The care and feeding of personal finance management tools at financial institutions is something that takes constant time and effort.
“PFM is not something that should simply be launched and then forgotten,” said Bryan Clagett, chief marketing officer at online financial management solutions provider Geezeo. “It takes resilience from marketers and technologists to drive adoption and use of the specific PFM benefits. It also requires committed use by consumers, but financial institutions need to lead the effort and show the associated value.”
He added that PFM is essentially a tool that supports a credit union’s position of consumer advocacy.
“Plain and simple, it can bring advocacy to life because the tool supports a position of helping people live within their means,” said Clagett. “The budgeting and cash flow management aspects alone are very valuable. Add to those the ability to proactively help your members with budget-driven alerts and aspirational goals and you have a tool that creates positive engagement with your members on an almost daily basis.”
While it can deliver relevant messaging, Clagett said PFM needs to include strategies that go beyond identifying who has what product.
“In short, we need to gauge propensity. Perhaps the real competition is the member himself and new technology as a whole. Delivery channels are changing quickly and consumers have insatiable needs,” said Clagett. “PFM can be a terrific platform of engagement between a credit union and a consumer. The future is tying the PFM into sales, service and marketing processes to create value for the member and the credit union with every interaction, online and face-to-face.”
With a tech-savvy membership, in mid-2010 Xceed Financial Credit Union began exploring what systems were in the marketplace with a focus on fulfilling key components of its brand: education, ease of use in online interaction and above all a state-of-the-art banking experience.
As the executive responsible for all online products and services, Kathryn Davis, senior vice president at the $756 million El Segundo, Calif.-based credit union, and her team successfully launched a new online banking system in September 2011.
“Our new online banking system is fully integrated with our core system and allows our members to do everything you would want to do online, but it also came with a robust personal financial management system, allowing our members to track and understand their expenses, a purchase rewards program, which ties back to our debit card, and new features such as the ability to transfer payments seamlessly to other institutions or individuals,” said Davis.
More than 18,500 members logged into the new system since the conversion and as a result of the marketing, over 2,000 new users logged on to the online banking system for the first time. Marketing mobile banking was another key initiative for 2011, which saw a significant lift in new users as 2,882 new members used Xceed’s mobile platform. As a result, Xceed ended the year with 5,399 mobile banking users.
“Right now we’re in the process of upgrading our mobile experience, which will also include a new iPad/tablet app,” said Davis. “Our business online banking system was also designed to upgrade the experience we deliver to our business clients, which is a relatively new channel for us. The new system was easier to navigate and included new reporting and wire transfer features.”
Launched in November 2011, over 160 business banking members were converted to the new system and 20 new business banking members signed on within the first month it was unveiled.
On the horizon for both platforms, Davis said, will be the ability for members to make deposits from their phone and/or scanner.
South Carolina Federal Credit Union has been an early adopter of PFM since 2009. What started as a way for the $1.3 billion Charleston, S.C.-based credit union to beat its competition, Regions Bank, to the punch, has become something members find they can’t live without.
“I use FinanceWorks every day and what I like about it is it can be as complicated or as basic as you need it to be,” said Bonnie Karst Ciuffo, chief information officer at SC Federal. “We absolutely wanted to be first to market but really we wanted to offer members a simple way to manage their accounts not just with us but all their accounts to at least allow them to get a handle on their spending.”
According to Ciuffo, about 15,000 members use FinanceWorks and they are on average younger, have about 10% higher income, significantly more products/services per household and almost double the member profitability than an average member or online banking user.
“I think those credit unions that don’t integrate PFM into their strategy are going to lose high valued members who will go where they can transact the way they want,” said Ciuffo. “Certainly find something that integrates with your core or online banking platform and make sure there’s a good PFM growth strategy.”
Members also have access to a merchant –funded rewards programs called Simple Perks. According to Beth Jaskiewicz, senior vice president of marketing at SC Federal, both strategies are a way to deepen the credit union’s relationship with members by offering solutions that are sticky enough to retain both the members’ interest and their business.
Here’s how it works. Debit card holders who use online banking log in and see offers either by scrolling through transaction history or by checking the Simple Perks island inside online banking. End users will see offers based on where they have recently made a purchase, and based on the merchants in the program. The Simple Perks island shows the number of new offers available, the number of offers the member has accepted for future use, and the amount earned this month. Actual cash rewards are posted the following month.
“For example, I made a recent purchase at Walmart Supercenter and I now have an offer to earn up to 10% cash back with a purchase at The Sports Authority,” said Jaskiewicz. “Members get actual cash rewards when they make purchases with offering merchants. The tool is simple to use and you can easily see how much you’re earning in cash rewards. As the program is merchant-funded the cost to the credit union is really minimal.”