Proactive approach propels credit union

Savvy deployment of technology helps BlueShore Financial predict customers’ needs

BlueShore Financial CEO Chris Catliff: “For us everything is in the technology” | Submitted

In 2012, BlueShore Financial ranked 69th on Business in Vancouver’s top-100 list of most profitable companies in British Columbia. Now, four years later, it has cracked the top 50, beating out well-established organizations like Mountain Equipment Co-op.

BlueShore CEO Chris Catliff said the credit union owes its success largely to the integration of data technology into its overall business and marketing strategy. During the technology boom of the late 1990s, many credit unions merged in an attempt to pool their resources as a way of managing the costs of new technology.

When BlueShore Financial couldn’t find another firm to merge with, it recognized that it would have to swiftly adapt to technological change. This was essential to keep up with its competition, which had doubled in size seemingly overnight as a result of the mergers.

Working with a software development firm, BlueShore helped create a customized data technology that would scan its clients’ financial information and allow it to take proactive steps when responding to changes in the market.

“We’ve created our own algorithms, and the data solved the problem of who to focus on, and it tells us what they will likely need,” Catliff said. “For us everything is in the technology; everybody contributes information to that technology and then we use it to predict what financial services our clients will need.”

He said this has changed the way the financial institution operates. Instead of reacting to market events, BlueShore has adapted big-data technology to easily co-ordinate market changes with customer needs.

Catliff warned about the dangers of failing to keep on top of rapid advancements in information technology.

“I don’t want to be stark but ‘adapt or perish’ comes to mind,” he said. “We don’t just react to people who come in our door; we proactively go after the people that we can best help.”

BlueShore Financial uses its technology to track its customer needs. This is a strategy that has proved successful for the credit union, helping it to become the fifth most profitable credit union in BIV’s top-100 list. By constantly monitoring customer data and pairing it with relevant market information, it was able to provide focused support to its customer base. This allowed it to expand revenue by providing greater value to the customers it already had rather than spending resources trying to gain new ones, Catliff said.

“It really is the story of business, about how they need to change the way they are dealing with people,” he said. “Technology for transactions and people for advice.”

Catliff added that for any business in the age of big data, diligence must be used when creating and analyzing the information. Yet technology can make it easier to spot and correct any mistakes that happen, he said.

“Where in yesteryear you [could] have an institution where many humans [were] making the same mistake, [nowadays] if you are using data and you make a mistake with it you can correct it and it’s corrected for all,” he said. “So I would say that it’s a far faster … self-correcting mechanism.”

Marc-David Seidel, associate professor with the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, also stressed the importance of ensuring the data being reviewed is accurate and is properly analyzed.

 “You can generate a report that looks very convincing, present it to senior management and shift the direction of the organization,”  Seidel said.

“If you put bad data in, it will look pretty but it will be the wrong answer. It’s lending an aura of legitimacy to analysis that might not be accurate.”