PHOENIX — Despite competition from nonbank providers like Google Wallet and a growing consumer shift away from traditional checking accounts, credit unions are best positioned to provide what the consumer of the near future will demand. So said ProfitStars Director of Strategic Insight Lee Wetherington during his May 21 general session at the CUNA CFO Council Conference, held at the Wild Horse Pass Spa.
The financial services consumers of the future will demand transaction services that better enable them to make better financial decisions, including nudges against potentially harmful behavior, Wetherington said. Only their financial institutions have the data to enable such a service, he said.
Nontraditional providers like Google Wallet collect a lot of data, but they strive to be present during a consumer’s “zero moment of truth,” he said, when the ultimate decision to buy is made. In Google’s case, the data collected during a purchase can be used to leverage ad sales.
However, Wetherington said, that big data isn’t as valuable as the data a credit union already has on its core system. Member transaction data can tell a credit union what other financial institutions, products and services they use and how much they pay to use them. The data also provides a record of where members shop, how often and how much they spend.
That’s information consumers need and want when making purchasing decisions.
Third-party providers have already developed ways to provide the services. Wetherington shared an example from the Cedar Falls, Iowa-based software company Banno, which offers an app called Grip that takes mobile banking into the future, providing comparison shopping information along with account aggregation and tradition online banking services.
Members can use their smartphones to not only find the best deal for a product like an iPad, they can also quickly review which accounts have enough funds to pay for it. And, the app also shows the resulting balance in each account should the member decide to make the purchase.
“Only financial institutions can do this,” Wetherington said. “Nudging members when not to buy will differentiate credit unions from other providers.”
Helping members make better informed purchases is not only something they will soon demand, he said, it’s also consistent with the credit union philosophy of thrift.
Mobile payments will eventually eliminate point of sale transactions, he said. Fast food restaurants will develop apps that allow members to bypass lines at the register by placing their orders before they arrive. Instead of waiting in line, they will pick up their order that’s already waiting for them. Starbucks’ partnership with payments provider Square could use payment history to learn a user’s most commonly ordered drink and place the order when the customer walks into the coffee shop, he said. As the customer walks in, his or her photo could appear on an order screen, and a barrista would simply match the drink to the face. Payment would be made through the user’s phone, with little or no need to approach a register.
The mobile payments industry is worth just $270 billion, he said. In comparison, the broader mobile commerce business is estimated to be worth $1 trillion.
Wetherington also discussed “neochecking accounts” that are replacing traditional checking accounts, which are losing favor with consumers due to higher fees and lower dividends.
Check use has declined considerably from 2002, when consumers made 61% of payments by check. In 2011, he said, that number had dropped to just 23%.
For a growing number of consumers, prepaid cards provide better value, enabling them to save hundreds of dollars a year in fees.
Neochecking accounts provide more personal financial management tools and blend prepaid, debit and credit functions into one account. Access to each feature fluctuates as the consumer’s financial position grows or changes, he said.
“This isn’t like when a member qualifies for your platinum checking account, so you close their existing one and open the new one,” he said. “The account dynamically grows with the member through time.”
And, neochecking providers place more emphasis on communicating the account’s benefits.
“Credit unions do a good job of disclosing costs, but they’re not very good at tabulating the communicating the benefits,” he said.
Despite making big gains in market share, credit unions didn’t capture the bulk of consumers who closed their accounts on Bank Transfer Day, he said. Instead, the majority of consumers simply closed one big bank account and opened another.
Wetherington dubbed those who switched “money hawks,” consumers who typically keep more money in deposit accounts and check their account activity several times a day using their smartphones. Because mobile banking access is so important to this group, he said, they returned to big banks because they weren’t willing to give up the robust mobile banking access.