Digital Innovation a Priority for Maine CU Chief

(From Mainebiz) – Advancements in digital payment and use of data to give clients better service are the next frontier for Maine’s credit unions, according to the industry’s chief representative in the state.

Todd Mason, president and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League, said his recent study trip to Australia offered inspiration for further technological innovation at home.

The trip, coordinated by the Madison, Wisc.-based World Council of Credit Unions, included field visits to so-called financial cooperative branches in Melbourne and Sydney and looked at several key issues facing the industry globally including taxation, digital innovation, branding and innovation.

On the innovation side, Mason said he learned that the Australian market is further along the U.S. market in terms of digital payments.

His main takeaway for Maine credit unions?

“One of the things I’ll be focusing on is making sure that our credit unions have access to those kinds of technologies, and that we continue to innovate and look for great ideas here in our own country, wherever they are,” he said.

Mason, who also heads the credit union-owned financial technology firm Synergent, said the Australian meeting also offered food for thought on doing more with data, like using it to help their members get better rates on credit cards or mortgages.

Mason also learned that credit unions in Australia — sometimes referred to as mutual banks — are more heavily regulated than their U.S. counterparts, resulting in heavy industry consolidation.

“In the past 12 years they went from 150 credit unions down to 72, in large part because of the impact of regulation,” he said, adding that while regulation is important, one should always make sure it makes sense.

Speaking more generally about his Australian experience, Mason drew a comparison to time travel.

“You’re getting a look at what credit unions in the U.S. might have looked like in the past, and what they could look like like depending on what happens in the future,” he said.