Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: ai (page 1 of 2)

If Your AI Is Only For Chatting, You’re Doing It Wrong

“Ask Our Friendly AI!” Your credit union’s website is excitedly promoting their new chat bot, there to answer questions 24/7. “Cool, so how can it help me save money or time?” Whether they admit it or not, that’s what your members will be thinking. In some cases, such tech is fielding member requests without burdening traditional staff time. And their resolution rates can be similar to human representatives. What are you waiting for? Get Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and friends to every CU! (HAL is not welcome, sorry)

It’s not that simple. “AI” support agents are uniquely programmed to understand financial world terminology. Plus, computers don’t excel at interacting like a person, since we learn and process the world in a different way. One day, I’m certain this will no longer be the case, and all systems will talk to each other in the background, so you could ask Siri (remember that post?) to transfer money from one account to another, explain the tax implications of your specific IRA contributions, and what the score is for your favorite team. But we’re not at that point…yet. And look who spoke too soon…we’re actually getting awfully close.

Readers know my passion (that’s 3 links!) for the “AI Revolution”. With its arrival, a lot of ideas are being thrown around on best use. Right now, the most common answer is: Everywhere!!!

Patience, my young Padawan. A fancy chat bot might seem like the natural first step, but let’s look at it from a member benefit perspective. If they have a question, they don’t care who/what responds. They just want a quick and accurate answer. If your team is currently able to keep members served quickly and effectively (through any medium they contact), then this may not be a fit for you at this time. Unless you have unlimited resources, in which case, yes, do all of this at once. Just make sure you have top-notch project management to ensure the focus is always on the unified credit union goals.

For the rest of us, the AI which makes the most sense, if less “sexy”, is the Big Data side of AI, the machine learning. Here, you have solutions which can analyze a member’s credit (beyond the report) and offer a rapid loan decision with high rate accuracy. You can implement systems to monitor patterns in spending to identify fraud the moment it occurs, saving the institution money and the member frustration. Machine learning is also enabling security of the body, biometrics. You know it as the fingerprint sensor on your phone, but facial recognition is also commonplace on new Windows 10 computers, while retina scanners are the “top level” of security at large financial institutions.

Speed. Savings. Security. Three great reasons to implement aspects of AI in your credit union. A recent post about this topic ended with a wonderful quote:

“When a bank…effectively uses AI, they run more efficiently and are able to connect more effectively with a segment of the population that will never be replaced by machines: their customers.” – Mohit Joshi, Innovations in FinTech

Ok, ok.  I’ve given you way too much to consider.  AI, Big Data, machine learning, algorithmic analysis…yeah, I get it.  Overwhelming when you just want to know, “can this stuff help my credit union?”  So, I had a realization right after writing this post.  Remember that series I did about tech in the financial industry?  As part of it, I mentioned that financial institutions are at risk of becoming “dumb banks” in the same way that ISPs are “dumb pipes”, simply being the corridor for other companies’ information.  You hold the money, but your members use other company services to move, spend, invest, even check on their funds.   The same is the case here with AI.

There will always be a place for information as you manage it now: Raw account balances aren’t going anywhere.  But that’s “dumb data”.  The future is in “smart data”.  Where your credit union and members can find patterns in spending, opportunities in lending, and personalized recommendations for minimizing debt (or maximizing wealth).

How will you become the “smart data” of the future?

The Best, Most Innovative Blog Post Ever Shared

Be honest. We all exaggerate. In our personal lives and in business. Just look at an online dating site. Yeah, you’re making $250,000+ and spend most of your time traveling to exotic destinations, supporting charitable causes in each place. Oh, and you happen to look like (insert your ideal here). Weird, all your photos look professionally done.

Or, on your resume. I’m sure you did great work at that last credit union, but did you really “implement a company-wide program which resulted in a 78% improvement of job satisfaction, while increasing member engagement by 47%”?

If you’re the person to whom these are both true, we should meet. And I’m not saying exceptional people or businesses don’t exist. But that’s the thing, they’re exceptional, which tends to mean, “uncommon”. If you have to ask if you or your credit union fits the definition, it doesn’t. Sorry.

So why do we position ourselves as “the best”, “the most innovative”, or “the only”? I’ve been guilty of it, too. It’s something I try to recognize, as it immediately detracts from the message I wish to convey. We all can have great ideas, but none of us always have the best ideas. Yet doing it makes us believe we are now in a position to offer valuable insights. “Sure, you can listen to them, but since I’m the best, you might want to heed my advice…just saying.”

It doesn’t work that way. Thought-leaders become such by being thought-leaders, not by saying they are.

Where am I going with this post? Great question. If you’re reading this, you’re probably affiliated with the credit union industry. Or you’re my mom. Assuming the former, you are familiar with the exceptionalism claimed by credit unions. I get it. You know you are the better option for much of your community. I know you are, too. But the way to attract them is not by saying how great you are. Think about it this way: How many ads do you see/hear each day? How many of them implore that their service/product is the greatest ever and you need to buy it now? Exactly. As a result, you’ve grown numb to the message. “Introducing the best…”, “We’re the greatest…”, “Try the life-changing…”, blah, blah, blah.

I visit a lot of credit union websites, and interact with even more though social channels. One thing I consistently see is this exceptionalism. I know you live it and truly believe, but saying you are the “only” financial institution to “go out of its way every day to value you as a person, to make you feel delight, and to improve your life” comes across a bit unbelievable. There are around 6,000 credit unions in the US alone. Do you really think none of the others seek to do the same? I’m unfairly picking on this credit union, since they are just the most recent I’ve seen making such statements.

What can you do instead? A local CU near me (not a member, but my closest branch, so I use them for certain activities), Tropical Financial, connects with each visitor. Their home page begins, “We’re banking on South Florida to help you feel good about banking. The same way a warm cup of coffee makes you feel.” (Sidenote: A future. AI. improvement. would note that I don’t drink coffee, but rather tea, and change the text for me) The call to action is, “Help me feel good about banking.” It’s great in every way. It is unique. It appeals to emotions in a way nearly everyone can relate. Without saying, “we are the best at banking in South Florida”. They’re assuming visitors have felt that banking isn’t always pleasant, and who doesn’t want to feel like they do after a warm cup of coffee? (Point to show even good efforts aren’t perfect: Their site title says, “Tropical Financial is Miami Florida’s Best Credit Union”…though that might be for SEO – UPDATE: Tropical FCU responded that is exactly the reason!)

Saying you’re the best, hardest-working, and most caring and honest institution around feels like marketing. Asking someone if they want to feel great doesn’t. Much how you shouldn’t promote your auto lending by saying, “we have the greatest rates EVER!”, the credit union itself deserves a more thoughtful public image. It’s people you want to attract, not loans or share accounts or credit cards. People, who then will use those services you provide.

Take a look at your public (and internal) messaging. Does any of it sound like something every other credit union has said? Evolve. Be exceptional. It will be noticed.

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.

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