In order to give the best member experience, financial institutions and service sectors must integrate digital and human services. Whether using technology for self-service and deciding when to pass off to a professional for more sophisticated service needs, each member is at a different degree of comfort. All members must receive great service from the organization in a way that suits their preferences. When you need to switch between human and digital interactions, Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) offers the best of both worlds: best-in-class in-person service combined with best-in-class digital service.
Inception of MSU Federal Credit Union
The mission of Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, which was established in 1937 by faculty and staff at the university, was to assist the campus community in achieving financial success and stability in the wake of the Great Depression. The credit union was run and managed out of a desk drawer by a volunteer board of directors until its first employee, Francis Lesnieski, was hired in 1957. Fran was a pioneer in the field and put in countless hours to enhance the credit union’s people-helping-people goal.
For more than 85 years, MSUFCU has maintained a laser-like focus on our mission, vision, and core values despite expanding from a desk drawer on the MSU campus to 22 branches spread across Greater Lansing, Grand Rapids, Oakland County, and Traverse City, with two more branches currently under construction, nearly 350,000 members, and more than 1,000 employees.
April Clobes; The President/CEO
Since March 2015, April Clobes has served as the president and CEO of MSU Federal Credit Union. Prior to being named President/CEO, she expanded her career by moving from marketing specialist to management and senior positions. She joined MSUFCU in 1996.
Ms. Clobes has won numerous honors, including Top Woman to Watch by the Credit Union Times in 2013, Leadership Award from the Detroit Free Press in 2016, ATHENA Award from the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Honorary Alumni Award from Oakland University in 2017,
MSU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2021 and Large Category Leadership Award from the Detroit Free Press Top Workplaces in 2018. The 2022 Credit Union Times LUMINARIES Awards for Innovation in Technology has shortlisted her.
Ms. Clobes serves as a leader on a number of boards serving the industry, the community, and the university. She previously served as chair of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra and is currently a member of the executive committee and board of McLaren Greater Lansing. She joined the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in 2018 after being appointed by the state’s governor. Ms. Clobes holds positions as secretary/treasurer for Trellance, as vice chair for Filene Research Group, and as a board member for Members Development Company in the credit union sector.
Among the many excellent financial services and products that MSUFCU offers its members are loans (personal, auto, home, and credit cards), checking and savings account options, certificates, IRAs, business solutions, financial planning, and much more. Additionally, they provide credit cards and accounts specifically designed for youth members and university students
The Credit Union hires and trains bilingual and culturally aware staff to serve the financial needs of members for whom English is not their first language. To ensure successful and meaningful contact with members, the Credit Union offers a Spanish language training program internally and pays for personnel to enroll in lessons. Regardless of immigration status, branch representatives treat all members with respect and accept alternative forms of identification. The Credit Union recently received the Juntos Avanzamos designation – it was the second credit union in the state of Michigan to receive this designation.
Innovation for Better Tomorrow
“We continue to explore opportunities in an effort to accelerate innovation together.” -MSU Federal Credit Union
To give its members the finest service experience possible, MSUFCU’s vision and goals are fundamentally based on innovation and technological advancement. The Lab at MSUFCU launched in 2020. The Lab is a center for innovation that transforms concepts into workable financial technology (fintech) to enhance the experiences of the members.
Members play a crucial role in The Lab by taking part in pre-pilot research projects and pilot projects, and giving feedback on the products and services they test during the pilot stage. Pilot projects have included ChangEd, a mobile app that enables users to pay off student debts more easily by rounding up purchases, and Financial Concierge, a virtual assistant incorporated into the digital channel to link members with a customized mix of financial resources.
The Lab provides access to innovative digital channels for member interaction and enables them to concentrate on advancing financial wellness and improving personalized service. These include MSUFCU FinLife, which provides financial planning specialists with information and guidance, and Spave®, a free all-in-one financial well-being app that anyone can use to leverage their everyday purchases to increase their savings and facilitate charitable giving to causes they care about.
The Impact of the Pandemic
Prior to the pandemic, MSUFCU concentrated on offering its members superior service via digital resources. In 2012, they developed a mobile app for iOS and Android smartphones, and they have continued to improve this service. Members of MSUFCU have access to a range of account functions, including the ability to apply for loans and mortgages, pay bills, transfer money to other MSUFCU members, open share accounts, and make loan payments. They can also use the app to instantly redeem cash back from their MSUFCU Visa cash back credit cards, access unique deals, check their credit scores, and view exclusive offers.
Although they have been improving the online banking and mobile app platforms for years, the epidemic accelerated the introduction of new communication channels, such as branch video teller locations and video chat. These two options give members more alternatives for how to contact the Credit Union with inquiries or requests for account services. The Credit Union has focused on creating various working arrangements, from onsite to fully remote, depending on the needs of each role. They are now reconfiguring their office to make sure that on-site work is utilized for creativity, collaboration, and innovation.
Achievements and Improvement as a Leader
The Credit Union has worked to consistently innovate and develop to become a leader in the market and to provide innovative products to its members. One achievement was the establishment of Reseda Group, a wholly-owned Credit Union Service Organization. The Reseda Group has made investments in several technology and industry partners to create a family of companies that supports the best and brightest in the fintech and credit union industries, fosters innovation, and offers members and the community best-in-class products, services, and solutions.
The satisfaction of members is another measure of achievement. Below is a member testimonial illustrating the impact of MSUFCU on its members.
“I just wanted to thank you very much for your time and diligence. We came to you after a really terrible experience with another institution, and our experience with you has been a complete night-and-day difference. Thank you so much for your responsiveness and effort. It feels respectful, and it has made us feel like we are all working toward the same goal. We really appreciate it!”
Reflecting the Vision through Helping Clients Achieve their Dreams
MSUFCU’s vision is to create a world-class omnichannel member experience, utilizing personalized digital and human service to deliver accessible financial solutions. It crafted its vision statement through ongoing discussions with executive and leadership team members. During this time, the company reflected on its members’ unique needs, situations, and preferences in various life stages. April states, “We determined our need to grow and diversify our channels, products, and services to provide convenience and accessibility to our members.” She states that the vision statement inspires innovation, creativity, and growth as the company works to deliver financial solutions to meet its members’ needs. Whether opening a child’s first account or helping finance members’ first and second homes, MSUFCU works to provide a personal experience with every interaction, and make every interaction a mission moment.
“Your success is measured by the success of the people on your team. We want your team to be invested in our work and eager to learn and grow in their roles and within the organization. Leaders are responsible for sharing the mission, values, and purpose of the organization and how each person’s role makes a contribution.” MSUFCU advises.
Written by Steve Sanchez.
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