Board Reflections: An Interview with Keith Malbrue

Board Reflections is a series of interviews with Commonwealth board members discussing their views on emerging financial challenges, innovative solutions, and the future.

“Big data” can conjure an exploitative dystopia.  Can it be a good deal for consumers?

That is the optimistic view Keith Malbrue, a member of Commonwealth’s Board of Directors, shared during a recent interview with Senior Vice President Melissa Gopnik.

Malbrue is the Chief Information Officer at the Credit Union of Texas and is bullish on the benefits data aggregation can yield for consumers.  He said his institution has a major ongoing data warehousing initiative that is drawing in and organizing an “astronomical” amount of data from multiple sources.

With these data, “we can do analysis and figure out where it is that we can assist a member.”  Malbrue talked, for example, about being able to determine that a credit union member is carrying a higher-cost loan from elsewhere that they could switch over to get a lower rate: “We’re not trying to sell you something new; we’re trying to help you with decisions you’ve already made.”

But what about fears that the institution knows too much?  Malbrue’s experience is that the amount of data is not the concern.  When the credit union reaches out based on data analysis, members are “skeptical, but I don’t think they’re necessarily skeptical because of the fact that you had this information; they just want to know that it’s accurate…. that it’s real” and that they are not being “scammed by someone who’s trying to spoof them.”

Trust is key, and it can be fragile.  Malbrue observed that trust must be built with long-term relationships that go beyond individual interactions: “When [customers] see that you’re doing the right thing by them but when they also see that you’re doing the right thing by others and in the communities that you serve, that makes a big difference.”

One way a customer can quickly lose faith these days is when a financial institution does not provide the technology-based products and services consumers see competitors advertising.  Malbrue shared that keeping up can be a challenge for organizations without access to large programming staffs, but he sees it as a necessity.

The digital environment offers opportunities for building and sustaining trust, but Malbrue believes that even the most technologically comfortable and adept consumers also want to be able to make a physical connection at times.  He wants credit union members to know “if they need to come into a private office and have a conversation with someone about a problem that they need to walk through, that they’ve got that ability as well.”

For Malbrue, the data need to be there backing – and leading – it all.  This means a fully-integrated digital service strategy, which includes business intelligence, a data warehouse, data scientists, and subject matter experts.  “Everyone’s going to have to be singing from the same hymnal, if you will, in order to know how they’re going to build it, what they’re going to do with it, and then execute on that plan.”

Keith Malbrue is CIO at the Credit Union of Texas. Prior to that, Mr. Malbrue was Chief Information / Chief Administrative Officer at Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. Mr. Malbrue has over 32 years of extensive information technology experience in the credit union industry.

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