How Credit Unions Can Build Successful Fintech Partnerships

Digital hands shaking

From our partner, CUNA Mutual.

By Brian Kaas
CMFG Ventures President and Managing Director

I can not think of a more exciting time to be part of financial services and the credit union movement specifically. The industry is undergoing one of the greatest revolutions in our history. It is a time of monumental change, and along with it, incredible opportunity.

The pace of change is continuing to increase with new technologies and solutions emerging that shift consumers’ demands and make it difficult for credit unions to compete.

Just consider the evolution of auto purchasing and financing. Consumers can now go through the entire car-buying process online, without ever stepping foot in a dealership. As we continue to move into these digital ecosystems, the touchpoints in which the customer potentially completes a financial transaction or makes a choice on a specific lender will be earlier in the buying experience, so the threshold for a lender to be online, to be visible, to engage with the customers early on in their buying experience is critical.

Between big banks, fintechs and an ever-changing environment, one thing is clear – credit unions need to innovative in ways they haven’t had to in the past. To keep our system strong, we’ve got to embrace the new opportunities, rather than fight them.

The way credit unions can level the playing field is through fintech partnerships. For too long, credit unions shied away from embracing the true opportunity of partnering with fintechs. Early on in this disruption, it was easy to see fintechs as the enemy.

This is why we launched CMFG Ventures in 2016 – to see emerging technologies in the early stages and work to bring them to credit unions. The new technologies that many fintechs offer need to get into the hands of credit unions and the middle-class Americans we serve.

We talk to fintechs every day that are excited about working with credit unions. They recognize the incredible member base that credit unions have and the mission of our movement. Just like credit unions can grow by tapping into fintechs, fintechs can further their business by working with credit unions. It’s an incredibly complimentary relationship.

But, where do you start? How can credit unions begin to consider fintech partnerships?

  • Vet the opportunities thoroughly. Be sure to take the time to evaluate the fintech partnership fully, including talking to their customers and reviewing the financial health and investors behind the company.
  • Define Success. Set success metrics so that you can set expectations from the start.
  • Collaborate. Create a dedicated collaboration team focused on the success of the partnership and meeting those metrics.
  • Start small. Utilize pilots or targeted rollouts before scaling up with a partner and seek continuous feedback from your staff and members.
  • Join our new Fintech Forum. This new community provides an opportunity to connect directly with fintechs, learn about new technologies and talk with other credit unions about their experiences.
  • Register for the next Fintech Forum webinar. Join the next Fintech Forum webinar, Building Successful Fintech Partnerships, featuring Rodney Hood, Eleventh Chairman & Current NCUA Board Chairman; Tyrone Muse, CEO of Visions Federal Credit Union; Tanya Van Court, Founder & CEO of Goalsetter, and Carlos Molina, Sr. Risk Consultant at CUNA Mutual Group.

We know that credit unions are a tight-knit community. We take pride in the work we do and keep our mission at the center. By bringing more fintech partnerships into the credit union system, our industry can remain strong and competitive while better serving the needs of members.

The opportunity is here for credit unions, and it’s time to seize it. Learn more about our Fintech Forum and join our next webinar focused on building successful fintech partnerships by visiting

Brian Kaas is the President and Managing Director of CMFG Ventures, the venture capital arm of CUNA Mutual Group.