Cornerstone Credit Union’s journey to become a data-driven organization
Cornerstone Credit Union (Cornerstone) is Saskatchewan’s fifth largest credit union, with over $1.7 billion in assets. Established in 1941, Cornerstone has grown to serve over 35,000 members across twenty-three branches in southeast Saskatchewan.
In 2016, Cornerstone embarked on a journey to figure out how they could pool data from across their systems to get a consolidated view of their business and members. They had multiple programs that individually held a wealth of data, but no way to view this information in aggregate so that they could interpret it in a meaningful way. Cornerstone recognized that they needed to improve their technology to revamp their business. They were ready to invest in becoming a data-driven organization and had the right people in place to make it happen — they just needed the tools to get them there.
Cornerstone knew that technology and tools alone were not going to single-handedly equip them to achieve their goal to become a more data-driven credit union. The first step was to define their objectives; in other words, what would being more data-centric allow them to do in the grand scheme of things?
Understanding this would allow Cornerstone to figure out the tools, technologies and skillsets they would need to acquire for success. Like many Canadian credit unions, Cornerstone knew that they needed to be more effective at understanding their members; especially in an environment where members transact more and more online. Celero facilitated workshops with Cornerstone’s internal team to assess what information would be most valuable to them.
They thought about data points that could tell them things like:
- If members are making payments to other financial institutions
- Which members are showing signs that they may attrite
- If there are members displaying behaviours that signal they need a new financial product
These were all things Cornerstone wanted to understand through a data-driven lens, allowing them to break free from making business decisions based on assumptions and anecdotal evidence about their members. Ultimately, they wanted to get to know their members better online and understand their digital experiences so they could continuously improve Cornerstone’s digital channels.
Combating misperceptions using data
Beyond their desire to understand their members better, Cornerstone also wanted to use data to create value for members and drive efficiency for their business.
One of the key challenges they were trying to combat was the internal misconception among branch employees that the credit union already had all a member’s business. Having the ability to view external transactions would allow Cornerstone’s advisors to start conversations with members about moving loans, mortgages and other accounts over to Cornerstone — simplifying the amount of financial institutions a member is dealing with and incentivizing them to consolidate their banking.
Another challenge they were facing was the need for in-house data science expertise to build the insights they were looking for. Cornerstone considered building a custom solution but knew that expanding their team to bring on one or more data scientists would be a significant barrier, as that level of expertise is hard to recruit and comes at a premium because it’s in high demand.
After establishing these key focuses, it became clear that the current tools they were using to extract data and paint a meaningful picture would no longer work for the credit union. Cornerstone needed sophisticated data analysis tools to accomplish this.
As Cornerstone was experiencing these challenges and contemplating the steps they needed to take, Celero was working on an analytics solution that would make credit union’s data more accessible, easy to understand and actionable, all without the need for in-house data science teams. Our vision was (and still is) that every credit union should have access to practical data science tools, which aligned with Cornerstone’s goals.
Because of the natural fit between Cornerstone’s problem and our solution, we collaborated with Cornerstone to pioneer and bring to market a technology that would help Cornerstone achieve their objectives and deliver future value to other Canadian credit unions who wanted to become more data driven.
In the initial workshop sessions, we worked with Cornerstone to define the success criteria that would need to be delivered as part of the analytics solution.
- The power to see a single-page view of a member comprised of key attributes from the DNA banking system
- The ability to understand the factors that lead up to a member leaving and gain insight that would allow the credit union to intervene before it was too late
- The power to understand what factors led to a member buying certain products and provide insight into what their next best product would be
- The capacity to analyze the transactional behavior of members in a meaningful way
- The ability to analyze product trends based on member purchases
- The power to find members’ business elsewhere (and convince them to bring their business to Cornerstone)
- The capacity to facilitate a deposit account review (including fees) to recommend a better product
Knowing the DNA core banking system as we do, the complexity of mapping DNA and the analytics solution was greatly reduced. Celero taking this work off the hands of the credit union meant that they could focus on the business objectives of the solution, instead of having to dedicate large numbers of resources to the technical mapping. They could focus on running their credit union and saved time and money by not having to manage the process in-house.
Within the set deadline, the solution was delivered and ready to use from day one thanks to the collaboration between Celero and Cornerstone. As with any new technology, it wasn’t perfect and needed ongoing refinements. And of course, there was the learning curve associated with a new tool for their internal team. But it gave Cornerstone the functionality they were looking for and they were excited to start testing its capabilities.
Once the solution was implemented, we continued to invite Cornerstone to daily standup meetings and make progress on developing the various reports, dashboards and modeling capabilities they were looking for. This allowed us to ensure the solution was tailored to the needs of credit unions and make it even better for the next credit union to sign on.
Within their organization, Cornerstone had multiple employees who championed the solution in their respective departments. As these champions saw progress on the insights they were able to gain, their excitement level grew, which rippled across the entire organization and led to high adoption rates. Among the many reasons why Cornerstone has been so successful in their journey to become a data-driven organization, one of the most important is the way they championed this solution across their credit union to socialize the tool among their team.
With the solution implemented, Cornerstone was quick to share their new capability: The Member 360 dashboard.
The Member 360 dashboard eliminates the need to search for each piece of data related to an individual member, presenting information in a single, centralized view. It creates a story about a member that summarizes data from across systems. For example, Cornerstone uses their dashboard to understand members’ external transactions to test their assumptions about where members perform most of their banking. It has been eye-opening for Cornerstone’s employees to see that even their most loyal members often bank at multiple financial institutions. The ability to understand members and their banking behaviours more holistically allows Cornerstone to create campaigns to strengthen member relationships even further.
Beyond this more comprehensive view of the member, the Member 360 dashboard features predictive modeling capabilities, including predictions for member attrition. Cornerstone can analyze past behaviours of members that have left their credit union and create an integrated attrition risk rating, allowing them to prioritize outreach in their marketing campaigns for current at-risk members. Cornerstone can also use the Member 360 dashboard to determine what products to recommend to specific members by evaluating their member base and analyzing product sets for individual members. They can then map out what products each of their members may be likely to purchase next based on lookalike member behaviour.
Leveraging analytics for marketing
In the years since the implementation of analytics, Cornerstone now uses this solution to help inform their marketing campaigns. For example, by defining members who may be interested in a loan (using the next best product predictive model), Cornerstone is able to pull that list of members and deploy offers right when members need it. Their marketing is highly targeted, allowing Cornerstone to do away with “spray and pray” marketing tactics, giving them a high level of confidence that their marketing is going to members who are qualified leads for specific offerings.
For Cornerstone, the biggest impact has been the ability to see what business members hold at other institutions, having a holistic view of their member, and the ability to see what credit cards a member has and who is providing the card.
Celero’s business analytics team continues to work with Cornerstone to deliver outstanding value, and to help them understand their members better while fueling innovation around their product and service offerings.
We recently ran a very successful loan pre-approval campaign to grow our loan portfolio. We went out with a loan pre-approval targeted through data that we were able to pull from our analytics. That campaign resulted in $7 million in new money in consumer loans, in addition to a significant pickup in non-interest revenue from CUMIS insurance sales.Lori Walsh, VP of Marketing and Communications, Cornerstone Credit Union
Cornerstone’s Focus Going Forward
The transformation at Cornerstone Credit Union was not only recognized by Celero, but also by a panel of expert judges at the Analytics and Financial Innovation (AXFI) Conference in 2018. Cornerstone was named the winner of the Analytics Showcase competition.
Although they’ve received high praise and have had many victories along the way, their journey with data is not over. They continue to work closely in collaboration with Celero and other credit unions in Celero’s Business Analytics Governance Council (BAGC) to discover more insights and provide greater value to all members.
Cornerstone is currently using analytics to change the way they assess risk-based lending at their credit union. They are striving to have a real-time display of members who pose the greatest risk to default on their loans, giving Cornerstone time to act, prevent and minimize risk.
Cornerstone’s merge with Horizon Credit Union and Plainsview Credit Union in 2021 will also be a focus for Cornerstone and Celero’s business analytics team, as the data from those credit unions provides even more insights and opportunities for Cornerstone to put their data to work.
Working with Cornerstone Credit Union over the years has been a point of pride for Celero’s business analytics team, as our partnership and success has sparked other credit unions to begin their journey to become data-driven organizations, too. Cornerstone having the courage to be a leader in this space is proving to be transformational to the credit union system overall.