Credit Union Ingenuity Stronger than Ever: The 2022 Innovation Award Winners

By Randy Salser, President, NAFCU Services

Randy Salser, President of NAFCU Services

The NAFCU Services Innovation Awards gather dozens of transformational solutions for credit union leadership. Five independent judges comb through each solution looking for the most novel approach, magnitude of impact, and suitability to credit union needs. I’m proud to share the details of the six innovations recognized as 2022’s best of the best:

Amazon Web Services, for CUSO Partnerships: The freedom and flexibility of cloud computing solutions bring with them complexity. How can resource-limited IT departments thoroughly validate the many similar-seeming providers of on-demand storage, hosting, and computing power? Amazon Web Services has partnered with two technology CUSOs to provide a managed path to the cloud, leaning on Thinkstack for cloud infrastructure and Arkatechture for conversions of siloed data storage to a single managed data lake. The combinations can ease the evaluation and transition processes for credit unions ready to move data, analytics, or applications to the cloud. This solution is expected to add cloud-native digital branching and contact center capability shortly.

Blend, for Underwriting Automation Platform: As members reach for a broader range of borrowing options and lenders hope to attract non-traditional borrowers—who nonetheless represent a balanced credit risk—alternative sources of data on creditworthiness are welcome. Blend’s underwriting solution casts a wide net to assess income and employment status, including on-time rental payment data. The automation platform seeks to reduce manual data entry and verification steps for borrowers and underwriters alike, helping credit unions streamline the application and funding process, which may be unfamiliar to first-time borrowers.

CUNA Mutual Group, for CuneXus: A variety of loans and value-added products from a credit union doesn’t impress members much if the experience doesn’t feel integrated with the everyday flow of services they already use. CuneXus delivers e-commerce convenience in a consistent storefront for new loans and other digital products. The service, which includes data-driven lending approvals tailored to the institution’s risk tolerance, is already used by 210 institutions and annually funds over $25 billion in loans.

SentiLink, for ID Theft Score: Designed to crack down on fraudulent accounts during the application process, SentiLink’s ID Theft Score provides a quantitative model of stolen identities informed by a machine learning model trained on hundreds of millions of financial applications and third-party ID insights. These factors, combined with other fraud signals derived from how a potential customer makes contact and uses language, generate a fraud score that can be used to divert an application for further manual review. Exploits including misused family relationships and J1 visa fraud are also covered. The need for novel and effective solutions like this will only continue to escalate. 

Upstart, for AI Lending Platform: Credit unions looking for a solution to quickly expand lending options without heavy staff burden should consider this solution, which pairs a referral network and direct-to-member credit marketing backed by an artificial intelligence approval engine. The AI model is built upon 20 million repayment data points and responds to over 1,000 variables. First launched in 2014, the solution generated over $11 billion in personal loans in 2021, 70% of which were approved without employee intervention.

Velocity, for Velocity Score Consumer Liquidity Engine: Overdraft management is a hot topic, and Velocity offers a paired solution to change the conversation. The Velocity Score Consumer Liquidity Engine pairs the related solutions: Intelligent Limit System, which tailors overdraft access according to ability to repay, and CashPlease, which implements small-dollar short-term loans based on credit factors and account cash flow.

Please join me in celebrating these winners, as well as the 20 other standout finalists from this year’s program.