8 Digital Strategies for Long-Term Growth
Having an online and mobile presence is no longer enough. The evolution of financial services involves enabling a digital member community, which increasingly demands more personalized and efficient services.
A 2016 Javelin study predicted 80% of consumers will be using mobile banking by 2020.
“So, a strong foundation has a strong mobile app as evidenced by app store ratings, member feedback and engagement rates,” Kristen Bernard, senior director at NCR Digital Insight, said. She added when credit unions make it easy for their members to access information and make informed decisions, the engagement with the member via digital channels increases.
A recent report from the Atlanta-based FI Navigator, published with the Boston-based Celent, found almost 6,500 financial institutions offered mobile banking. In addition, mobile deposit has evolved to an implementation level of 63%, and bill pay is available at almost 90% of financial institutions.
Consumer use of digital channels leads to increased retention, as does the use of certain features like bill pay, according to FI Navigator CEO/Founder Steve Cotton.
“In addition, financial institutions offering bill pay enjoy 30.3% higher customer enrollment to deposit accounts than those that do not,” he said.
So what long-term digital strategies should credit unions consider?
“Growing members is really the strength in your future franchise. The demographic shift is a concern for credit unions. Millennials want all the pieces in one location and not scattered throughout the app or website,” Lee Butke, president/CEO for the Columbus, Ohio-based, $3.7 billion Corporate One Federal Credit Union, explained.
“It is so important for us to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing technology landscape,” Amanda Smith, manager of emerging products and integration for the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based CO-OP Financial Services, said. “Digitization is something that should be infused throughout a credit union's strategic plan and should not be limited to a digital banking strategy. Think about chat bots for member service and self-service kiosks that augment your teller lines.”
Here are eight other digital strategies to consider:
1. Build one-channel platforms. “Credit unions must start thinking about a single platform to drive all digital, from internet to mobile and beyond,” Robb Gaynor, founder and chief product officer for the Austin, Texas-based Malauzai, said. This gives credit unions a consistent look and feel for all members across all channels, he explained.
Gaynor also pointed out the days of buying mobile point solutions are starting to end.
“Yes, credit unions are still pursuing best-in-class solutions, especially those stuck in longer term internet banking contracts, but about 50% of Malauzai's pipeline is now platform deals – internet, mobile consumer and business all rolled into one.”
2. Simplify the member experience. Butke explained credit unions should try to incorporate best mobile engagement practices into the financial environment members trust.
“[Credit unions should] not only have a form on the website to sign up for accounts, but have the capability to roll over account information,” he noted.
Cotton also suggested credit unions supplement in-branch account origination by investing more in mobile and online account origination tools.
“Online account origination remains a friction point in member origination, as it is predominantly done at the branch,” he said. “But it doesn't have to be.”
Some credit unions are using mobile cameras to open accounts.
“Take a picture of a driver's license, enter a few bits of data and the account is opened in under 10 minutes. This is becoming a must-have for credit unions,” Gaynor said.
3. Use a mobile-like web design with evolving features. “Credit unions are starting to radically overhaul their internet design, making them mirror or look a lot more like mobile,” Gaynor noted.
Some frequently-visited sites such Amazon and Southwest have done this very successfully.
“Credit unions want this, they want all channels to look and act the same,” he said. “And they want it to be as easy to use as mobile.”
Gaynor said a few key features for credit unions to pursue include debit and credit card management, noting more than 250 financial institutions now offer debit and credit card controls in their mobile bank offering. This allows members to turn on and off their debit card to stop fraud or set up a geo-fence to limit their plastic use. In the next 12 to 18 months, more than 1,000 institutions are likely to offer these types of services, Gaynor predicted.
4. Define a consumer-centric, holistic strategy. Bernard explained credit unions should define a strategy that centers on the consumer.
“Retailers are already changing to meet consumers where they are, offering a mix of online and offline options to engage and complete transactions,” he said. “Credit unions should do the same, always evolving to ensure every touch point is reconsidered.”
Average engagement rates for Digital Insight's digital solutions is greater than 30 times per month across all digital solutions, and jumps above 80 times per month for the most engaged smartwatch users, according to Bernard.
“Credit unions are looking at what technology they can deploy to make that engagement with the prospective member and the existing member more engaging,” Keith Riddle, SVP and chief product management officer for Corporate One, said.
That poses challenges, Riddle added. Credit unions of all sizes are trying to determine how to make their strategies more engaging, leverage innovative technology to differentiate themselves from the next financial institution and make the most of each interaction.
5. Use big data to personalize the experience. “In order to personalize the experience for an end user, you need to know a lot about that end user,” Mike Carter, chief marketing officer for the Omaha, Neb.-based D3 Banking, said.
That data can be readily available in the digital channel, but Carter pointed out many organizations’ data is in different places and held by different vendors.
“[In that case] there is no practical way to get at it,” Carter said. “We hold all the digital data in our solution.”
Smith added, “I believe credit unions have been getting comfortable with the idea that the new norm is digital engagement with their membership base.” She also noted credit unions need to develop richer technology that redefines the consumer decision journey, and deepens the member experience and member loyalty.
Data analytics, Smith said, provides a more holistic view of member behavior.
“This information is terribly valuable in creating those rich experiences by allowing us to better streamline and personalize those experiences across member touch points,” she said.
Butke explained it is also critical to analyze member data and transform that into sustainable revenue over time.
6. Market the credit union as an early technology adopter. “Credit unions in particular have the greatest capability of keeping those disruptors and nontraditional players out because of their focus and their franchise. They have not done a good job of representing that in the digital world,” Carter said. “Unless you’re still coming into the branch, your credit union may look a lot like a bank does.”
In addition, credit unions have been nimble in the early adoption of financial technology. On average, credit unions pioneered a mobile banking app a minimum of five months earlier than their bank counterparts did, Cotton explained. He added credit unions have to continue this aggressive investment in technology that enhances the member experience.
7. Harness the power of the mobile channel. “Millennials already make up one-third of the banked consumers in the United States,” Bernard said. “Their on-the-go, need-it-immediately expectations will require new mindsets for credit unions.”
Bernard said the critical elements of a successful strategy should focus on developing interactions that members love, as they’ll find them easy and useful and are likely to share them with their friends, he said. The strategy should also be flexible enough to integrate functionality that's important to the credit union and its members, and allows the credit union to stay on top of innovative ways to connect with members.
8. Choose the right partners. Gaynor recommended collaborating with both traditional fintech software vendors and new financial companies that are building their ranks on the financial services food chain. These companies, he said, are very willing to work with credit unions.
“In fact, the fintech companies that compete with credit unions directly are actually tapping out their initial markets and increasingly looking to partner and distribute their services through a traditional player like a credit union,” he said. “There will be a web of complicated relationships. But, I think financial institutions should actively learn from the various fintech players, leverage them to help challenge the status quo, and break open opportunities and spark new innovations. Then, [they can] decide if a build, buy or partner strategy is right for them.”
Credit unions need to achieve digital maturity to match their competitors, Smith added. To do this, they need to start thinking differently about innovation.
“I think credit unions have traditionally been innovative because they had to be,” Smith said. “It is time for credit unions to continue that creative thinking in a new world. We should all keep our eyes open to new collaboration opportunities, even if that means collaborating with companies that don't seem like natural allies for us.”