Better Together: Technology-Driven Branches Here to Stay
Branch transformation is currently the subject du jour. Branches are not only here to stay, but in fact represent an opportunity for credit unions to strengthen connections with members, as well as engage and attract the next generation of accountholders. According to recent numbers released from the FDIC, branch closures have slowed and in some circles, the rate of new branch openings has risen. And while it may be true that the branch of the past is dead, the new technology-driven branch model remains essential for credit unions and an important, physical reminder to the communities they serve.
Credit unions face competition from non-traditional sectors of business. Online-only financial institutions and non-bank financial technology organizations are raising the bar for the consumer experience. This is a driving force behind the evolution of banking and a reason the branch model must adapt. In fact, it was just reported that Square is becoming a bank. According to an article on inc.com, “By becoming their own bank, they do not have to seek out a separate institution as a strategic partner.”
With all these new entrants into the banking world, today's savvy, mobile-dependent consumers demand a technology-rich, digitally-driven banking experience that enables them to bank when, where and how they please. Investing in technology is consistently predicted to increase in financial institutions across the country. In addition, when modern technology is paired with a rich in-branch experience, it becomes an opportunity to strengthen relationships with consumers, reinforce the credit union's brand and provide a competitive advantage. Strategically integrating technology to enhance your in-branch offerings not only adds value by elevating the overall member experience, but also generates new efficiencies and benefits across the entire organization.
Make it Memorable
Your members are engaging with their favorite retailers online while sitting at their desks. They’re booking hotel reservations from their mobile phones. While on their tablets, they are ordering dinner for curbside pick-up before heading home. Retailers are engaging and interacting with customers online, via their mobile devices; in-store, they’re providing unique offers, discounts and coupons as well as the ability to complete purchases with a few simple taps on their phones. These same retailers continue to improve and enhance the customer experience. For example, the latest order-ahead trend allows a customer to complete and pay for an order online. Then at a time that is most convenient for their schedule, they can pick up the item curbside without ever actually entering the physical location. As a result, retailers have redefined customer expectations for all transactions, including financial matters.
Leveraging technology to electronically process and automate tasks is critical to ensuring credit unions provide both a positive and memorable member experience. Incorporating electronic processing tools such as eReceipts, eSignatures and eTeller options are just a few examples of how technology can boost the branch experience and drive member satisfaction. These tools make it easier and more convenient for members to conduct business with a credit union. In today's competitive market, each interaction a member has with their credit union, whether online or in person, is a defining interaction.
Consumers Credit Union, based in Gurnee, Ill., successfully launched a creative new branch approach by integrating eSignatures into its in-branch kiosk environment. Outfitted with video, voice and eSignatures capabilities, the credit union's virtual teller kiosks deliver a digital, self-service experience, while maintaining a personal touch.
Amy Lopez, vice president of member experience at Consumers, stated, “By incorporating electronic signature technology, we have not only created a more pleasant and secure experience for our members, but we have been able to gain efficiencies within our operations as well. Providing our members a consistent, positive experience across all channels, regardless of where they initiate the transaction, is a top priority for our institution.”
Make it Efficient
While modern in-branch banking may not be dead, paper is more and more becoming a thing of the past.
Eliminating paper within the branch is key to digital branch transformation. It eases compliance burdens, improves efficiency and saves money, but perhaps most importantly, it enables the credit union to better serve its members. It also satisfies the environmentally conscious consumer.
Electronic processing streamlines frontline and back-office functions, benefitting both the consumer and the credit union. Employees can spend more time with the consumer and less time with the process, generating deeper member relationships. Streamlining internal business processes is on the wish list of every financial institution. Creating a unified and integrated interface to handle document processing demands brings down barriers for an easy, automatic and safe means of channeling efficiencies.
Infinity Federal Credit Union in Maine recently adopted an enterprise eSignature platform that incorporates automated workflow technology, allowing the credit union to more quickly complete transactions with fewer errors. From lending workflow to new membership processes, the credit union has streamlined tasks that traditionally have been manually managed and time-intensive.
David Williams, business technology and solutions manager at Infinity, said, “Letting workflow solutions, especially those with built-in eSigning capability, automate each part of the lifecycle of a document is an empowering way to get business done, and helps us focus our energies on serving the needs of our members.”
Make it Safe and Secure
Digitally driven transactions completed in a totally electronic environment not only drive process transformation, they are also more secure and provide greater control, helping ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Paper documents and the liability that is associated with trying to protect them are hard to control and challenging to secure. Electronically signed and sealed documents provide more security than their paper counterparts because they contain more information about who signed them and can be protected from unauthorized tampering. Most ID theft happens to paper transactions because they are so easily lost, stolen or forged. Electronic records are encrypted and stored automatically in a safe and permanent format.
Digitally capturing and truncating checks at the teller line mitigates the risk associated with deposited items. In addition to providing your members with expedited funds availability, electronic processing ensures data is automatically collected and uploaded into the core processing system, improving the accuracy of every transaction.
Ohio's Century Federal Credit Union leverages a business rules-based eSignature platform to automate operational processes including document signing and approvals, enabling the credit union to securely and efficiently process end-to-end transactions in a paperless environment. The credit union is able to easily control all activities to ensure strict accordance with institutional operating procedures and regulatory guidelines.
Santina Dawson, director of member services for Century, commented, “We no longer have to assume the risks involved with transporting physical, paper documents. Now our employees can simply upload member documents and other employees have immediate access regardless of their location. This value is critical for those members who have legal documents associated with their memberships and who elect to use branches when doing business with the credit union.”
In-person banking is not going away, but the brick and mortar functionality will most definitely change. The role of a credit union branch becomes more of a complement to technology and vice versa. The in-branch experience cannot be less than the digital experience the credit union provides; it must become the physical counterpart to its online presence. By pairing an engaged in-branch experience with modern technology solutions, credit unions can answer the challenges of today's economy: The need to control costs, improve efficiency and improve the member experience. By taking cumbersome processes and consolidating them into a seamless, integrated and automated system, credit unions can streamline the branch to better compete and place the focus back on the member.
Michael Ball is the VP of Markets & Strategy at IMM. He can be contacted at 800-836-4750 Ext. 164 or firstname.lastname@example.org.