Innovation and Partnership Shines a Bright Light in Dark Times


Mastercard® Vice President Paul Tobin and Consumers’ Electronic Payments Manager Katie Warren join us to announce an exciting surprise and talk about the strong partnership between Consumers and Mastercard.



00:06 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home. Welcome in everyone. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union, from finance to fitness. We have it all. Let me tell you this … this week’s podcast is all about finance and how you, well, you use it every day, right? Well, listen up, we’ve got a really special communication in to talk about. We’ve got a really special announcement that we want to talk to you about, and those two individuals that are with us today, Katie Warren, electronic payments manager for Consumers Credit Union, and our special guest, Paul Tobin, vice president of Mastercard. What a partnership we have! Thank you so much for joining us. Katie, let’s start it off with you. Tell us a little bit about why we’re here today.

00:50 Katie Warren: Thanks, Lynne. We’re here today because we have accepted a great honor from Mastercard, and we received one of their community segment awards for innovation this year, and we’re super thrilled about that.

01:04 LJJ: And Paul, thank you so much for taking the time with us today, too. We’re going to get into that innovation award. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Paul. How you got into Mastercard and our partnership.

01:16 Paul Tobin: Sure, happy too. And very happy to be with you guys today talking about this, this is like I said, Lynne, this is the fun stuff. So been with Mastercard for 23 years. I started in college actually, and had a really, really important job, customer service, and then sort of worked my way through different various operations, customer support roles. Spent some time, Lynne, doing technology account management, and then moved into the fraud world. And then for the past nine years, I’ve been in North American markets, managed US Bank, Bank of America, and most recently, I get to partner with Katie in the community institution segment. So, it’s been a fun year in this space, and it’s been a great journey thus far.

02:00 LJJ: Well, Paul, we love our exclusive partnership with Mastercard, and Katie, you know what, you actually have really … Your background is a lot like Paul’s, you kind of grew up in consumers.

02:11 KW: Yes, I have. So I actually started at what was our corporate office on Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo as the office manager there, and then I opened our Corner@Drake office at Costco a couple of years later, and then I moved to my current role in operations.

02:29 LJJ: Well, I’ll tell you what, we take for granted every day what we do with banking, with our credit cards and our debit cards, it’s something that… The only time you really think about it is when something doesn’t work, and that happens to everybody. What I think is awesome is the fact that we’re talking today about a program that … You know, the world changed in March, like a drastic, drastic change. And, Katie, I think that you’d agree with me that we have a partnership in Mastercard that truly helped us be able to turn on a dime when all of a sudden the world started slowing down because of the pandemic.

03:12 KW: Definitely, definitely agree with that Lynne. Our partnership with Mastercard is such a huge backing and support for both our debit and credit cards. So many of the benefits that come with those are provided to our members through Mastercard, and they’re not something that the credit union on our own could provide. They’re so much bigger than that, and they serve our members every day while they’re out and about in the world or when they lose their card, or unfortunately, if they ever have fraud on their cards. So it’s a huge partnership to both the credit union and the membership.

03:43 LJJ: Well, I know, Paul, I had the great pleasure of talking with you last year in person, and this year because of COVID, we’re doing a podcast, which is awesome. But last year was the first time that we had decided, “Hey, let’s dip our feet in the water and really kind of find out what this Community Institution Segment Awards are all about that you have.” And lo and behold, did we not win last year for ArtPrize, but I think you have an announcement today.

04:14 PT: Yeah, we do. And first, if you don’t mind, Lynne, just to remind the listener, I’ll sort of give a background on what these Segment Awards means. So, this is our second annual Mastercard Segment Awards, and basically we provide three categories of which community institutions can win in. The first one is innovation. So it’s most creative and most impactful use of technology to better a cardholder or a member. The second is doing well by doing good, and that’s leveraging your best assets in the community to help the membership. And the third is this Priceless partner, and it’s when a customer uses the Mastercard Priceless assets, again to drive business forward. So I’m very pleased to announce that Consumers has won a Segment Award in the innovation space for the amazing work Katie and team have done around the digital initiative for training and the interactive live process that you guys have, which blew our socks off when we saw the nomination and, therefore, you guys won.


05:19 LJJ: This is so exciting. Katie, what’s your thoughts on that?

05:24 KW: Yeah, we are thrilled. I was so excited when we got the call from Mastercard and then obviously doubly excited when the award came in the mail. We, last year, like you said Lynne, we had the awesome pleasure of doing something great with ArtPrize and winning this award through Mastercard last year. And when the year started, I didn’t think ever that we would have an opportunity to kind of do it again and to do it in a different category. So unfortunately, with the pandemic coming, we’ve had to find a way to serve our members and that pressure made us think fast and move fast, and we were able to serve our members in a different way, which led to winning this award.

06:08 LJJ: So I think one of the things that we take for granted is the fact that you know what, you wake up, and if you got to do your banking away you go, you can go to any of our offices, you can bank online. Mastercard has been so strong and supportive and what you talked about a little bit earlier with any fraud prevention and just ensuring that we educate our members about how you can now pay by mobile. What really happened during the pandemic? And, Paul, what did you see that that really kind of just went, “Holy cow, they took this to a new level”?

06:42 PT: Yeah. So, to be quite honest, Lynne, March and, you know, February, March, April this year was very dark days for all of us, and dark days for Mastercard as well. And I think we made a conscious decision during those dark days of COVID, when everyone was, “freaking out,” the stock market was down, spend was down, what we decided as a company, really was to lean in to our partners. And instead of moving away during a crisis, we really made a conscious effort to move in during the crisis. And I think, where we have similar philosophies is we felt, Lynne, that our partners will remember how they were treated during COVID, quite frankly. And we wanted to bring thought leadership ideas to the table and really lean in to Consumers and to say, “We’re here for you. What do you need from us? And how can we help you?”

07:46 PT: And what I love was, Consumers did the same thing, where they leaned into their members and they didn’t shy away from the crisis, and they got innovative with how you do digital banking to make you, honestly, compete but also to provide a real relevant service to your members. And that is why the shared philosophy between Mastercard-Consumers is so important to us, is that while we leaned in, you leaned in. And, Lynne, we don’t see that across the board all the time. We’ve seen some institutions pull back a little bit from their customers and their members; we’ve seen them pull back on credit. So the fact that Consumers leaned in such a way with Katie and team was actually a tremendous move during a very dark time.

08:31 LJJ: So, Katie, explain to us, Paul mentioned the Interactive Tellers and what happened in that period of time, because we really did shift immediately into helping our members in a new and unique way.

08:49 KW: Yes, so early this year, it was business as usual. We had 32 Interactive Tellers added to the current fleet of tellers that we have today. We had eight full-time TellerPlus+ representatives helping the members. And then like Paul said, COVID came, and all the sudden, we had the Stay Home, Stay Safe order here in Michigan, and we had to close our offices. And we still wanted to serve our members. So, we mobilized all of our teammates that worked in the office and found ways for them to still serve members, even if they had to do it from home, even though the offices couldn’t be open. So, we more than doubled our team. By April 1st, we had 34 people serving through our Interactive Tellers, our membership, and we were able to close our offices to keep our employees home, keep them safe but still allow them to serve members and work. And the members were so appreciative of it. Like Paul said, it was dark times, but people still need to bank, they still need to make sure that their debit and credit cards work, that they can still maybe not go get groceries but order groceries.

10:06 KW: So, we empowered our teams to work a different way and to still serve our members, which is really what our mission is, and what every single person here at Consumers is really passionate about. That was what the award was for, and I think it’s just such a great way to get to see the end of the pandemic, but as we keep moving forward, it’s been a great way to kind of celebrate what we’ve been through and what we’ve done during that time period.

10:32 LJJ: I’ll tell you what, it truly was a[n] eye-opening experience and in the sense of what both you and Paul have said, which is, our goal is to help the member. Our goal is to help our communities. And Paul, how does the partnership of Consumers and Mastercard… How does that help cardholders? Again, I think just people… You have your cards. You take for granted the things that work, but the reasons they work are because of what you both just talked about, innovation and partnership.

11:09 PT: Yeah, Lynne, it’s a good question. You know, and I think it’s probably dangerous saying this on a podcast, but I’ll say it anyway. At the end of the day, a member is loyal to Consumers. They’re not necessarily… As much as I would love to say yeah, a member is loyal to Mastercard or Visa, the answer’s no. So, they’re loyal to Consumers, Lynne. And it’s your brand, and your interaction with a member, your… The way you do business with a member is what drives that member to Consumers. Where Mastercard comes into play is think of us as really your engine in the backroom, and we are delivering value to Consumers. It could be through benefits. It could be through fault fraud consults; and it could be us helping you with your chargebacks. It could be us helping you with marketing. It could be us providing our consulting services to help Consumers think differently about members.

12:16 PT: So we’re sort of your engine that drives Consumers upward that then you take that value that we’re providing as your partner, and then you are then relaying that value in the different innovation that you guys are doing with your members. So that’s how I view partnership with Consumers.

12:38 LJJ: Well, we view it as priceless Paul, so thank you for that. Do me a favor Katie and take a look at the big picture. You know, when we look at our teamwork, our synergy, not only with Mastercard, but everybody at Consumers that pulled this off, that’s got to make you just really so proud of what the members are saying back to you, “Wow, thank you so much.”

13:01 KW: It really does, Lynne. So, we had so many departments come together to make it possible to serve members during the pandemic and continue to serve members to be quite honest. So, part of this process and for us to move so quickly involved not just our Interactive Teller team but our IT department had to provide people with new technology. Not only physically, we all were sent home in essence and not all of us had stuff to work from home ’cause we’re not… Prior to this not remote employees for the credit union. So our HR and training departments had to pool together some training, and that was one of the success stories here, too, is that we moved our traditional training from three days down to one day so we could more quickly serve members and get more folks running. And then of course, our marketing team did an amazing job communicating to members how they could bank with us. And I think that was huge for our membership, because everybody started panicking. We’re home, you can’t go get groceries, you can’t go do things, you know, “How am I going to get done the things that are critical or essential?” And so our marketing team made sure that the members were getting information all the time. Quite honestly, the only thing I did was make sure I stay good friends with Paul and our friends at Mastercard. And so I could help work with them and accept the award so that was pretty awesome, too.


14:29 LJJ: You’re humble, Katie. Thank you. You’re humble. Hey Paul, the Community Institute Segment Awards, they must inspire you, reading all of the winners and what your partners do, what a fun way to celebrate.

14:47 PT: You know, Lynne, you’re spot on. And like I said, I’ve been in North America markets for nine years. And this past year, honestly, it’s been the most rewarding year of my career. And I will say like… Look, at the end of the day, you get up, you do your job, you’re in credit card. I’m not invited to my kid’s school to talk about credit cards; it’s the firefighter. Kids are like, “What do you do?” Well, I’m like, “Well, I push Mastercard.” To see really what credit unions like yourselves do in the community and how you really help people, to me, that… Like I said, you get up, you go to work, but to me, this is different. This is the fun stuff about the job. This is when you get to talk to Katie about how they’ve changed the dime around interaction, around digital channel and how you can serve your members during such a dark crisis. For me, to be able to see the great work that seek community institutions credit unions do and to be able to then celebrate what they’re doing with a nice award, is that’s the fun stuff about the job. And actually, my kids are actually now interested in what I do and they weren’t before. I guess, I owe Katie that I’m now cool.

16:08 LJJ: I love it. Truly, I think that the last few months has shown one thing for all of us listening who changed everything in their life and every single one of us did, it is the friendships, it is the colleagues, it is that family background and it is these partnerships that continue to make a huge difference in the lives of our members and each one of us. Paul, I cannot thank you enough for our partnership. Katie, as humble as you are, thank you so much for continuing to have that vision of how to improve and how to innovate. It is just an honor to talk with you both.

16:50 PT: Yeah, it’s our honor. And I would say my last comment would be: Katie is humble and she shouldn’t be, because we have hundreds and hundreds of customers and credit unions in our space. And for Consumers to win two years in a row, specifically around the competitive category of innovation, you guys should be very proud of what you’ve done.

17:09 LJJ: Well, we certainly are. And Paul, I promise you this, there will be a celebration in person at some point.

17:16 PT: Alright, I hope so. And we’ll have Katie buy the drinks.


17:21 LJJ: With her Mastercard.

17:22 PT: That’s right.

17:24 LJJ: Hey, thank you all. Thanks so much for listening in this week. And if you have a topic you’d like us to share, just send them our way. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Thank you, Jake Esselink for your unbelievable recording skills and editing skills. All of you, have a great week. Money, I’m Home, from finance to fitness with Consumers Credit Union.



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