Remember the days when banking was always done face-to-face? It may seem like a distant memory, but there was a time – not that long ago – when banking was conducted when people walked into a branch.
Today, of course, Americans live in a 24/7 environment. They no longer want to be constrained by traditional “banker’s hours.” As a result, they expect their financial organizations to meet their needs by conforming to their schedules, rather than the other way around.
Convenience has become almost as important as confidence in the stability of their financial institutions.
To meet consumer demands to make transactions quickly, get accurate and timely answers to their questions, and conduct business at times that are convenient to them, more and more credit unions are taking advantage of the advances technology affords.
Electronic services like online banking, mobile banking, text banking, remote deposit, online statements and notices, imaging ATMs and online account opening are no longer just the domain of the big banks.
SECU offers a good case in point. This year alone, we finished converting deposit-taking ATMs to imaging technology, added alerts to online banking, and enhanced our mobile banking through a much improved user interface and iPhone app.
Shortly, we will be rolling out enhanced mobile banking on BlackBerry and Android, and also coming soon is remote deposit capture which will allow customers to use smart phones to make deposits.
All of that is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Increasingly, credit unions are engaging their customers through the use of social media. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites give individuals a forum to ask questions and enhance their financial literacy. Members can stay current on important account news, as well as new or pending legislation, events, and promotions.
Just as important, social media sites make banking more convenient, particularly for consumers in the 18-35 age range who have strongly indicated that they prefer to interact online.
According to a recent survey by Fiserv Inc., 84% of 3,000 online consumers polled indicated that they regularly use social media. While only 11% said that they had connected to their financial institutions in that way, that number is rising as more credit unions adopt a social media policy.
Still, there is room for growth. Despite the high level of social media acceptance and use, only 10% of 166 financial services companies polled in a survey conducted by the Aite Group said they possessed “advanced knowledge” of social media. More than half considered themselves “novices” at using social media, however, while 30% admitted they devote no funding at all to social media campaigns.
Although social media is gradually gaining acceptance at credit unions across the nation, enhanced technology undoubtedly is playing a more prominent role in the design of the branches themselves. Despite the desire to bank whenever it is convenient, there are still times when people want or need face-to-face banking.
When such instances occur – and perhaps because service will always be paramount in distinguishing credit unions from banks – robust, technologically elite branch services are essential.
To that end, credit unions are designing modern branches that provide streamlined, efficient and effective services. In some cases, this means building new branches, but not necessarily. Refurbishing existing branches can make them more effective by today's standards.
Regardless, providing a modern branch experience that offers access to online banking, enhanced ATMs and cutting-edge teller stations not only helps people make their in-branch transactions faster and more effective, but also goes a long way toward enhancing the credit union’s reputation in the marketplace.
Of course, face-to-face service to assist in opening complex accounts or applying for loans needs to be available too. Technology can enhance – but never replace – the true one-on-one member service so many people have come to expect from credit unions.
As quickly as technology has changed and improved the way we do business, members can and will expect more changes to come.
Technology, when applied effectively, can provide solutions for enhanced member relationships. By combining online options with face-to-face access to information and service, credit unions are doing what it takes to make customers financially successful and improve the financial well-being of the communities we serve.
Rod Staatz is the president and CEO of the $2.2 billion, 243,000-member SECU in Linthicum, Md., and a member of the CUNA Board of Directors.