Retirement Apps Keeping Pace
Meeting with members daily, Robert Cribbs has to know when to act fast as he manages an airtight schedule.
A financial adviser at Elevations Wealth Management Services, a division of the $1.3 billion Elevations Credit Union in Boulder, Colo., Cribbs has turned to mobile technology to take some of the load off. He uses the Mobile Scanning App from broker-dealer CUSO Financial Services and its sister company, Sorrento Pacific Financial LLC.
“In my business, my assistant is rarely near me. I travel between quite a few different branches every day,” said Cribbs, who is an adviser through CUSO Financial. “Therefore, it takes an extra day or two to inter-office documents to her for scanning.” He said he uses the app if he needs something scanned and processed quickly such as when a client is requesting a distribution and needs the money fast.
“If it's just a simple form like a transaction cover sheet or ACH form, it's not worth the time for those simple docs to be sent to my assistant when it only takes me a minute to scan it in myself,” Cribbs explained. “It's a technology I’ve been waiting on for years.”
According to CFS, the mobile scanning app allows advisers to remotely and securely capture client investment documentation such as new account forms, transfer forms, check copies and other activities. The app automatically uploads the information to a CFS/SPF web-based account management system and is available for iOS users on iPad, iPod and iPhone devices as well as Android devices.
“Members are demanding more mobility and the fact that everyone has access to a mobile device opens up a wide opportunity for closer and more in-depth communication and relationship building,” said Valorie Seyfert, president/CEO of CUSO Financial and Sorrento Pacific in San Diego.
There are 215 advisers using the mobile scanning app, according to Seyfert. The tool also
initiates the work flow process quicker, often saving a day or two that would otherwise be lost in transmittal and administrative processing, she explained. This enables the adviser to spend more time meeting with members to do more business, which increases invested amounts, assets and revenue.
Seyfert said CFS is currently working on a release that will be coming later this year to allow the app to be used directly by members. The goal is to serve them at remote locations so that they can instantly transmit documents to the adviser and into the system in an easy one-step process. As more and more credit unions provide services to a geographically diverse membership base, this solution will increase the advisers’ scope and reach, she noted.
Michael Gennawey, a CFS financial adviser at the $711 million Credit Union of Southern California in Whittier, Calif., said the app has lowered his administrative workload since it's a point and click process.
“This is helpful for me not just because it is always readily available but also because the scan quality is better than any flatbed unit I have ever used. I have an iPhone 5s,” said Gennawey. “A mobile scanning application shortens processing time and ensures no re-dos for poor scan quality.”
The CFS/SPF mobile scanning app is getting attention outside of the credit union industry. Earlier this month, it received a Technology Innovation award from the Bank Insurance & Securities Association.
“Tapping into the reach and power of mobile technology opens the door to expand our services to a wider group of members and clients,” Seyfert said. “With the added convenience and efficiency, there are lots of opportunities to attract new clients and additional assets.”
Another BISA Technology Innovation award-winning tool is CUNA Mutual Group's ZONE tablet app. Financial advisers, including those from CUNA Mutual's broker-dealer, CUNA Brokerage Services Inc., use it to present investment options for CUNA Mutual's new, registered index annuity, MEMBERS Zone Annuity with easy-to-understand terms and engaging visuals, the company said.
The ZONE allows advisers and customers to customize a zone of risk and reward aligned with their investment goals using the MEMBERS Zone Annuity product. The way it works is a customer designs a personal zone of risk and reward, and then uses it to evaluate how the annuity might perform over time using hypothetical investment returns and market scenarios, according to CUNA Mutual.
“The mobile app takes what's very complex and what most people have a real hard time sorting through and the advisers can use it to simplify and explain the decisions the members are making,” said Bob Buckingham, annuity product vice president for CUNA Mutual.
The ZONE app has helped speed up annuity product knowledge with members who are then able to grasp the features and benefits much quicker, said Mike Albert a CBSI financial adviser for the $738 million Collins Community Credit Union in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As a result, annuity sales have led to a 50% increase in its program's production in 2013 over 2012, he noted,
“Technology is changing, the way we communicate and educate the member is changing and I feel that using an iPad to illustrate the features and benefits of this annuity engages the member into the experience,” Albert said.
Moving forward, technology will continue to impact the way advisers do business, Albert predicted. For instance, in the near future, he sees FaceTiming with members.
“Imagine you have a client that winters down south. We will soon FaceTime with them while they are wintering away to stay in touch with them and keep them aware of their financial situation,” said Albert. “Whereas now we do that but it's via the telephone.”
And it's not just young clients that are embracing the changes. At the $995 million Goldenwest Credit Union in Ogden, Utah, a high percentage of pre-retirees and retirees have become comfortable using the ZONE app to access information, said Tyler Holbrook, a CBSI financial adviser at the credit union.
“Adapting to these new avenues of working with members is a must,” Holbrook emphasized. “These tools are speeding up the way we relay information to the public and that translates directly into more time to serve our members.”
Holbrook said annuity sales picked up significantly in the second half of 2013 as the ZONE app was made available at Goldenwest last August.
Buckingham said the MEMBERS Zone Annuity product reached $22 million in the first month after launch and first-year sales exceeded a $30 million target set last year by $60 million. Since its debut, mobile application usage among licensed advisers increased more than 400% in the last quarter of 2013, and the bounce rate was reduced by more than 50% from existing apps, according to CUNA Mutual.