Oregon Community’s Roberson Joins i3 to Inject Innovation into Credit Unions’ DNA

Lifelong Oregonian Robbie Roberson wants to make innovation part of the credit union DNA. “Everybody gets caught in that resource question,” he said. “There’s always more to be done, so how do you balance resource constraints with the innovation and creating the next big thing?”

That’s a question that Roberson, Oregon Community Credit Union’s Director of Corporate Retail Operations, will bring with him to Filene’s i3 program, when the new class kicks off at Harvard in December. Roberson, a 17-year credit union veteran, is one of 16 candidates selected to join the 2015 i3 class.

i3 stands for ideas, innovation, implementation. It’s a program of the Filene Research Institute that aims to bring together the most captivating next generation credit union leaders, and set them loose on the consumer finance industry’s most flummoxing problems.

This year Filene conducted i3 applications in a whole new way—with tryouts. “We did a one-month tryout in groups of four,” said Roberson. “They gave the group a topic—this year it was, ‘How might we reduce the impact of student loan debt taken on by college graduates?’”

After 30 days, each group had to present an idea using remote conferencing technology. “The best part was getting to meet different people all over the country,” said Roberson.

Roberson’s group presented a concept they named EduFundMe. The idea was to turn childhood gifts from family and friends into education savings through social media. Just share a link online and anyone can give towards a child’s college fund. Later on down the road, the online platform would also offer education about college financing options.

Roberson made the cut.

After an initial meeting this month, he and his 15 other i3 classmates will kick off their two-year program at big. bright. minds., Filene’s annual gathering of “brain food, ideas, and people,” which takes place this December at Harvard University.

“One thing that’s always beneficial,” said Roberson, “is getting outside perspective, seeing how other people do things. The chance to network with 31 other innovative people—in this new class as well as the current one—is exciting.”

By the end of two years, each i3 participant creates an innovative concept to address a big challenge or opportunity in personal finance.

Roberson said that he’s interested in how credit unions can innovate to stay competitive in the quickly changing personal finance marketplace. “I’m fascinated by the question of what we do, as a credit union, to stay relevant in a sector full of technology companies vying for what we do,” he said. “How do we keep exceptional member service and meet our members’ needs?

“Expectations are only going up,” he added. “They’re not going down.”

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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