Year-End Letter from CEO Jennifer Addabbo
By Jenn Addabbo CEO and Co-Founder CU Engage
With a new year comes the promise of growth and change, and we at CU Engage are excited about the possibilities within our industry. First, let me start by acknowledging that the last 18 months were like no other. It was a challenging time marked by a pandemic, but it has also been a year of reflecting, learning, and building a better path forward for us as a company as well as for our clients.
Although many things have changed, our commitment to serving the community financial institution industry has not. With that being said, I would like to take a moment to look back at 2021. It was quite a year for all of us at CU Engage.
Restricted travel and limited in-person client visits freed up time that would normally have been spent in airports or cars, so we took the opportunity to look internally, evaluate our resources, and examine what our clients needed from us as their trusted advisors and where our industry was heading. We wanted to move forward in a way that was different from what was traditionally done in the past and didn’t want to look back on the time and wish we had done more with it.
As a company, we made substantial improvements in many facets of our business. We faced this challenge, and together we have delivered. Our team worked on a combined 197 projects for our clients this year negotiating over $220M in savings for an average of over $1M per project! In addition, we hired a record number of employees this year (one-third of our current team) and continue to look for more stellar “Engagers” as we grow in 2022 and beyond. Our team has brought with them subject matter expertise in project management, consulting, technology, and data analytics and the investment in our team has paid off in more ways than we could have imagined.
These results were rewarded with our recognition in Inc 5000’s Fastest Growing Private Companies (for the third year in a row) as well as #10 on Tampa Bay’s Fastest Growing Private Companies.
Prior to the pandemic, there was a focus on digital enablement within financial institutions, but the result of the past 18 months is that there is a renewed effort in thinking about efficiencies in process improvement and overall tech enablement – not just digital banking. These discussions focusing on cryptocurrency, automating the loan application process, robotic process automation, and fintech collaboration were low on the priority list in 2019 and through mid-2020 but have surfaced in almost every client discussion we have had this year.
As we embrace this digital reality, there is a need for different strategies around innovation and digital banking. The pandemic has created an environment to show us all what is possible; there is significant opportunity to reach new markets more rapidly with the right strategy.
Keeping employees engaged throughout this time was a priority for us. We worked together to learn new ways to connect with our team. To do this successfully, we transitioned from a larger flat organization to one with smaller departments. With this change, we saw increased one-on-one conversations and small team collaboration sessions that sparked new ideas to help us improve our strategies and grow. A huge lesson for us in leadership this year was the impact that every individual has on the overall success of our team. By encouraging and enabling people to look at challenges within the industry or better ways for us to work we developed processes and tools far beyond our expectations. Our team has embraced the idea of “continual improvement” as we realize that there is so much more that we as consulting firms can provide to our financial institution clients and partners.
We have continued to develop our transformation plan, launching an internal project called “Life of a Project.” The goal of this internal project is to continually evolve our projects strategically to be better and faster for the benefit of our clients. Our team leverages data, technology, and tremendous amounts of firsthand bank, credit union, and vendor experience to serve our clients in ways that get results and make a difference even more than before. As a guidepost for this strategy, we came up with a formula: (Data + Knowledge) Process = efficiency and effectiveness or (D+K)P=e2 for short – which means we take our proprietary data and using our industry knowledge and expertise we are able to apply and leverage our proven process to increase efficiency and effectiveness in our negotiation of vendor contracts. Throughout the years, we have figured out how to break the mold and make the consulting process engaging which has resulted in a tremendous benefit to our clients and allowed us to grow.
A Truly Amazing Team
I want to acknowledge my team at CU Engage. This year has been full of many ups and downs, along with a few uncertainties. Yet, through it all, they have shown up every day and put our clients at the heart of everything they do. I want to recognize their support. They truly have gone above and beyond.
A Look Forward
As mentioned earlier, we are constantly evolving to improve our services to help you, our industry, make better-informed business decisions. We are working on some exciting additions to our service offerings, and we are looking forward to sharing this communication with you in the next few weeks. While change represents growth, it will not impact our core values and our unwavering commitment to delivering results. We are excited about our future together. Be sure to follow CU Engage on LinkedIn and keep an eye on our website as there is more information and exciting announcements to come!
In conclusion, on behalf of CU Engage, I want to thank all of our clients for your ongoing loyalty and for putting your trust in us. The success we have had in 2021 is a credit to you! Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your growth.
CEO, CU Engage