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Every Data Journey Starts With a Step

Many credit unions' first stop on their data journey is with a tool. The assumption is that purchasing a tool such as data visualization or warehouse will kick start data usage in the organization.

While this may be a form of action in the data journey, it is not a compelling start to a successful data journey.

A clear data strategy is what a credit union needs to kick off its data journey. One that is aligned to the organization's strategy incorporates a pathway to data maturity (with special emphasis on data governance), Includes talent development to consume data, and provides clarity on workplace adoption of data.

As Amy McGraw, Chief Experience Officer at Tropical Financial Credit Union, describes their data strategy as; "Our goal is to be constantly thinking, how are we going to change our members' lives for the better… using DATA!"

Amy started their data journey over seven years ago as the credit union focused on transitioning from a traditional advertising mix to an all-digital journey. As they assessed their current digital assets and started scoping their future investments, they realized this was an inflection point for the credit union. This was the time they needed to formalize their data journey and get it started.

"The writing was on the wall back then," Amy said. "We had to keep moving forward with digital transformation to remain competitive BUT find ways to keep the people helping people alive."

Their first start was working to create a digital blueprint that they presented to their leadership team and then to the Board of Directors at their annual strategic planning meeting. No journey is easy peasy; Tropical had a few obstacles to overcome. One obstacle was cultural.

According to Amy, it was convincing the Board of Directors that billboards weren't the only communication channel. She leveraged data to share the different target markets the credit union served and the media they needed to reach and maintain them. The next obstacle was identifying what tool they needed. Tropical was looking for a marketing automation system. One that had excellent features right now and one they ones they could grow into. They landed on HubSpot.

As there were data challenges, there were also successes. One of the early successes, says Amy, is AI (artificial intelligence ) to build robust, dynamic member personas.

"We started to integrate our personals with the powerful marketing automation solution Channel Net communications. We improved our personalization with graphics and language that resonate more with each persona. So a 65-year-old married man won't have to look at graphics of 20-somethings on the beach. She explained. "This also allowed us to leverage predictive models and identify the "next best product" for our members. And let's be clear about our member experience," said Amy, "EVERYTHING is content, educational based. NOTHING is a hard sell.

If Tropical had a "do-over," what would they do differently?

"Not a single thing," says Amy. "The journey got us here, and there were no shortcuts. If there were, I don't think we would have had the successes we've been able to have."

Amy's advice to other credit unions just starting their data journey.

"My advice would be to start with one bite at a time," she said. "The data journey is a behemoth. It is unreasonable to think that any credit union can begin by organizing all their data. That is too overwhelming."

Amy says regardless of resources, you need to start. Your ACH payments alone are filled with data – what other relationships your members have. Work with IT to get that list and start nurturing for a refinance – BUT be helpful and nurture with educational content, and pay attention to how your members react. Once you have that, look at it more holistically – how many of your members are making those significant payments to other lenders…could it be your mortgage products aren't competitive enough? You can start formulating a hypothesis and possibly create more relevant products based on how your members use their accounts.

To learn more about data success and the fundamentals needed, visit the Data Education Center to find articles, books, and classes.


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Where can I learn more about how to creating a data vision?

With a stop at the

Data Education Center.

We believe that data transformation doesn't have to feel overwhelming or expensive to be impactful. After helping over 600 credit union leaders launch their data journeys, we have identified several consistent knowledge gaps. We have worked hard to fill these gaps with a variety of educational artifacts:


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