Cheri Speier-Pero, associate dean of undergraduate programs

Cheri Speier-Pero, associate dean of undergraduate programs, has been selected by the Filene Research Institute as a research fellow, leading its recently launched Center of Excellence for Data Analytics and the Future of Financial Services.

Speier-Pero has been able to establish connections with Filene’s leaders over the last few years, and when she was recommended for this role, she was eager to apply. Now, she will spearhead a three-year research project dedicated to helping credit unions prepare for the future of financial services through data analytics.

In this Q&A, Speier-Pero shares how she’ll be working with Filene’s research team, academics across the country and credit unions and firms in other industries to develop and implement processes where credit unions will drive value from their analytics initiatives.

Broad News: What are you looking forward to contributing as the leader of the Filene Center of Excellence for Data Analytics and the Future of Financial Services?

Speier-Pero: What I love about this role is the applied nature of the activity. The Center director role takes my former faculty director for the Master of Science in Business Analytics role and puts it on steroids.

In the MSBA role, much of my time supported firm or organizational analytics projects that were a foundation of the experiential learning philosophy of the program. All students would participate in corporate projects each semester, and time was spent working with companies to define analytics projects, support student teams and identify faculty mentors to provide project-level support.

As I look at the “ecosystem” framing of Filene’s Center of Excellence, I believe we will have an opportunity to take what we learned from designing effective MSBA projects and developing a fabric of university–credit union partnerships that can provide hands-on student learning across a breadth of academic institutions while providing tremendous value for credit unions around the country.

Broad News: What excites you about this research project and your role as a Filene research fellow?

Speier-Pero: First, I’m honored to have been selected to serve in this role. Given the high-quality, impactful research that Filene directly generates and supports through its Center of Excellence model, it is truly an honor to serve in this role.

From my own academic/research experiences, I am a true believer in the power of analytics and “data-driven” thinking. That being said, like any technological initiative, we have to be cognizant about the context — it’s the counterpart to having an analytics hammer where everything looks like an analytics problem (nail).

I truly believe that implementing effective analytics solutions are more nuanced, and at the same time, an organization can start small to create value-added wins. While analytics is no longer a “new” concept, there are many organizations that are in the early stages of their analytics journey. Regardless of where on the journey a credit union is, I look forward to our research providing direction to support analytics projects and strategies that deliver value.

Broad News: Other than the results of the research, what do you hope to gain from this experience?

Speier-Pero: I fundamentally believe in the credit union philosophy — credit unions are not-for-profit and their members (customers) are the owners. I had the opportunity to serve on the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union Board of Directors and was able to see how this philosophy translates into products and services that support customers across a broad spectrum of society. I believe that effective application of analytics can support any credit union in better supporting its mission to its members.

Broad News: How will your work as a Filene research fellow tie into your academic work at Broad?

Speier-Pero: Academic research is focused on creating new knowledge, and I think the Filene Center of Excellence for Data Analytics will provide a platform to create highly applied knowledge facilitating credit union identification, development and implementation of analytics and analytics thinking that will drive value for the credit union and its members. I’m always excited about applied research as it enables stakeholders within our community — be it East Lansing, Michigan, or around the globe — to create value.

From a more traditional academic perspective, I believe this research will provide insights into how any organization can successfully create and deliver upon an analytics strategy.

I think the greatest value, however, may be in better understanding how academic–organizational partnerships can be designed and delivered to provide students necessary and invaluable learning opportunities while simultaneously supporting credit unions on their analytics journey. I’ve published a couple of articles in this space and anticipate extending this work.

Broad News: What impact do you expect your research to have?

Speier-Pero: I believe the Filene Center of Excellence will have impact, first and foremost, for credit union success in implementing analytics initiatives and strategies. At the same time, I believe much of what we learn in the process of developing credit union success stories will apply to firms across the financial services sector and, in some cases, all industries. I believe this research will help us better understand an analytics ecosystem, most specifically, around university–organizational partnerships.

Lastly, I believe this research can deepen our understanding regarding experiential learning and how we, in academia, can partner with our external stakeholders in effective and meaningful ways to facilitate student development, meaningful career placement and ultimately long-term career success.