As we get further into 2011, the credit crisis that began in late 2007 continues to reverberate. It seems almost weekly, I read about another financial institution merger or closure. Still, call me an eternal optimist; I believe industry consolidation presents new opportunities for institutions.
Here are a few areas where I think financial institutions could focus their IT dollars to achieve these objectives, while staying mindful of some obvious challenges in the current economy.
Mobile banking seems to be on everyone’s radar now. As the smartphone has become a mainstay for virtually everyone from professionals to college students, financial institutions have new opportunities to offer customers banking services, no matter where they are, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
One area that could be valuable – to both the consumer and the institution – is mobile check deposit technology. Keeping the obvious security issues in mind, I believe this technology presents a win-win scenario. Not only will customers have the convenience they desire, but credit unions will be able to cast a wider geographic footprint to reach customers who were previously considered “out of bounds” for practical purposes.
As I alluded to in a recent article, “Don’t Believe Reports of the Death of the Paper Check,” in the Credit Union Times, checks may still have a place in the 21st century!
Outsourced Records Management
The advent of paperless everything has indeed provided institutions and customers alike with greater conveniences and cost savings. As a result, the volume of electronic documents and data has soared exponentially and will continue to grow. IDC, a global research firm, predicts that annual data generation will be nearly 35 zettabytes by 2020. To give it some perspective, according to a University of California, San Diego report (“How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers”), if 3.6 zettabytes of text in books were printed and stacked as tightly as possible across the U.S., including Alaska, the pile would be 7 feet high. This is a tremendous amount of data!
Partnering with a robust records management provider can help credit unions properly manage data by allocating the appropriate amount of capital and resources to solve this data growth problem. Additionally, as new requirements put pressure on how data is managed, having a trusted and thorough records management system could help credit unions meet legal compliance requirements, such as the ability to easily and rapidly locate data for eDiscovery requests.
There is no question that mobile payments are a force to be reckoned with. According to Aite Group, U.S. mobile bill payments, which reached $16 billion in 2010, could top $214 billion in gross dollar volume in 2015. While I don’t believe checks, cash and credit cards will disappear anytime soon, the once-futuristic notion that one could buy a Starbucks coffee with a cell phone is now a reality.
Indeed, there are tremendous opportunities for credit unions to leverage mobile payments technology, but this is an area that needs a measured approach. As social networking sites, telecom companies and other technology companies venture into mobile payments, financial institutions risk losing revenue if they don’t find a way to get in the game.
Credit unions should approach mobile payments as an innovation that could provide new revenue sources as well as greater depth of services for their customers but only if it is offered, and managed, through the institution.
As the industry continues to evolve, credit unions will need to leverage technologies that will enhance revenue, customer retention and regulatory compliance. Careful planning and implementation of secure, consumer-friendly innovations could be vital to a long-term winning strategy.
Glenn Wheeler is president of Viewpointe Clearing, Settlement & Association Services in New York City.