Credit union membership today is undoubtedly diversifying. While this is a welcomed evolution, it requires supporting a growing number of diverse member expectations.
Continuously meeting the needs of existing members is paramount, but credit unions must also work to better engage younger, more progressive prospective members. And following last year’s Bank Transfer Day, there is now a need to satisfy a greater number of former bank customers that made the switch, highlighting the member service that has always separated credit unions from other financial institutions.
Beyond adding new products and services, credit unions should also consider the channel convergence already in process for promotions, cross selling and service functionality. Channel options serve existing and prospective members while enabling credit unions to improve efficiencies and recognize new operational cost savings.
Online and mobile banking are now more often viewed as one in the same with consumers increasingly accessing the Internet via mobile devices. With that in mind, credit unions must make strides to align online and mobile channels, providing members options for applying and accessing these products and services.
Today’s Membership Snapshot
Credit unions are still seeing the growth ignited by last November’s Bank Transfer Day, which contributed to an already evolving membership base. According to CUNA, approximately 1.9 million consumers have made the switch. We have yet to fully see the impact of these members, though economists expect to see greater traction on credit unions’ bottom line by later this year.
As new members embrace the overall credit union experience, they will expect the same level of convenience and product availability they had at their previous bank.
Sadly, many institutions wrongly view online and mobile services as a means to satisfy what they consider the more tech-savvy Gen Y members. However, a recent survey from the American Bankers Association showed a jump in online banking as the preferred banking method among the 55-plus age group to 57% in 2011.
Unlike the traditional mindset, and what may have even been true a few years ago, every age demographic more or less wants choices to access the institution how, where and when they prefer.
With members of all ages demanding more advanced offerings, credit unions must invest in new channels to remain relevant. A May 2012 Rosetta survey identified the most frequent uses of online banking as checking account balances and recent activity, making individual bill payments, transferring money and obtaining financial information.
Naturally, demand is also rising for online and mobile services such as account enrollment and e-signature capabilities to sign documents from locations outside the physical branch infrastructure. Since credit unions typically do not have a branch on every corner like the regional and national financial institutions, their desire to remain competitive provides an extra incentive to make new, convenient product offerings standard.
Reap the Rewards of Meeting Demands
Today’s diverse and more sophisticated member base comes with high expectations for service options and technology. While meeting all those demands might appear unfeasible, providing a strong, unified online and mobile platform engages current and potential members while reducing a credit union’s costs.
A March 2011 TowerGroup study found that migrating in-branch transactions to mobile devices results in tangible cost savings; mobile banking customers perform an average of 15 to 20 mobile transactions per month, eliminating those contact center costs.
Beyond creating tangible cost savings, self-service channels also improve the productivity of credit union employees and enable them to offer more focused in-branch service. More mobile transactions allow a credit union to more often shift their focus from day-to-day administrative and transaction responsibilities to cross-selling opportunities.
Marc DeCastro, research director for IDC Financial Insights, recently commented that, “We [IDC] believe that in the long term mobile and online will be on one platform." According to this outlook, credit unions must commit to channel convergence and plan now to achieve an end goal of device and browser autonomy.
Credit unions pride themselves on superior service, and channel convergence supports this service philosophy by creating a win-win situation: members are satisfied with advanced offerings and technology while self-service options reduce credit unions’ overall operating costs. By focusing on the integrated growth and promotion of online and mobile channels, credit unions can reallocate resources toward promotions, cross selling or other technology goals.
As you make 2013 budgeting decisions, focus not just on the “now”, but rather what will allow your credit union to flourish for years to come in an increasingly competitive arena.