'Technology Champions' Tout Digital Services at Mountain America
At the $3.5 billion Mountain America Credit Union, it’s a snap for members to tap into technology, thanks to 78 specially trained employees that answer questions, give demonstrations and provide hands-on assistance.
To promote new products and services such as P2P and mobile deposits, the 419,000-member Utah credit union has staffed each of its 76 branches, along with its service center and education department, with a designated “technology champion.”
"There's nothing like hands-on help with technology, so we've turned every branch into a mini tech haven for our members," said Rob Cummings, senior vice president of online and mobile banking for the West Jordan-based credit union.
"In addition to helping members, our technology champions are also a valuable conduit for member feedback, allowing us to improve our online and mobile offerings faster and more effectively,” Cummings said.
Putting tech champs in every branch is already paying off, the MACU executive said.
“We found that once members were given a brief demonstration, they became frequent, repeat users of our technology solutions,” Cummings said.
In the first third of 2013, he said, MACU experienced more than 35,000 new mobile app downloads and currently has 85,000 active app users. In addition, he said, the credit union is averaging more than 8,000 new users monthly of its "My Money Manager" online personal financial management tool.
“As expert users, our branch tech champions can field a wide variety of product questions, but they are not expected to take the place of our dedicated technology product support team in our service center,” he said. “Their primary role is to generate excitement about our technology products, and engage members and employees.”
As one part of the technology champ initiative, the credit union has implemented a branch-wide “Tech Tuesday” program. During the weekly event, staff members wear “Tech Tuesday” shirts and talk to members about their credit union’s electronic tools.
The tech champs also teach other employees about new technology by hosting training sessions and other events to equip staff with the skills and information needed to effectively promote products and services.
The technology champion program was spurred by two reasons, Cummings said.
“First, we needed a way to educate our branch personnel about our technology products so they can effectively field the steady increase in member questions,” he explained. “Second, we needed a channel to explain the value of technology to our membership.“
Another factor was the downward trend in branch activity that is occurring as an increasing number of members turn to digital channels to conduct banking transactions, according to Cummings.
“Considering that more transactions are performed every day via Mountain America's online and mobile services than in all of our branches combined, we can see our members are rapidly embracing technology solutions,” he said.
Next Page: Training and ROI
Training employees is a long-standing priority at MACU and the credit union’s board recognizes the value of developing talent from within, according to Suzanne Oliver, senior vice president of educational services and governmental affairs for MACU, which was recently ranked for the third time by Training Magazine as one of the top 125 providers of employer-sponsored workforce training and development.
To determine ROI, Cummings said, the credit union measures monthly branch level usage growth of each of our technology products, particularly those that accomplish one of three things:
1. Increased engagement with the credit union
2. Reduced operational costs
3. Additional product usage
Selecting the tech champs and training them required a commitment from MACU’s leadership, according to Cummings, but the investment is paying off. He said the credit union selected technology champions from many different branch roles, including member service representatives, operations supervisors and assistant managers.
“The champion for each branch is selected by the branch manager from among their employees using a list of qualifications which include being a highly engaged, motivated employee who is passionate about and uses our technology products, having a technical aptitude and an ability to excite their co-workers,” he said.
“Once a branch manager has selected the champion, the champion comes to the corporate office for a full-day training session on our products and the operations of the program, then participates in weekly operational calls and monthly product calls to keep them up to speed going forward. The champion is then given responsibility to teach and excite the rest of the branch about our technology products,” Cummings said.
He said other credit unions should implement similar programs and offers this advice:
“I would recommend careful selection of your champions to make sure they are passionate and already personally engaged with your technology.
“The second biggest success factor is a supportive manager who empowers the champion and defends the time needed for that person to share with the branch. So I would recommend covering the value of this program and your support of it clearly in a manager’s meeting.”