When you hear R&D (Research and Development), what comes to mind? Lab coats? Wind tunnels? Endless lines of code?

Ask an engineer with one of many technology firms, and they’ll often give those responses. Good thing, too, since we all want our planes tested before flight, chemicals evaluated before addition to everyday products, and computers that don’t crash.

What if I asked your credit union loan manager? What’s R&D to them? If you’re like most institutions, it’s an acronym they don’t have time to review. The here and now creates value. A loan application just arrived; time to get them approved! Other leads on member vehicle purchases were collected; each member will be contacted for refinancing. Someone else just e-mailed for information on a HELOC. Now there’s an acronym that makes money!

It may not surprise you to learn Apple devoted $1.6 billion to research and development this past quarter. Not year, quarter. With a bank account like theirs, money does grow on trees, so while the rest of us might view a billion dollar investment as a few branches above our reach, that doesn’t mean a smaller scale program cannot hold value. Let’s look at it from a percentage, instead. Apple devoted approximately 4% of sales to their research and development initiatives.

How could you use 4% of your quarterly financials to improve your credit union, the member experience, and come up with new ways to do business? Remember, your competition is not other credit unions and banks; it’s the next new idea that is conceived and implemented so as to make what you do seem outdated and inefficient in comparison. Think about online loan applications or mobile check deposit. Did your team think of those before they were introduced en masse? Once they did become popular, how long until you were able to incorporate them into your own system? In terms of member revenue, how much do you feel was lost by taking more time?

And we’re not even talking about the next big idea. What is it? Ask your research and development team!