This chapter translates the product development process into a set of practical strategies and actions for developing and implementing a retail impact investing product. It is intended to be an accessible framework for credit union staff to work through aspects and considerations around product planning and design from pre- to post-launch. It is has been adapted from publications authored by the Joint Forum of Financial Market Regulators and EMC.42

The roadmap provides an illustrative process and set of corresponding activities for the development of a retail impact investment product for credit unions. Individual credit unions may work through each set of steps in sequence or draw on specific components depending on their objectives and prior experience in this area. These steps are typically led at the outset by an internal staff member, the project initiator, who may eventually turn into a project lead or project manager for the product development stages.

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Planning 1
Product Design 2
Pre-Launch 3
Launch 4
Post-Launch 5

Planning is defined as the set of activities and processes that enable a credit union to be ready to explore and to embrace the concept of a retail impact investing product.

  1. Understanding Motivations and Business Drivers: Credit unions should assess motivations, objectives and values around creating a new retail product. This includes an understanding of how the product aligns with short, medium, and long-term goals; and the financial and impact expectations.
  2. Understanding the Landscape for Retail Impact Investment: Identify other relevant or emerging products, review trends and issues that may point to unmet needs or unrealized opportunities, and identify specific questions that will need to be addressed in the formal planning phases.
  3. Exploring External Partnerships: Relationships with partner organizations can help to identify potential financing gaps or needs, opportunities within specific sectors, or community-based groups or organizations that could represent a potential financing need.

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Product Design is defined as the process of collecting (external and internal) information and evidence that helps to build internal support and a business case.

  1. Validating Investor Demand: While anecdotal evidence may suggest that members are interested in impact products, this must be further tested and validated through market research to assess their preferences and beliefs.
  2. Assessing Impact Opportunities: Assessing the impact opportunity can take a number of forms, including in partnership with external partners, intermediary collaborations, or where the credit union may have access to its own pipeline of local impact investment opportunities.
  3. Determining Product Structure: While many considerations for determining product structure are the same as those for developing conventional investment products, there are additional dimensions around financial, risk, regulator and impact measurement factors that should be addressed.

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Pre-Launch is defined as internal processes and activities that enable a credit union and its partner organizations to successfully develop and prepare to launch a product.

  1. Coordinating Internal Processes: Successful strategies for internal coordination have included at least two components: securing executive level buy-in, and identifying champions. Another component is configuring internal systems for new products.
  2. Developing a Marketing Strategy: Examples of potential strategies and actions for a marketing strategy have included the following: clearly identify the value proposition; clarify positioning of the product within broader product suite; and, identify potential target market segments.
  3. Developing a Sales Strategy: While there are many elements of a sales strategy, key components include educating and engaging financial advisors, investment advisors and financial planners, and anticipating member questions and concerns.

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Product Launch refers to the set of activities that aid in the official introduction of a product to the investor market. This stage is typically the first time that external audiences (i.e., members) are exposed to the product.

  1. Issuing a press release is a key component, and should be targeted at segments identified in the marketing strategy.
  2. Convene events: Other strategies include engaging with potential investors is to host information sessions.

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Post-Launch refers to the set of internal activities that evaluate the reception of a product with the investor and community partner audiences and its efficacy at upholding the credit union’s own commitment to corporate social responsibility.

  1. Investor Engagement: Investor engagement requires a deeper set of activities than a conventional marketing strategy. It requires building trust and alignment with investors, and can include constructing narratives to communicate impact.
  2. Community Engagement: Community engagement is necessary to understand how the retail product is meeting needs of investees, and for validating impact reporting and identifying new potential community partners and investees.
  3. Reporting: Credit unions should integrate the financial results and impact of the product into their reporting. Reporting is a core component of internal management and accountability, and can also allow the credit union to reflect on, and to improve, its future product development activities.

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