Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: big data (page 1 of 3)

Big Tech Firms Have A Plan…Do You?

Originally published on CUInsight.com

This post exceeds normal length expectations.  Estimated reading time is 5-7 minutes.  It’s worth it.

The future of banking looks bright!  New possibilities, new technologies, all while serving an ever-expanding portion of the population!

Oh, you’re from a credit union.  That introduction wasn’t meant for you.  I was talking to the big tech firms, the front-runners in creating banking solutions of tomorrow.  What?  Are you saying Jeff Bezos isn’t one of my readers?  Psh, you don’t know that.

Credit unions aren’t paving the way.  Nor are they pioneering the ability to serve the underbanked.  Seriously.  Many are doing great things, that’s for sure, yet the fundamental change is originating from tech firms.  And they’re not doing it alone (more on that later).

Let’s take a look at a super-simplified cross-section of society, with a focus on traditional banking options.  Where does the credit union industry fit?

  • For the lowest-income and credit challenged (or no credit), they have few choices.  A lack of financial knowledge and many other variables leads them predominantly to payday lenders (see post on that topic) or check-cashing stores.  This situation, frankly, sucks.  People are paying hundreds of percent (or more) in interest (or substantial fees) for access to their money.  It’s really expensive to be poor.  When I deposit a check, I get every penny.  Is that really fair?
  • Individuals with sufficient credit to open an account can (and do) go to banks, but many choose a credit union, due to their lower fee structure.  Those who choose a credit union tend to carry a higher credit card balance, with more cards and higher total debt. However, and this may be due to lower interest rates, more individualized (and thus forgiving) relationships, or some other factor, they are less likely to become delinquent in their debts.
  • Higher-income individuals and businesses are more likely to be with the large banks.

So big tech firms are looking for the path of least resistance into the banking world.  It starts at the economic bottom, by offering necessities at far lower rates than the existing solutions.  Then, they offer better programs than those that people have today, focusing on convenience.  Finally, the companies want to become the lenders of choice for a wide range of needs.  By already having successful business strategies, all this can be done at much lower margins than a dedicated banking institution could possibly reach.  For example, Amazon barely makes any money on their Kindle or Echo devices (they might even sell at a loss), because they know users will purchase far more once they have them.

The following is a discussion of selected large tech firms changing the banking landscape.  Each are planting their own flag in the financial world of tomorrow.  Will all be successful?  Only time will tell.  For aesthetics and readability, each company’s actions are accessible by clicking the name.

Where are the greatest opportunities?  And how can a business decision help people the most?

PayPal

PayPal believes the answer to both those questions lies in that first economic category.  As a pseudo-banking institution already, they have held money in online accounts for use on purchases for many years.  This money could not be withdrawn at an ATM, nor used at a physical POS.  Until now.  PayPal now offers a debit card that includes many of the same features your credit union cards have.  Want to pay for dinner?  No problem.  Withdraw money at an ATM?  Sure.  Deposit physical checks?  Grab your phone and take a picture.  All with no monthly fee, no minimum balance requirement, and a ~1% fee for deposited checks.  PayPal is making it clear this account is not for everyone.  It’s mainly for those who you would call “unbanked”.  In fact, their COO even said that if you already have a banking relationship, “this isn’t an account for you.”  They believe as the digital economy continues to grow, the largest opportunity is in those who aren’t currently “banked”.

So PayPal is positioning themselves for enormous growth, while engaging an underserved portion of society, and minimizing economically stressed people’s reliance on high-fee payday lending.  Sounds like the credit union mission, doesn’t it? It should, and not in the least because their CEO keeps saying this at CU conferences.

Other tech firms are taking a different route.

Amazon

Take Amazon.  They want your checking accounts (allegedlyprobablylikely).

Why would your members want to switch to Amazon for their checking?  It’s not like it would be any different.  Except it could (according to surveys) be a fee-based account ($5-10 per month) that provided a series of perks.  Perks like ID Theft Protection.  Or Cell Phone Damage Coverage.  Perhaps it would be integrated into Prime membership.  We don’t know.  But 66% of people surveyed said they would consider paying or definitely sign up for that account, if it existed.

If only your credit union could do something like that today (Disclosure: That’s my company)…  But I digress.

It’s not like Amazon is inexperienced in banking concepts.  In 2011, they began small business lending to sellers on their site.  They are now lending more than $1 Billion per year.  And it’s invite only.

Recently, Amazon has also expressed interest in serving the “unbanked” of the US and abroad.  Look at them, taking on the jellies!  Ok, PayPal.  They’re taking on PayPal.

Venmo

“So you owe me $14.53 for dinner.  Cool?  Just Venmo me the money when you get a chance.”

Venmo grew so quickly that you can be forgiven if you are still recovering from the windblown hair as it blew past.  Think of it as a peer to peer payment platform.  It began as a way to send money through text messages, but quickly changed into its own cross-platform app.  Users link existing debit cards/bank accounts and send or receive money through the service.  In the time it took you to read this paragraph, you could have gotten reimbursed for gas, sent your portion for drinks last weekend, and gotten the money from another friend for the tickets to that awesome concert.  They handled nearly $7 Billion in transactions in Q1 2017 alone.  Oh, and PayPal bought them in 2013.  So giving them their own section is almost cheating.

Besides, there’s a newer service that aims to do the same thing, but with a twist…

Apple

Your credit union probably supports Apple Pay.  By that I mean your debit and credit cards can be added to Apple Pay on members’ iPhones, iPads, Watches, and Macs.  It’s a brilliant payment system that I use regularly (there’s nothing like paying for groceries with your watch…except not paying for groceries).  I love the simplicity and security of the process.  I don’t love how slowly merchants are adopting the new payment terminals (and then enabling the NFC tech in them to support it).  Ugh, different discussion.

Last year, Apple Pay got an upgrade.  With Cash.  Previously, Apple Pay only worked where a normal debit/credit card could…POS, ie. paying at a merchant.  It was useless for P2P payments like Venmo supported (and PopMoney, to speak CU service lingo).  Apple Pay Cash links a debit or credit card to a digital stash of cash (you like that?) that you use to send/receive money right through iMessage.  Yes, recipients have to be fellow Apple users, but, sheesh, it’s easy.  Heck, it works with Siri.  No data is available on usage, but given it’s built in to hundreds of millions of devices, I’d say it’s only bound to grow.

To establish these potential checking and/or savings accounts, fund these digital wallets, or receive deposited checks, none of these companies are making themselves a bank.  Instead, these companies partner with an established bank, or multiple banks.  Why?  Think of your preparations when the NCUA examiner is inbound.  Enough said.

For example, for PayPal’s new debit card, they use a bank from Delaware for debit cards, another out of Georgia for check scanning, and a few banks in Utah for lending.  Note these are all small banks…is opportunity calling for your credit union?

Amazon is in talks with JP Morgan Chase and Capital One for their checking program.  Venmo uses your existing banking relationships.  Apple Pay Cash uses a Discover debit card powered by Green Dot Bank, a fin-tech which also provides their own reloadable debit card with no minimum balance, no overdraft fees, and no credit check, while still offering things like bill pay.

I feel like I’ve talked about partnering to enhance your strengths while addressing your weaknesses.  Ah, well, no worries.  We’re all here now.

So the big tech firms all have a strategy to attract the banking customer of today and for years to come.  What’s your plan?

PS – You may notice I excluded Zelle, the P2P platform of choice for American banks.  It was developed by Early Warning Services out of Scottsdale, AZ, a company formed and owned by 7 banks, with 70 more in the process of joining.  It’s their answer to Venmo, and is built in to all their mobile apps.  It connects more than 50% of checking accounts in the country and growing.  So why didn’t I mention such a large disruptor?  Because they’re not a disruptor; they’re a service of the existing banking industry, responding to the popularity of the other platforms.  You still have to pay attention to them, though.  Competition is competition.  So I ask again…what’s your plan?

A Little Intelligence On Artificial Intelligence

A few months back, I shared my first audio post.  It was incredibly well received.  In that I enjoyed it and other people (probably) listened to it.  With such a successful start, how could I go wrong returning to the medium?

I read a lot of industry publications.  Probably too many.  But that means a win for you, my reader, since you glean the best of that time spent!  If trending articles don’t mention Millennials or how to maximize your social media presence, they’re discussing the brave new world of AI, Artificial Intelligence.  Even on my blog, the 2nd most popular post is about AI.  Here’s the degree of impact it stands to make for the industry: Everything you research or decide with a person will be done, faster, more reliably, with a computer system.  So, a big deal.

We’re not talking T-1000s in your branches (though they would be formidable security guards).  Nor does it have anything to do with the AI advances you hear Elon Musk warning us against.  For financial institutions, AI is simply a software system that can dive into a ton of data (that you already have) and make accurate risk and other determinations.  It’s nothing new for your credit union, only doing the same thing better and faster.  While serving your members anywhere, on their terms.

Of course, since this is an audio post, stop reading and just push play!

If, after listening, you have more questions about AI (which you should), feel free to leave them in the comments below or contact me directly.  I can provide a number of references to companies doing all of these things today within the financial world.  Are they a fit for your institution?  That’s for you to decide.  But I will say one thing with certainty: AI technologies will become the de-facto determination platforms for most company decisions in the near future.

PS – AI isn’t just for financial institutions.  It’s going beyond and helping serve the unbanked around the world.  Here’s an example of a company seeking to provide credit for the developing world.  Their system uses 10,000 data points on each person, collected by their phone app only (texts, contacts, and much more) to determine if they are credit worthy in 10 minutes or less.  No credit bureau, no credit risk agent, nothing.  Can your credit union do that?  Because if not, there’s an AI tech which might be a fit (Disclosure: I’ve interacted with one of their team members).

Image credit: Giphy (Terminator 2, but you, an honorable geek, already knew that!)

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?

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