Technologies that enhance member engagement, advance digitalinteraction via the mobilechannel, improve security and help credit unions understandaccountholders better are the top IT budget priorities heading into2016.

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“Rolling out the red carpet for opening and funding newaccounts, especially via the mobile channel, is the most valuabledigital service for credit unions to offer in 2016, because accountgrowth is the one metric that can't be neglected,” Hal Tilbury, CEOof the Henderson, Nev.-based, payment processing and documentimaging firm Bluepoint Solutions, said.

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Tilbury said convenience will be the most important priority forcredit unions as they determine the right mixture of features andservices; in other words, finding ways to meet members whereverthey are with faster, easier-to-use services offered throughmultiple channels.

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“This could mean revving up everything digital from basicservices like deposits and bill payments, to high value-addedservices like personal financial management and electronicstrongboxes,” he said.

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Branching strategies are shifting quickly as well.

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“Branches of the future will be smaller, streamlined toaccommodate live lending services and equipped with self-servicevideo kiosks (interactive teller machines) for all kinds ofconvenient transactions,” Tilbury said. Tablet-equipped employeesuntethered from teller lines can roam to help members in branchesand even out into the community where new members exist.

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Tilbury added that loan applications and processing will be oneof the next big mobile deployments.

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“Credit unions that can get their operations paperless and theirorigination processes tightly-integrated will be the ones to fillthis gap,” he said.

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The underlying IT strategy for the $131 million, Washington,Pa.-based Chrome FCU, formerly Washington Community FCU, is teachingmembers how to bank 100% digitally.

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“We are really big on pushing out the online, cloud-basedself-serviced digital model to our members. We want them to doeverything online,” Chrome President/CEO Christopher Georgesaid.

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He said the credit union is trying to create a simple,self-serve model that doesn't require a lot of member tutoring.However, when members do venture to Chrome locations, which thecredit union calls stores rather than branches, the cooperativewants to mentor them.

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“We want to educate members about services they can performthemselves such as remote deposit capture,” George said.

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Amanda Lunger, vice president and chief brand officer, detailedhow Chrome sees 2016 as the year of communication.

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“We'll be doing very little traditional advertising,” she said.“Instead we'll be focusing primarily on educating and communicatingto our existing customers.”

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Chrome's digital team's goal, Lunger added, is to take digitalmessages to its existing member base, and instruct and train themon how to use the digital tools.

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“If you come into our store, we want to try to help you nevercome back in again,” George explained. “That's our goal.”

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Chrome is utilizing the Monett, Mo.-based Jack Henry's BannoMobile Platform to unveil a cutting edge platform in the firstquarter of 2016, which will include real-time core integration,remote deposit capture, bill pay, store appointment scheduling, ahelp desk and geolocation integration. The Banno Platform offersaccount-as-a-service technology, meaning it provides a singlesource for product marketing, delivery and service.

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Because all of Chrome's technology solutions are outsourced,third-party security is another priority for the credit union.

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“Chrome likes everything locked down,” George admitted. “We usea lot of geo-fencing [a program that identifies geographicalboundaries]. We don't allow lot of people outside of our stores toget into our systems unless they are authorized.”

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The $492 million, East Moline, Ill.-based Vibrant Credit Union,formerly DHCU, has already boosted member engagement this year byimplementing new core, online and mobile technologies. Looking ahead, Vibrantplans system and data architecture upgrades for 2016.

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“We are making a substantial investment in improving our overallsystem capabilities with a core system conversion, new consumerlending platform and new document imaging platform,” Matt McCombs,president/CEO for Vibrant, said. Vibrant invested in member-facingsystem upgrades in 2015, including in the online, mobile and remotedeposit capture spaces, and plans to follow up with employee-facingsystem upgrades in 2016.

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McCombs emphasized that because technology changes rapidly, itis critical for Vibrant to have systems in place withinfrastructure capable of handling changes.

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“Our overall move to DNA [from the Brookfield, Wis.-basedFiserv] is the most important and impactful investment being madeby the credit union,” he noted.

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DNA provides a real-time system designed around relationships,not accounts, and an open architecture in a service-orientedarchitecture framework onto which clients can add or customizeproducts.

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McCombs described how a significant investment in Vibrant'shighway of connections facilitates its system.

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“This investment is critical for cybersecurity, uptime andoverall disaster recovery capabilities,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the $111 million, Germantown, Md.-based MontgomeryCounty Employees Federal Credit Union is continuing a mission toboost security and simplify its mobile banking platform. Usingbuilt-in fingerprint authentication technology, Touch ID allowsmembers with iPhone apps to log into the credit union's mobilebanking application without entering traditional logincredentials.

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“I believe the most important IT budget priorities in the nextyear for credit unions, and certainly for us at Montgomery CountyEmployees Federal Credit Union, are the development andimplementation of the newest security technologies, as well asimproving the accessibility and ease of use when it comes to mobilebanking,” Jim Norris, president/CEO of MC EFCU, said.

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When it comes to security, MC EFCU recently implemented Touch IDfunctionality for its mobile banking applications through theRedwood City, Calif.-based Digital Insight, an NCR company. Inaddition, MC EFCU equipped all credit and debit cards with EMVtechnology to help prevent fraud and identity theft.

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As for accessibility and ease of use of its mobile services, thecredit union also incorporated Apple Watch compatibility into itsmobile app for added member convenience.

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“Each year, we work to add more and more functionality, bothonline and on our mobile app,” Norris stated. “It's not alwaysconvenient for our members to stop by a branch for a simple bankingservice and many prefer to do almost all of their banking online,which is why we want to make sure our members enjoy a seamless andsecure user experience from their personal computers, tablets ormobile devices.”

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MC EFCU is also revamping its website and taking a content-basedmarketing approach, which will include the use of marketingautomation to increase efficiency and boost the effectiveness ofcross-selling.

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“We have continued to improve our members' mobile experience,and this in addition to a focused effort, has led to a 50% increasein members using mobile apps on a consistent basis, which in turnincreases costs,” Norris said. “This is one of the areas that weare increasing for 2016.”

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MC EFCU said it will also see an increase in mobile new accountopenings and mobile lending costs as more members become “mobilefirst” users.

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Security is also a major focus for the $6.5 billion,Marlborough, Mass.-based Digital Federal Credit Union.

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“A significant portion of DCU's budget and resources continue tobe focused on the protection of credit union assets and our membersto mitigate against cybersecurity threats,” David Araujo, vicepresident of information systems for DCU, said. “I'm sure this is acommon theme throughout the industry, but we are always looking atadditional resources that can help strengthen our security posture,as well as technology that can assist and stay current with thequickly changing landscape.”

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In addition, DCU is always trying to find ways to improve theefficiencies of its security operations by ensuring all staffmembers have the tools they need to provide the best memberexperience possible.

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“This can be accomplished by staying current on hardware,software automation and other straight-through processingopportunities,” Araujo stated.

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