Client: Great Western Credit Union

Helping local communities with their financial needs

Modernising community banking to bring “FinTech with purpose” through digital transformation

  • Digital Strategy
  • User Experience
  • Umbraco CMS
  • MS Dynamics 365 CRM
  • Automated Decisions & Processing
  • Digital maturity
  • Managed Transformation
  • Change Leadership

increase in loan

Great Western Credit Union - James Berry


Digital Wonderlab’s clear focus has led to a truly connected tech ecosystem, with a number of solutions seamlessly working together in the background to really support our members. We now present a much more modern and device-responsive impression to the world, and tech is making a big difference in allowing us to achieve our strategic direction.

The brand story

A Community Finance organisation bringing benefit to thousands of local people

Great Western Credit Union (GWCU) is an organisation that’s grounded in purpose, delivering clear social impact by helping people in need to access low-cost finance. Powered by over 20,000 local people who have become members, their mission is to make is to make the communities and people it serves better off, providing both access to credit for those in need as well as responsible financial advice and ethical loan and savings opportunities. 

Achieving this mission in today’s fast-moving marketplace, however, was proving highly challenging for GWCU. The banking institution needed to embark on a seismic shift in terms of its use of technology: antiquated systems were no longer fit for purpose, resulting in data duplication, inefficient workflows and a lending experience that wasn’t suited to the modern age and mobile-first audiences.  

Now one of the South West’s largest co-operatives, GWCU has been on a remarkable journey - one that has seen the organisation digitise and radically modernise its entire operations during such a transformational year.

The challenge

The essential digital evolution to bring sustainability

GWCU approached us with sizeable ambitions: geographical expansion was the bigger picture goal, yet GWCU’s strongest immediate desire was to offer a more inclusive, accessible, and agile lending experience to its members. The organisation wanted to deliver bigger impact, helping people to better manage their funds and receive access to affordable and flexible credit solutions.

Board members recognising that the bank’s use of technology must adapt to enable strategic goals to be met, an extensive transformation programme began. Early exploratory conversations set out to understand the ‘why’, build the business case for digital maturity and consider how digital solutions could be architecturally delivered to benefit members most.From the outset, it was clear that the organisation’s systems and infrastructure were not fit-for-purpose for their future aspirations: GWCU’s members deserved more, and the community bank needed to put the right, future-focused framework in place to be able to lend to more people without incurring more cost.

The internal ambition was there to operate at scale, working in a much more agile way, and to modernise community finance by pivoting and becoming a ‘fintech with purpose’. GWCU sought to deliver a service offering to its members that would rival both high street banks and pay day lenders; continuing to stand still within a competitive marketplace would likely mean that the opportunity to grow and deliver its purpose in the long-term would pass the Credit Union by.

The Approach

To grow and evolve in a way that would always put people first

A long-term transformation journey was needed that would ultimately pave the way towards GWCU’s digital offering being purpose-driven, user-focused and fully responsive to the needs of modern audiences. The transformation would encompass GWCU’s back-end operations, its customer-facing digital ‘shop window’ and its supporting systems and infrastructure.

Our contribution would help GWCU to think differently, see the possibilities, and make change happen by managing and delivering an integrated solution that would enable the team to provide services to a much wider customer base than ever before.

Our approach for GWCU focused on the essentials for success: People, Process and Technology, with four clear aims:

  • Delivering a bolstered, product-driven, and mobile-first website and digital presence;
  • Optimising the online application process and enhancing the online member area;
  • Automation and integration of decision engines, fraud and identity checks and open banking to provide real-time application decisions and credit;
  • Creating a modern membership relationship management system and seamless integration of legacy systems to deliver efficient and effective back-office services.
The Solution and result

Delivering real impact for customers

The automation of loan applications and lending decision-making was vital to GWCU’s ability to expand its reach and deliver a fast and efficient service offering to its members. This tall task was made possible by building an online .NET web application to provide an intelligent and highly secure digital layer to enable the loan application process, member portal and seamless integration to MS Dynamics 365 power platform – all supported by a front-end integrated Umbraco CMS website that provides a mobile -first, SEO and digital marketing optimised user experience for customers.  The CRM solution was built in close partnership with Bristol-based Microsoft Cloud experts, Chorus. GWCU’s network and environment experts ADT Systems, also Bristol-based, supported the overall Azure environment that GWCU moved to through the year, including ensuring multi-region backup/replication for core systems.

Security was front and centre throughout GWCU’s digital transformation journey: ensuring that GWCU’s members and applicants were protected by bank-grade level security was of paramount importance, with the platform leveraging modern digital processes and services – such as multi-factor authentication – to prevent and protect against fraud. The multi-tiered application process was designed to encompass all checking and ID verification stages, with applications running through an industry-standard third-party API, serving as the ‘lending engine.’ 

The right technology, designed and built with purpose, has provided Great Western Credit Union with the tech ecosystem needed to achieve real social impact, supporting financial wellbeing, and providing fair banking opportunities to communities across the South West. 

What matters most is the impact on members: the number one priority at each point of this ambitious digital journey. Customers now benefit from a significantly streamlined application pathway, with the number of actions to complete a loan application reduced by more than two-thirds and lending decisions made quickly, efficiently, and fairly.

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