions have another big advantage over banks.
When Lisa, George, and Bipin got to work, here’s what we learned. As leadership at Affinity Plus decided to overhaul their technological capabilities, improving the digital experience for their 225,000 members was top-of-mind. Lisa’s team hoped to increase overall IT flexibility, accelerate time-to-market for new products and campaigns, and ensure they were developing systems with continuously updated security and resilience. Cloud technology ended up providing some key breakthroughs for Affinity Plus.
Lisa and her team worked with senior management to “understand what it would look like switching from a CAPEX (capital expenditure) to an OPEX (operating expenditure) model.” The change would increase flexibility, allowing for more efficient decision-making. This also helped them to adapt their strategy over the course of time. And by lowering fixed cost IT investment, they could redirect resources to other initiatives like developing new services.
Affinity Plus first began exploring cloud technologies for their wireless network and DNS solution. In 2020, they fully launched their member-facing website into the cloud. They also capitalized on the flexibility to develop a new image delivery service for check deposit. There are plenty more tech enhancements to come for them, but in the process, they have also focused on digital upskilling. The team has developed many new capabilities by embracing LinkedIn Learnings, AWS certifications, and Cloud Guru trainings.
Affinity Plus has very clearly focused on continuously upgrading their technologies. Their deployment of cloud platforms is helping them accelerate their progress on service offerings, strengthening security and governance, and enabling an overall agile strategy.
To Lisa, the benefits of digital transformation have been there all along. Her advice to other CUs on the same path was to get “a dedicated account team that's focused on the credit union vertical…and one that gives you more flexibility and more tools in the toolbox for the team to choose from.” Next time, we’ll cover more of the specifics from George Estrada and Bipin Sahni on how to make all this happen.