1st Annual Connect User Conference Brings the Synergent Family Together

Whether it’s connecting with members, products, services, or vendors, when it comes to credit unions, this is an industry that is 100% dedicated to connecting with people and helping them succeed. At Synergent’s 1st Annual Connect User Conference, the day focused on Synergent staff connecting in person with the credit unions it collaborates with every day and providing important information to help credit unions stay ahead of the curve.

“We wanted to invite even more of our credit union users, and expanded our agenda to include payments and marketing, while still covering technology topics. Our goal is to provide credit unions with the knowledge and resources to help them perform their very best,” explained Ben Jordan, Senior Vice President of Synergent’s new Product Development team.

The Connect User Conference replaces the popular Technology Workshop, which had been offered for 10 years. Attendees traveled to Portland, Maine, to attend the conference at the Westin Portland Harborview. After networking with each other at RiRa the night before, attendees were welcomed to the ”Synergent Family Reunion” by Scott Johnsen, Synergent’s Senior Vice President of Operations. Todd Mason, Synergent’s President/CEO, reinforced Synergent’s mission of helping credit unions succeed and improving the financial lives of their members. He used the analogy of a theme park not being the best at just one thing, but being the best because of the entire experience that it provides to customers. Synergent is similar in that it is not one single product or service that makes it the best choice for credit unions, but the entire package of solutions, service, and expertise that work together to provide the best benefit to credit union users, and in turn, their members.

“Every conversation we have influences what we do,” stated Mason. “We care about each other, and we care about our credit unions.  We are like a family.”

Further illustrating elements that create “The Synergent Experience,” Mason discussed how price, convenience, product, service, and experience are five competitive attributes that Synergent uses as its lens in providing the best value to credit unions and determining what credit unions care about most. Synergent’s Project Impact is a reflection of that, with infrastructure upgrades underway that were planned based on credit union feedback to provide the latest tools for business intelligence.

“Project Impact is an investment in you,” stressed Mason.

“Be Where They Are. Go Where They Are Going.”

Keynote Speaker Chris Brogan—President of Chris Brogan Media, CEO of Owner Media Group, and New York Times best-selling author of nine books and counting—provided attendees with insight on how to connect through media and how credit unions can reach their best members in his presentation, The Customer Experience Journey. He urged attendees to all take ownership in marketing their credit union, even in roles that go beyond the marketing department, and to focus on offering concise information that entertains, has a clear point of view, and speaks to what the credit union supports and offers. It is essential in today’s marketing to ensure content is mobile-friendly, delivered in a format that provides a way to further connect, and ties to a tool that can manage the interaction data of those who have viewed it.

“We all need a database of one. I want all the companies that I work with to know a lot about ‘me’ and the service of ‘me.’” explained Brogan. “You need to treat members like you know and remember them.”

Brogan provided 8 steps to the Connective Media Process for attendees to take away and use in their credit unions:

  • Define the players
  • Detail the journey
  • Determine the wins
  • Map touchpoints and context
  • Design the media package
  • Connect the business
  • Publish media
  • Seek to serve

Brogan praised Synergent for the inclusivity of its conference, sharing, “I love that this conference pulls tech, operations, and marketing together. That’s rare!” He also followed up after the conference with a post on Twitter, tweeting, “As a speaker, you don’t always get to work with companies you align with. Today, I enjoyed seeing how @synergentcorp shared their vision. They’re going in the right direction.”

Connecting Through Partnerships and Solutions

Fiserv’s Dave Keenan, Senior Vice President of Card Products, shared insights on payment trends and how they are changing for buyers and sellers, P2P payments, and the growth that will continue via digital payment and member verification methods. Federal Reserve data shows that cash remains the favorite payment method of consumers in the United States, and cash is indeed the most used payment method for P2P among all consumers over the past 6 months.

“Where are cardholders going to go and what are the spend pools affiliated with that?” asked Keenan. “Getting better intelligence from transaction data that can be used in beating the competition is critical.”

While consumers choose cash because they feel it is the safest method of payment, there is plenty of wallet share for credit unions to tap into through cards and P2P apps. Cards facilitate large volumes of small-value transactions every day, while ACH facilitates smaller volumes of large-value transactions. Credit growth is trending to outpace debit growth. This may correlate to increasing fraud losses that are occurring, despite EMV implementation. Keeping this in mind, Keenan shared that “a paradigm shift away from plastics is underway” as New Purchase Use Case transactions displace card-based transactions because of their powerful benefits to the payee and payer.

The gig economy continues to grow and is enabled by digital banking platforms. This is a vehicle for continued growth of digital payment methods. Fiserv is introducing a product called Card-Free Cash(SM) as a disruptive alternative that enables consumers to safely, securely, and immediately get cash at an ATM or merchant walk-in location without using a payment card.

Connecting on the Road(map)

Early in 2018, Synergent created a true Product Development team that seeks to lead the strategy of delivering effective products, services, and partnerships to assist credit unions in improving their members’ financial lives. The team will serve as the developers of the product delivery process and stewards of the product portfolio that assists credit unions in serving their members. This new initiative was officially unveiled at the Connect User Conference, with the Technology, Marketing, Payments, and Infrastructure & Security Roadmaps covered in detail by members of the Synergent team.

“A big part of Product Development will be finding what the problem is,” said Ben Jordan, Senior Vice President of Product Development. “Not the symptom, but solving the problem.”

Throughout the day, members of the Synergent team shared roadmaps that discussed the following areas:

Marketing Roadmap

Doug MacDonald, Vice President of Marketing Services, highlighted the importance of external promotion, customer experience, and marketing management in approaching credit union marketing today. Roadmap initiatives for Marketing include:

  • Transactional Data Mining (TDM)
  • Variable Data Automations
  • Member Marketing Insights
  • Digital Member Experience
  • Marketing Content Support

Payments Roadmap

Rebekah Higgins, Product Owner for Payments, shared the Payments roadmap initiatives of:

  • New Payment Solutions
  • Top of Wallet
  • Improved Check Fraud Monitoring

Technology Roadmap

Jennifer Berry, Product Owner for Technology, provided attendees with the overall goals of the Technology roadmap:

  • Frictionless Member Service
  • Credit Union Growth
  • Sustainable Core Service

Infrastructure & Security Roadmap

Tim Gilman, VP of Information Systems, covered the Infrastructure & Security roadmap that Synergent is implementing to continue to provide the best service to credit unions in the areas of:

  • Infrastructure Upgrades
  • Evolving Business Continuity
  • Advancing Security
  • Automation Efficiency
  • Database Evolution

Product Innovation

Tyler Hudson, Synergent’s Assistant Vice President of Development, provided an overview of the enhancements Synergent has made to Episys PowerOn programs since the conference last year, and shared what is in the works:

  • Data Warehouse
  • Business Intelligence
  • Concierge Tablet Application

Connecting the Day

Credit union staff in attendance eagerly asked questions of the expert presenters of the day, including Rebekah Higgins, Product Owner – Payments; Jennifer Berry, Product Owner – Technology; Tim Gilman, Vice President of Information Systems; Doug MacDonald, Vice President of Marketing Services; and Synergent’s President/CEO Todd Mason. Topics included combatting the threat of merchants opting out of accepting certain forms of payment, how to get started with using predictive data analysis, and the availability of and usage tips for products and services.

Mason shared a question received in advance from a credit union asking how credit unions can differentiate themselves from banks without being blatantly negative. He posed this back to the audience, who provided thoughtful replies, such as stressing that credit unions have a local, community-based focus, keeping marketing messaging positive, and ensuring the continued provision of the best member experience.

“We all say we compete on service, but what we really compete on is member experience,” added Mason. “It’s really how you make your members feel when they walk in the door or when they interact with your technology.”

Attendees of the workshop were invited to drop a card with their name into bags that corresponded with their primary area of interest: Marketing, Payments, Technology, or Education. A name was drawn from each. Congratulations to the following winners:

  • Complimentary Snapshot Analysis and Consult with Synergent Marketing:  David Bridges, Maine Highlands FCU
  • $500 Credit Toward an Episys Enhancement Installation from Synergent Technology:  Kelley Wathen, Connected CU
  • $500 Credit Toward a MagTek Express Card 500 Instant-Issue Printer from Synergent Payments:  Kelley Carter, Sebasticook Valley FCU
  • Free Payment Education Subscription for one year from the Synergent Learning Center: Diana Garcia, Maine Solutions FCU

Additional congratulations to Kelley Wathen, who won the grand prize Apple Watch!