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Recognized by Forbes as Minnesota’s ‘Best-In-State Credit Union’ in 2018, Business Chief finds out how Affinity Plus has fully digitized its services and technology foundation in a world class transformation 04


lacing people before profits, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union has gained a unique edge amongst traditional banking

service providers. A financial cooperative owned by the members of the credit union, those who have accounts are also the company’s owners. With a genuine belief to always develop and continuously improve its services for its members and employees, Affinity Plus Credit Union has recently been recognized by Forbes as Minnesota’s “Best-In-State Credit Union,” an achievement of which the company is extremely proud. Since its inception in the early 1930s, Affinity Plus has grown to serve nearly 200,000 members with loans, credit cards, mortgage services, investment accounts and much more. Responsible for the company’s operational performance, President and CEO Dave Larson is leading the way


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“Technology is moving fast; our members’ behavior in how they interact with the credit union is evolving” — Teri Laufers, CIO, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

only did she seek to execute high standards while implementing a robust digital infrastructure across a three-year transformation, she was also the executive project sponsor during the conversion journey, ensuring that the needs of both members and employees were top of mind. “We have transformed seven of our major systems in three years. The goal was to improve these systems, drive efficiency and allow for better service, both for employees and for our members,” she explains. “The systems


had to be adaptable and flexible as in the delivery of affordable and

the credit union continues to progress,

sustainable financial services which

and be increasingly responsive to our

improve the lives of the credit union’s

members’ needs. We wanted the


ability to be more nimble. Technology

To support employees and cater to

is moving fast; our members’ behavior

growing member demands for agile,

in how they interact with the credit

digital financial services that provide

union is evolving, and we need to be

increased accessibility, exceptional

able to respond effectively. Moving

performance and ease of use, the

forward, we feel confident in our

credit union has undergone an

ability to do so.”

extensive digital transformation which

In 2016, the company undertook an

impacts all areas of the business. At

extensive review of its financial and

the heart of Affinity Plus’ technology

digital systems, which started the

foundation, Chief Information Officer

slate of conversions in motion. The

(CIO) Teri Laufers explains that not

credit union’s real estate loan origina-

CLICK TO WATCH : ‘AFFINITY PLUS MYPLUS REWARDS’ 07 tion system, Encompass, was the first

mobile apps forecasted to generate

major launch in this slate of changes,

approximately US$189bn in revenues

and catered towards increased

by 2020 via app stores and in-app

member demands for these services.

advertising, it was imperative for

By the end of 2018, the implementa-

Affinity Plus to take advantage of this

tion of a new core processing system

growing opportunity. The credit union

included 65 vendor integrations and

set a Board goal to launch the new

85 custom programs.

mobile and online banking platforms in late 2017, but this task was not


without its challenges. Through

One area of focus was of particular

extensive testing and fixes over

importance to Affinity Plus: the

months, Larson explains that Affinity

implementation of a much-needed

Plus did not feel the system was in the

innovative, mobile-first, member-ori-

best place to support members.

entated digital banking platform. With

“We were having latency issues

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which would have impacted the quality

the challenges that you face is just as

of experience for our members, so we

important as talking about the

made the decision to push the launch

successes. Employees know that we,

back a couple of months. In reality, we

as an organization, have challenges –

could have launched our new mobile

just like they do themselves.”

app on schedule as planned, but we

Placing members at the heart of its

didn’t think it was the right thing to do,

services, Laufers stresses that

and we had the full support of the

millennials have acutely disrupted

Board in this decision,” Larson says.

traditional communication methods,

“We went to the employee base and

leading Affinity Plus to place further

told them that we were going to hold

investment in providing intuitive,

off because we didn’t feel that it was

digitally-led solutions. “What we’re

what the members would want for

finding in our research is that a lot of

their experience. I believe that sharing

millennials are not just ‘mobile first’

– they are moving toward ‘mobile only’,”

union’s desire to cater to the evolving

she explains. “We really feel that for

needs of its members, as well as for

many, mobile is an easier way to

further self-service options and a

communicate, and I think it’s a great

better overall digital experience. In

way to further build that relationship.

April 2018, the credit union debuted its

Certainly, conversations, texting and

new mobile banking app and online

different kinds of personal connec-

banking platform. Noting that the

tions via mobile are a great way

organization has been highly respon-

to reach the millennial generation

sive in enhancing member experienc-

and others.”

es through mobile, Larson outlines

Affinity Plus’ new digital tools have effectively showcased the credit

that 59% of members are now utilizing Affinity Plus’ mobile and online



Dave Larson, President/Chief Executive Officer Dave Larson is President/CEO of Affinity Plus, a position he has held since 2013. Prior to this, Larson served as Senior Vice President of Affinity Plus for nine years. As CEO, Larson led the effort to strengthen and rebuild the credit union. The success and organizational culture built at Affinity Plus led to his 2018 recognition by the Star Tribune as ‘Top CEO’ among large companies, and he was also named to Minnesota 500’s list of ‘Most Powerful Business Leaders in Minnesota’. Under his leadership, Affinity Plus was named a ‘Top 150 Workplace’ and designated ‘Best Credit Union in Minnesota’ by Forbes. Larson has a genuine care for the employees, the credit union’s members, and the communities that Affinity Plus serves. He is the Board Chair of the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Minnesota.

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“Sharing the challenges that you face is just as important as talking about the successes” — Dave Larson, CEO, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

says Larson. “We diligently monitor feedback on social media and through our net promoter score program, and we host focus groups and conduct surveys. We really want members to share with us what additional features they are looking for in the mobile app, and we will continue to add to our project list based on their input. We know that digital is a huge part of people’s lives today and are putting appropriate focus there. Our results clearly demonstrate that.” Following the successful launch of its new digital solutions, Affinity Plus

banking services – a 21% increase in

launched its new core operating

mobile app usage in less than one

system in October 2018. “We hadn’t

year’s time. Following its launch, the

changed our core system in 20 years,

new mobile app has received more

and we really felt that the technology

than 19,000 reviews on the App Store

that we were using was, in some cases,

with a 4.8 star rating.

outdated. We really needed to propel

“There’s definitely a lot we want to

ourselves forward,” says Larson. “One

do to enhance the member experi-

of our key objectives overall was to

ence through mobile. With the App

provide members and employees a

Store rating increase from 1.5 stars in

better experience in terms of their

2017 to 4.8 stars today, we could just

interactions, whether working with the

say, ‘Let’s just call it good’. But we

credit union as an employee or

have a strong internal focus on the

interacting with us as a member.”

voice of the member, and we want to

With a new core system in place,

ensure we’re taking their feedback

Affinity Plus will have more opportuni-

into account on an ongoing basis,”

ties in the future to explore the use of

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Our BI group didn’t exist four years ago, and now we have seven employees that work with our data analytics” — Dave Larson, CEO, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union


cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT),

better understand our member

artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots and

information and communicate with our

voice technologies to boost its

members more effectively.”

technology infrastructure. “In recent

Providing exceptional support

years we have also placed significant

Remaining conscious of the

investment in information security and

growing trend for digital innovation,

business intelligence (BI),” says

but also to support those that prefer

Larson. “Today we have an entire

face-to-face interaction or are slower

department supporting our security

to adopt new technologies, Affinity

efforts. Additionally, our BI group

Plus has also placed significant invest-

didn’t exist four years ago, and now

ment in developing next generation

we have eight employees that work

branches, which house open technol-

with our data analytics to allow us to

ogy bars, face-to-face interactions 13


Teri Laufers, Chief Information Officer Teri Laufers is Chief Information Officer for Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. She has nearly 30 years of credit union industry experience, joining Affinity Plus in 2014. She leads a growing, evolving team of information technology professionals, with her purview including operations, applications, system administration, software, technical support, testing and development. Laufers is an advocate for change and has a strong desire to bring superior technology solutions to Affinity Plus members and employees. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and an MBA in Technology Management. Throughout her career she has shared her knowledge and expertise serving on several industry committees, technology councils and software user groups.

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“ We’re finding that a lot of millennials are not just ‘mobile first’ – they are moving toward ‘mobile only” — Teri Laufers, CIO, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

members when they see opportunities – for example, when a member is in line wanting to make a deposit and they’re using their smart phone. “We certainly want to help them with their deposit, but we consider it an opportunity to show them how to get the job done in a different, more convenient way,” he says. “In most cases, they might be aware but are a little afraid. With a technologist mindset, our employees are ready to aid them. I think the environment that we have set up is really conducive for that.” Affinity Plus’ commitment to


transparency throughout the converand a plethora of new digital tools.

sion process has proved beneficial to

“The days of having tellers and lenders

both members and employees. Along

in the branch are evolving more

the way the credit union highlighted

toward technologists who can support

the many advantages of the new

members with both their financial and

systems to generate excitement and

technology needs,” says Larson. “The

anticipation for the changes. Getting

reality is that not all of our members

more than 560 employees on board

understand the technology, so there is

and focused on one major initiative is

a lot of opportunity for us to really

no easy feat, yet Affinity Plus took on

assist and engage them, and to show

the challenge with gusto, creating an

them how technological enhance-

entire brand around its three-year

ments in banking can really add

journey, which it referred to internally

convenience to their lives.”

as the ‘Journey Beyond’. “We wanted

Larson adds that employees are coached to offer this support to

this extensive project to have a life of its own: a different logo and different


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colors and a lot of fun surrounding the journey really allowed us to bring proper focus throughout the organization. Employee buy-in was key to our success,” says Larson. “Another aspect important to our success is that our senior management group is very visible and accessible to our employees. It was important during a project of this magnitude to have multiple touchpoints.” Employee and member communication peaked at various times during the three year journey, ensuring that 16

Affinity Plus kept the benefits of the changes at the forefront. The credit union also provided outlets for members to ask questions and voice frustrations.

PEOPLE POWER Although technology has been a key driver in enhancing Affinity Plus’ service offerings, Larson is keen to stress that the company would not have achieved its goals without its dedicated workforce. Harnessing a project-oriented mindset, more than 230 employees across the credit union contributed in either a full- or part-time capacity. And that has

created the appetite for many to explore what’s next – to take the credit union even further. “We crossed the finish line and we had great success, but our employees are now thirsty for more innovation, more projects, and more opportunities to grow personally and professionally,” says Larson, noting the need for balance in driving innovation and progress while determining when members and employees are ready. With more than 28,000 hours of training and development for employees leading up to the core conversion in October 2018, Affinity Plus doubled the size of its training team and recruited temporary trainers from within its employee base. All employees took part in some form of large group training and completed hours of practice in the months that followed. They learned and stretched and worked outside their comfort zones. And the investment has proved to be invaluable. Undertaking a confidence check at the 30-day mark post-conversion to the new core system, employees reported a confidence level of rating of 4.0 on a scale of 1-5. Moving forward, Affinity Plus has also

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Year founded


Approximate number of employees


St Paul Minnesota 18

partnered with LinkedIn Learning to further provide essential life skills and learning opportunities, which will benefit both members and employees. “We are really proud of what we have been able to do with our mobile and digital offerings. We’re making members’ lives easier by making their experience that much better,” says Laufers. “Our employees have been presented with a lot of challenges, a lot of professional growth and a lot of opportunities in being a part of these projects, and they really rose to the occasion.”

“ We’re finding that a lot of millennials are not just ‘mobile first’ – they are moving toward ‘mobile only” — Teri Laufers, CIO, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union


Agreeing, Larson adds: “For the last three years, we had so many projects and conversions happening, yet we

something that continues to give us a tremendous sense of pride.” Through the focus Affinity Plus has

still had to serve our core function

placed on consistently improving and

– running a credit union to support the

advancing its digital offerings, mem-

needs of our members. And we did

bers will continue to see investments

that well. During this time, member

in the cooperative. Growth and

satisfaction on net promoter scores

change – with the member at the

remained high, and we received

forefront – will propel the credit union

positive member feedback and

forward and set it apart from others

awards for running a high-quality

in the field.

financial institution. To be named the top credit union in the eyes of our members and our employees is

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Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union 175 West Lafayette Frontage Road St Paul, MN 55107 T (800) 322-7228

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Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union Brochure 2019  

Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union Brochure 2019