Duncan Kicks Credit Union Technology Up a Notch
Michael Duncan quite literally blazed his own career path by teaching himself how to code in high school.
When the programming class he was hoping to take his senior year of high school was no longer available, he created his own. He went to the principal and got special permission to teach himself. Then, he developed his own curriculum, and the school provided him with an office, an internet connection and an hour a day to learn the ins and outs of coding.
“I taught myself how to code … I learned algorithms and data structures. I think it really helped when I went to college the next year – it gave me a head start on some of the subjects I got into,” Duncan recalled.
This career path was not just a coincidence for Duncan, but rather a dream he's had his entire life.
“I had always been dreaming of being an entrepreneur,” Duncan said. “I looked up to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and thought, I want to create something really great for the world like these guys. It took me a long time to figure out a path on how to get there.”
The Trailblazers 40 Below honoree said he believes you can achieve anything if you have a goal and create discipline.
“Sometimes motivation is not enough,” Duncan said. “If you have discipline, that will keep you achieving that goal.”
Duncan worked in the technology sector before landing a position at the $780 million Michigan First Credit Union as a programmer/analyst, where he was eventually promoted to software development manager. It was there where he learned the landscape of the technology products available to credit unions – and he wasn't impressed. He said a lot of user interface applications were very dated, some were a decade old and the user experience felt like an afterthought to the product.
“We were dissatisfied with those tools, research capabilities and data capabilities. We were also very dissatisfied with user experience and user interfaces that were being provided by these vendors to members,” Duncan said.
He said he felt like vendors were selling and designing products for managers, but not for the actual members.
Duncan said historically, credit unions have enjoyed a competitive advantage with personal service inside of their communities because they knew their members and communities better than banks did. But, he emphasized, now everything is moving into a digital space where people prefer mobile and online banking, so members are going to the branch less and there is less of an opportunity for credit unions to differentiate with their personalized service.
He thinks credit unions need to take a hard look at their digital channels and online banking, as offering features comparable to what big banks offer won't make them competitive enough.
“I think [credit unions] are going to struggle if they don't offer a better experience in that digital space, if they provide poor quality products,” he said. “If they provide products that don't offer a level of personalized service, they’re going to lose that level of differentiation that's always made credit unions special.”
It was this frustration and dissatisfaction that motivated Duncan to create BankJoy in 2015, which delivers modern banking apps to credit unions and banks, inculding tools for mobile banking, online banking and e-statements. Duncan said it's vital that all of the company's products have a consistent look and feel, as well as functionality across channels.
While the app's functionality remains uniform, BankJoy tailors it to be fully branded for each credit union. The app also allows users to track and manage their financial goals – whether it's buying a home, buying a car or saving for their child's education, Duncan said. The app also gives transparency to the credit union so they can better position their products and services to allow members to better achieve those goals.
“We value the credit union experience that we deliver to our members and we want to create apps that are easy to use and are competitive in the marketplace. That would differentiate us from those big banks as well,” Duncan said.
BankJoy did plenty of research to ensure its products would be successful with users. Before launching the application, the company had potential users come to its office to test out the application.
“We would take video of them doing these tasks; we would watch these videos and find ways to optimize the user experience based on what we were seeing. We went directly to members to understand what kind of product we should build,” Duncan said.
The usability testing seems to be working. The company now has four employees, all of whom have backgrounds in the credit union industry. Two financial institutions are currently using BankJoy products, and they have an agreement in place that's going to bring on an additional 300 institutions.
As the company continues to expand its user base, Duncan plans to continue blazing his own path to success. He added he's motivated by his ability to help others create a successful financial path.
“I’m passionate about the industry – unwavering and caring,” he said. “I care about people's finances to the point where I want them to have a better future.”