CU Water Cooler

"How?" is better answered with "Who?"

Author: Matt Davis, Feature BigMatt DavisComment

“How do we get started?” asked the credit union CEO.

He had just listened to a panel discussion about data analytics and business intelligence at a major conference,  Even though he seemed convinced that his credit union needed to be smarter about the way it organized, understood, and used data, he seemed stressed.

“We’re just a $150 million credit union,” he lamented. "We only have one I.T. person."

The panelists, all accomplished credit union professionals who each provided compelling case studies of how they improved performance with business intelligence, did a great job with the question. (Note: all paraphrased)

“Don’t over-invest in tools yet. Instead, build a plan for what you want to do with the information.”

“Start small. You can use some open-source tools or even Microsoft Excel and Access to mine the data you have.”

“Use your core data processor’s built-in tools. They aren’t perfect, but they’ll help.”

It was a great question handled perfectly by the panel...but I can’t stop thinking about it. More to the point, I can’t stop being frustrated by the entire exchange. Here we are at a conference that probably cost $2,000+ in travel/education expenses, and a CEO is lamenting that his organization doesn’t have the people, processes, or budget to better understand and use data. If one of the primary jobs of a chief executive is the allocation of resources to achieve board-directed outcomes, this guy is a complete and utter failure.

It’s your job, sir. You get started by getting started.

If it’s important to you, you will find a way. Else, you’re in the wrong seat.

That $2,000 you just spent on the event could have been allocated to a business intelligence consultant to start building a basic reporting framework. It could have been used at Coursera, Udemy,, or countless other online education resources that can provide infinite ways to get started. Even better, try YouTube...then use the $2,000 for the software licenses or custom development that may be needed depending on the path you choose.

He’s never been held accountable for results. Consequently, he’s never had any desire to invest in this anything-but-new competency. The asset size that he laments has become a convenient excuse for inaction. He doesn’t hire, empower, or listen to smart people with a firm grasp of the outside business world.

Let me dial back my tone a bit. At least that guy was brave enough to ask the question. He’s not the problem. He’s the symptom of a much bigger problem.

There is an amazing population of people on this planet who never stop learning. They build stuff with money and time they don’t have. They are frustrated to the gills that broken things remain broken and good is considered good enough. They view education as a means to an end, not an end. An investment in them is never an investment wasted.

These people exist in much bigger numbers than the quality of credit union leadership suggests. They aren’t getting discovered by boards, recruiters, or leadership teams. And from what they see on the outside, looking in...they aren’t interested.

$15MM or $15B in assets, you get started by getting started. If it’s important to you, you will find a way. Else, you’re in the wrong seat.


Matt Davis is the founder of gameFI and co-founder of CU Water Cooler. He's a leading thinker, writer, speaker, and creator in the credit union world. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife and two sons.