Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

If IT’s Broke, You Can’t Release

Eagle-eyed readers will notice the “typo” in my title. Good catch! However, no mistake was made. We’re talking IT, as in “information technology”. In other words, your digital stuff.

Naturally, I’m a member of a credit union. They are a small to mid-sized institution, and I’m going to leave their name out of the discussion. If you really want to know, a quick check on my Twitter feed will give you the answer you seek. You’ll understand why in just a few sentences.

Honest disclosure: They’re no longer my primary financial institution. Let’s just say that not all credit unions are like yours.

A recent article by a fellow industry writer pointed out many great points about engaging your younger members. Yeah, a Millennials story. With truths! Rhiannon Stone (I’m sure she never gets the Fleetwood Mac reference tossed out…nope, I’m the first) explains, like me, that appealing to young people is just like connecting with anyone else. Your services need to be naturally easy to use, fast, and comprehensive. Also, they just have to work. “You are more likely to keep younger members by providing applications that are straightforward, intuitive, and free of glitches.”

Therein lies the point of this post. Their mobile app, shall we say, is old. It last received an update October 2, 2013. Did your current phone exist back then? 3 years is an eternity in mobile tech. Especially in mobile banking. But, it worked. No, it didn’t fill the screen and functionality was limited, but, the things it did support ran as expected.

On Monday, they released a new version…finally! It debuted a redesigned look and feel along with some new security features. No, the new design wasn’t better, but it was new for newness sake. Oh well. But alas, it now supports logging in with Touch ID! Welcome to 2015 and the big bank apps! I eagerly activated this feature. Then I closed the app and reopened it to test.

It didn’t work.

Ok, that’s not fair. The app opened right up with no problem. Only it never asked for my fingerprint. Or my password. It was now stuck “logged in” to my account info. Even logging out in the app was just a tease. Reopen it and there appeared my accounts again.

Being the responsible user I am, I quickly reported this issue to my credit union via Twitter. Two whole days later (they posted “Good morning” tweets in-between), they replied (ok, they “quoted” my tweet, but it’s close enough) with, “Hi Joe, thank your feedback. We’ll look into it and will try to improve this soon!” Grammatical errors are their own.

Would this inspire confidence in the security of your data? Or in their attention to detail? Let’s recall what Ms. Stone said about keeping younger members: “by providing applications…free of glitches.” This is beyond a glitch. It tells me they never bothered testing. In case you might think, “well, he’s a geek, probably running some weird operating system on an obscure phone.” I have an iPhone 7 with iOS 10.1.1, the same setup hundreds of millions of other Apple users enjoy.

I can understand if the interface on their new app had some visual artifacts or performance issues. It’s new and all software has bugs. However, the core security should be rock-solid. This part you can’t compromise or “wing it”. To me, such a critical bug should mean the app gets pulled immediately until it can be resolved. You can’t mess around with security.

My generation doesn’t tolerate security issues or companies with a lax attitude towards technical problems. Look at the uproar when Netflix was recently down for a few hours…the Internet nearly imploded. Netflix, to their credit, was incredibly responsive throughout the outage, updating as they learned more. This is how you have to be now.

Like it or not, your credit union is now a tech company, with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with the role. Those who can fulfill this position well will reap the benefits. Those who don’t grasp this concept will be in a future, “mergers of the month” article from NCUA.

Where do you see your credit union in 5 years?

Image credit: http://www.csus.edu/sacstatenews/articles/2010/12/images/instory_security.jpg

Deeper Connections – Part 3

Originally published on CUInsight.com

It’s now been two posts on the “Two Peoples” topic. What have we learned?

  1. There is a technology divide between those who are immersed and those who live more traditionally
  2. The way people interact with the world and each other is evolving
  3. Tech itself is changing beneath our feet (and around us in “the cloud”)

For nearly all of us, the idea of technology in our lives revolves around things mentioned in the first post. What phone you use, the devices you connect to it, even your “smart home” accessories. It’s primarily the hardware, and, as we learned in the second post, the services you use on them. So, that’s the future: Ever-improving devices with more interesting apps.

Not quite. There’s an area of growth which seems so far-fetched that we discount it as “distant future”. But it’s here today.

Artificial intelligence.

We aren’t talking the adorable bots from *batteries not included, nor are we concerned with T-1000 units “terminating” their target. AI (or more accurately, machine learning) today is in some ways like a traffic light. It does one thing. However, unlike a traffic light, it’s always improving how it does that one thing. And you use these 1st generation AI systems everyday.

Your Facebook feed is a form of machine learning. It tailors posts shown based on what it learns you enjoy. The more you use it, the better it gets. Your iPhone keyboard is the same way. It actually adjusts the size and location of each key by tiny amounts as it learns where your fingers press most often. It even figures out how you talk to better predict the next word you’re going to write (and it knows whether you’re typing in a social or professional manner).

Search Google for the image of a cat. You just asked their machine learning system. Their latest endeavor is a platform called Deep Dream (caution: highly geek). Besides trippy imagery, it shows how a computer actually learns. Fascinating, as Data would say.

Interesting, but, once again…why? The first two parts related to what technology you use knowingly. Those spawn the interest in visible tech. Modern app platforms. Game-like member engagement. All great, and important. But it’s the machine learning which will offer the “just what I wanted” capability of future financial services.

Computers are smartest with tons of data. Big Data, you could say. With it, a learning system can figure out when a member is at risk of overdrawing their account or might be in the market for a car. How thrilled would they be if you could suggest adding overdraft protection an hour before they make a costly transaction? Or notify them of a great auto rate and car research system the day after their vehicle has engine troubles?

Unfortunately, I’m not smart enough to even offer the breadth of examples this future will offer. But I’ve read a lot from those who are. A recent CU Broadcast interview dove headfirst into the data side (without mentioning the AI part). Coastal CU does data analysis for member habits. Affinity CU just expressed interest in the concept after a short chat. And that’s just in the course of a few days. Much like winter, change is coming.

So how can you stay ahead of your competition while providing historically-great member service? Focus on what you do best, and find partners which excel in their complementary areas. By working together, perhaps we stand a chance against our computer overlords.

I mean, serve your members in new and exciting ways.

For far too much detail on Artificial Intelligence and just how close we are to unbelievable changes, read this amazing post by Wait But Why’s Tim Urban.

People Will Talk…Tweet, Snap, and More – Part 2

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Welcome to part two of the Two Peoples series. Last time, we learned about the “great divide” between individuals who are deeply connected and those who prefer to go the analog route. Now, we’re looking at those “connected folks” and trying to understand how they approach the world differently, if at all. And, if so, does it matter?

I already hear your objection: There are plenty of members who will not do these “techie” things, and your in-person service will always be essential for them. I know…my own family is part of that group. You’re right. It is an important part of your operation.

But you’re missing a whole lot of people who are connected. At this point, I can go into the talk on embracing social media, empowering your staff, and championing your most loyal members. Yet I won’t. You know these things, and there are countless articles to guide you if you don’t.

What you need to understand is that the social side of the technical evolution is not a fad. It’s become more than just staying in touch with friends and family. It is now the ability to do anything by way of a technological device. Want food in front of you right now? GrubHub or Seamless. Need to get out and exercise with a digital reward? Pokemon Go, Running With Zombies, Nike + Running Club. Show everyone how you look with a dog nose? Snapchat (really, I still don’t get the platform). Learn about and buy whatever you want? You know the sites.

Yes, I hear you, again. “How does a running app or food delivery system help a financial institution?” It’s about the connections the technologies enable. Even though I don’t use the social aspects, I do understand the idea of being disconnected from some people by being connected. There’s even a name for it: Digital Footprint Score. Let’s explore.

Do you remember when the World Wide Web was in its infancy? If you were one of the early adopters, you knew how separated you had become with those who were still not connected. I was ordering pizza online in the mid-90s. The precursor to my own company had a dynamic website even earlier. We had taken such a leap beyond our previous life, that you couldn’t even explain it sufficiently to those who didn’t experience the daily “brrrzz, whoosh, ba dum, ba dum” of the 14.4kbps (or 28.8 if you were way cool) modem.

We are in that position yet again. I talk with my karate students often about the games they play, apps they use, and I’m amazed at the connections they are making within these environments. The newest trend is where that virtual community extends into the real world, a la Pokemon Go and similar “augmented reality” experiences. Between gaming, interacting with friends, businesses, and associated services, their Digital Footprint Score is extremely high. It may not come as a surprise, but this score trends higher as you get younger (Why aren’t we calling it the Benjamin Button Score? I crack myself up.). Your digital footprint will continue to increase, and we are still in the early days. I believe financial technologies (fintech) will enter this crossover realm in the coming years as well. The hyper-connected don’t carry money. They pass it around like you would an emoji. In fact, you can pay with emoji now, really (don’t get me started on them…it’s like we’ve come full circle from hieroglyphics). And peer-to-peer payments within your favorite messaging service is a reality.

However, we aren’t entering a post-bank world. We’re evolving into a new way of banking. One where you have a crucial role, if you take your virtual seat at the table. Looking back at these new concepts above, what do you recognize? Direct communication…you do that. Community-building…didn’t credit unions start this concept? I get that you’re not going to build the next billion-dollar platform. But why not work with the company which does? It’s as if we’ve had this talk before…

The final part in this series will look ahead to what the future may hold. Hang tight, because we’re talking artificial intelligence! And it’s not even close to what you’re thinking. Sorry, HAL.

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