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Changemaker Jim Block, BCU: Knowing the “Why” Behind Positive Change

For credit union and financial services leaders like Jim Block who leverage digital transformation to make banking better, positive change starts with focusing on why it’s needed.

Blog,
Larry Edgar-Smith – VP, Business Solutions & Product Strategy – North America

Financial services organizations of all sizes are enacting positive change through digital transformation to make banking better, not just for their account holders but for the industry as a whole. Within these organizations, individual leaders step up every day to inspire a culture that embraces innovation and takes meaningful action to bring opportunity and stability to people across the spectrum of financial health and literacy. These Changemakers know that people are still the key to a successful future in digital banking, and center excellent experiences in each phase of their digital journey.

One such Changemaker in the credit union space is Jim Block, EVP and Chief Operating Officer at Baxter Credit Union, or BCU. Recently, BCU received the Gonzo Banker “Experience Award” for the digital transformation of their consumer originations process.

As COO, Jim facilitates these changes by finding the balance between the old and the new, the past and the future—an exercise he is well accustomed to after more than 20 years at BCU. His dedication to the people that drive BCU’s success defines his leadership style and belief that the future of banking lies not only in technology but in the employees, partners, and members that he interacts with every day. In a recent interview with Temenos, Jim shared the qualities and strategies he prioritizes to maintain a culture of positive change within the organization and how it impacts the financial wellbeing of BCU’s members.

Change Starts (And Is Sustained) From Within

Since Jim joined BCU, the organization has gone through immense growth. During this time, he has seen how important it is to find people who can navigate every member situation, no matter how uncomfortable the conversation or unclear the outcome is in the moment. While these qualities are not always easy to find, they are essential to helping members increase their comfort in navigating financial services and building their financial health.

“It’s all about trying to drive the most value, education, and positive experience to our members, and all of that accumulates into the financial health of our membership,” he said.

To make sure every person on his team can achieve this goal, Jim keeps the “why” behind each initiative at the forefront of all communications with the team. “Being able to articulate that message to your team and have everyone uphold that, that’s just part of the BCU DNA.” Change comes with moments of confusion and discomfort as old mindsets and habits are stretched, so it’s important to keep everyone’s eyes on the prize: giving members the products and experiences they need to meet their financial and life goals.

The “why” cannot get anywhere without the “how,” which is why Jim believes it is so important to have clear guidelines and next steps about the digital transformation process. “The most important thing is creating a clear roadmap and sharing it with your business partners, your board, and your team across every department,” he said. “Everyone needs to understand where you are going and why you are going there, what members are looking for” as well as assessing whether you are “giving them what they want.”

Sharing both the organization’s short- and long-term plans helps keep team members focused, engaged, and feeling supported during periods of painful growth. “What’s happening six months from now, what’s coming a year from now, what doesn’t yet have a solution…we keep our team informed of these milestones regularly and maintain transparency at all times,” said Jim.

Members Need Digital Accessibility to Increase Financial Health

At BCU, Jim has seen firsthand that the “why” behind digital transformation is tied directly to better outcomes and interactions for members. “We really look at ways to reduce friction and make our products as intuitive as possible,” he said. “If you make it easy to interact with us and access high-value products, financial health for our members follows.”

Making digital banking better by making it easier starts with data—credit unions now have access to more and better data than ever. “In the past, we just focused on a limited amount of data, whatever we could get from the credit bureau,” said Jim. Now BCU has access to a wider set of data, including employer and transaction data, that helps them form a more complete picture of their members’ needs and make better recommendations. Turning this information into member knowledge means members spend less time retelling their story over and over and more time building deeper connections with BCU team members.

Setting up these processes and making data useful can be challenging, but for Jim, it is worth it. “Looking at some of the letters from members saying they achieved goals they never thought they would be able to achieve, knowing everything we are doing to accelerate that…it is fun to watch,” he said. “It makes me excited to go into work every day knowing we are helping hundreds of thousands of families.”

Combining the power of a transparent, collaborative culture with the expanding capabilities of data-rich technology keeps Jim inspired to sustain change efforts within BCU, now and in the years to come. “The future is definitely bright,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine how much better banking will get over the next ten years.”

Learn more about how Changemakers are making banking better for everyone – and how you can join the movement.

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Blog,
Larry Edgar-Smith – VP, Business Solutions & Product Strategy – North America