Filene Announces Next i³ Innovation Class

Filene, the credit union industry “think and do tank,” recently announced their latest class of participants in its i³ innovation program. Among them are Melina Young of Verity Credit Union and Aaron Palmer of TwinStar Credit Union.

“This was by far the strongest group of applicants we’ve had in recent memory,” said Andrew Downin, innovation director at Filene. “They join i³ at a point in our movement’s history when innovation is critical. Credit unions face non-traditional competitors, disruptive technologies, and increasing demands from consumers.”

i³ is a two-year program pulling together some of the credit union industry’s most creative thinkers and giving them a chance to collaborate to solve its most challenging problems.

“In my opinion,” said Young, “the biggest challenge facing credit unions is that people don’t really understand what we are and why we are a viable choice for them.” She said that this is a challenge she would like to address through her tenure with i³. “My second focus would be on the balance of new technology with the personal experience that credit unions pride themselves on being able to provide.”

“There is such a wealth of knowledge, ideas, opportunities, and best practices in this industry,” Young continued, “and I can’t wait to interact with other i³ers through the program. I cannot event explain how exited I am to be a part of the i³ program.”

TwinStar’s Palmer said, “I want to help credit unions remain relevant as our industry changes. I believe we do this by being in tune with our members’ needs and presenting solutions that enhance their lives better than our competition can. I particularly hope to explore payment systems evolution, solutions to relieve student lending debt, and options for small business incubation.”

Northwest Credit Union Association COO Denise Gabel was part of the first i³ class in 2004, and then worked to build and evolve the program for six years as Filene’s chief innovation officer. “Essentially,” she said, “i³ was created to ensure that the credit union system has a deliberate focus on innovation.”

She points to successful products like Debt in Focus, now under the Savvy Money brand, which began as an i³ idea. “The i3 team created this product in response to the economic downturn and the consumers’ growing need to privately determine what their credit situation was and how to fix it,” said Gabel. “What began as an anonymous debt management tool is now a tangible product helping consumers improve their financial lives.”

Gabel says that i³ also serves to build the “innovation muscle” both among i³ participants and beyond, as they take the tools on innovation back to their credit unions, and to incubate innovative leaders.

“i³ has also turned out a number of CEO’s,” said Gabel. “These 24 individuals are now in the driver’s seat to lead innovation and change for their individual credit unions and the credit union industry.”

With the addition of the new class, the number of i³ participants since its founding will rise to 200.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

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