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Technology is changing the banking industry rapidly, and smaller institutions are unprepared. But by leveraging their banking charters, working with fintech partners and adopting real-time payments (RTPs), credit unions can cement their claim in the future of financial services.

Credit unions pride themselves on quality member relationships built on financial products that offer better rates and lower fees. Many credit unions are based in rural counties, providing locals with access to credit, liquidity and investments. But credit unions no longer have the finances or technological firepower to compete. The number of credit unions has dwindled from a high of 23,866 in 1969 to just over 5,500 today, thanks to business failures, consolidations and mergers. From 1970 to 2011, there were an estimated 13,000 credit union mergers.

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