Online Banking Conversion Surge on the Horizon
Feedback and pushback are essential for credit unions seeking to leverage their relationship with their core processing providers to meet the growing demands of online and mobile banking consumers.
That's according to a new report from Aite Group that predicted about 1,000 financial institutions, including hundreds of credit unions, will be converting online banking platforms in the coming years, adding personal financial management and other baseline tools while ramping up their ability to satisfy users of tablets and smartphones.
“The increase will be driven primarily by pent-up demand, dissatisfaction with existing solutions, and the desire of smaller institutions to enhance their consumer online banking capabilities to reduce their costs and meet customer expectations,” Aite analyst David Albertazzi wrote in his 48-page report, “U.S. Core Vendors and Their Consumer Online Banking Solutions.”
There were 286 new consumer online banking contracts signed with leading U.S. core vendors such as FIS, Fiserv, Jack Henry and D+H Henderson compared with 307 in 2012 and 239 in 2011, the report read. Thirty percent of those were with credit unions last year, compared with 36% in 2012 and 24% in 2011.
Looking ahead, Albertazzi predicted 310 contracts will be signed this year, 325 in 2015 and 341 in 2016. Driving this will be a surge in mobile banking users that includes 48 million in 2013 to an estimated 96 million in 2016. That sharp increase was also shown in the rise of U.S. financial institutions offering mobile banking, from a few hundred in 2008 to nearly 14,000 by 2016, out of approximately 16,000 financial institutions nationwide.
The report found commonalities among the big vendors’ approaches including the idea of self-service with an array of integrates financial dashboards, personal finance management and card-linked offers.
“Most vendors strive to offer a seamless, integrated online banking solution across desktops, smartphones and tablets,” Albertazzi wrote.
Read more: Financial institutions play catch-up with mobile ...
The last few years have been difficult for the many financial institutions that were forced to put customer initiatives and growth plans on a back burner as risk management, fraud prevention and regulatory compliance commanded time and resources, he noted.
“In addition, some early adopters are now looking to move beyond a basic solution or a subset of banking functionality found online and have already begun replacing first-generation mobile solutions,” Albertazzi wrote. “These financial institutions are now focusing on enhancing the consumer solution's user experience and offering mobile capabilities to small-business and corporate customers.”
Key core vendors also have been evolving their strategies, Albertazzi said.
“The path to the optimal user experience − integration with other delivery channels while balancing security and risk − is a long one, however, and vendors will be on a journey throughout their next few releases,” he wrote. “Vendors will continue to roll out their new dashboards and PFM widgets and enhance their remote customer servicing capabilities.”
Core processors have long been the technology linchpin upon which all else is built and offered at credit unions. To make the most of that going forward in the online and mobile arena, Albertazzi suggested providing feedback to technology providers.
“Many vendors struggle to get greater participation in user-group meetings or, more broadly, financial institutions’ involvement in and contribution to product roadmaps,” Albertazzi wrote. They need that input from the financial institution, the organization that deals directly with consumers and understands their needs.
He also said smaller institutions should focus on finding a solution that delivers comprehensive and needed features but at the same time, those that don't demand extensive in-house resources or make the delivery channels too complex.
Larger institutions should look for open architecture based on interoperability standards and that can facilitate both front-end and back-end integration, Albertazzi wrote.
Finally, users should expect more and demand the best.
“All financial institutions should continue to place pressure on their technology partners to enhance system usability and functionality,” Albertazzi wrote. “All financial institutions should leverage the broad knowledge base of their technology partners to better understand industry best practices.”
John Best, former chief technologist at the $2.7 billion Wescom Credit Union in Pasadena, Calif., who recently launched Best Innovation Group, a Land O’ Lakes, Fla.-based consulting firm, mostly agreed with Albertazzi's points but added that credit unions should still broaden their search beyond their core processor when it comes time to expand online and mobile services.
“I still think that smaller institutions should also look for a solution that can be extended by a third party if necessary,” Best said. “That way, if they have an initiative that is out of scope for the solution (from the core processor), they have the option of contracting with a third party to get it done. It's critical they have some control over their digital presence.”
Meanwhile, Tim Daley of Cornerstone Advisors in Scottsdale, Ariz., said integration between solutions is critical, for large and small institutions alike.
“A major focus for smaller credit unions should be the ease and extent to which a solution ca be configured,” he explained. “This provides them with the ability to provide a unique look and feel without heavy customization costs.”
Being able to configure without having to rely on the vendor is key, Daley said.
“The successful vendor brings together a solid mobile solution with a solid online solution so multiple administrative and security layers aren't required to maintain,” he added.
Best noted that product streams need to be mixed and matched. For example, a credit union can use remote deposit capture to enhance the basic member app to allow members to take a picture of a check to move money to the credit union, he added.
Daley said Cornerstone consultants also are seeing their clients focus on mobile and online integration with account opening and loan origination.
“All institutions must focus on redirecting purchase decisions and interactions, not just service transactions,” he suggested. “Poor integration artificially limits the capability of an otherwise solid solution.”
Before joining Cornerstone, Daley said he participated in integrating online banking systems following a major credit union merger. He advised looking beyond core and electronic banking integration to include integration to strategic solutions such as analytics.
“Look for a vendor that has a strong product roadmap and history of hitting their product development commitments,” Daley said. “And, while harder to gauge and even harder to find, find a vendor that can react quickly to changing consumer preferences and business requirements. It can mean the difference between a longterm partner and two conversions within six years.”