Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: cu social good (page 1 of 2)

Want Tomorrow’s Tech? Team up! (Part 2)

Due to the importance of this topic, I’ve gone past my normal length limits in this post. Estimated reading time is 5-6 minutes.

Are You a Dumb Pipe? If this comes across as an insult, instead of fighting, let’s go back to the post which shared the same title. It’ll take two minutes, three, tops. Done? Welcome back. Much appreciated. I know it’s distracting out there.

What did you think? Is your institution on the path to becoming a “dumb bank”? Turn that frown upside-down, because there’s a way to avoid such a bleak future. Partnerships! You know my history of encouraging interrelationships amongst financial institutions and other service providers. Whether they be fellow cooperatives or complementary offerings, bringing them together under your brand increases the value of your membership. There are other groups doing a wonderful job presenting the data on these activities, from CU Social Good to Filene Research and even CUNA itself.

It’s not my goal to rehash their findings. Rather, I aim to focus this strategy into the consumer technology field, which is one where the credit union industry struggles. It’s a matter of resources. If you’re large, with enormous budgets and negotiating power, you can design and implement a cutting-edge platform for your members. If they ask for it, you can provide it. But, I can count the number of credit unions able to do this on a single hand. And even then, their resources pale in comparison to national and international banks. Take Bank of America’s board compensation, for example. In FY 2015, just serving on their Board of Directors nets you at least $80,000 in cash and $160,000 in restricted stock units, with additional incentives available for chairing committees (source). Imagine how much is available for their mobile app.

Look at your own member experience. Where are you weak? More than likely, there is a technology solution which can overcome that pitfall. “Oh, we don’t have the budget for improvements this year.” Someone does. Take Simple, for example. They are aiming to become the PFI of their customers. Using a mobile-first platform, you can do anything from your phone, all with few of the traditional fees. Get a Visa debit card, configure auto-payments, and you’re done. The “riffraff” of a financial institution is eliminated. All the money is held by an insured entity, which happens to be their parent company, The Bancorp, the largest provider of pre-paid debit cards. For my Canadian friends, Koho is a similar platform still in beta testing. Both of these companies eliminate or convert the traditional FI to a place to hold your funds. Koho explains their money is made on interchange fees. In the case of Koho, discussions with their team led me to believe they might engage in credit union partnerships, but I don’t know anything for certain at this time. Barring that, I don’t suppose you expect to continue receiving interchange revenues…

The previous examples were complete financial institution replacements. Let’s talk about one which may become a threat over time. If you’ve shopped at a farmer’s market, art fair, or food truck event recently, you likely bought an item using Square. It’s that little white box attached to the vendor’s phone or tablet enabling a swipe transaction. Once again, their money is made through transaction fees. Square’s growth is due to the ease of use on all sides; what’s simpler than attaching a tiny device to your phone…bam! Your cash-only business now accepts plastic. While funds are drawn from and deposited to traditional checking accounts, I’d wager they are building a system to become the home to all your funds, in the vein of another provider, the king of alternative banking: PayPal.

The best choices for partnerships are what I call “over-the-top” providers. These are services which add valuable capabilities to your members, without minimizing your brand. This is the place you want to be. A small credit union can stand on the shoulders of technology giants and offer a suite of modern services on par with the “big banks”. One I’m seeing in many credit unions is PopMoney, not surprising as it is powered by Fiserv. It’s possible you’ve heard of it, or even use it at your own. Their service enables easy transfer of money from one person to another, regardless of financial institutions. As long as both are members of the PopMoney network, the funds will arrive immediately. And here I am writing a check. You can use text messaging, e-mail, or even the mobile app (if the CU supports mobile Bill Pay, this is often integrated), while the branding remains your own.

Want your over-the-top service to do more than just provide an additional member service? It’ll take more work, but credit unions around the country (Disclosure: Including one of our clients) have integrated innovative technologies into their core systems.

Take Kasasa, for example. No, I didn’t just cast a spell from Hogwarts (you silly Muggles!). Kasasa is a platform enabling free checking with high interest rewards, as well as ATM fee reimbursements, all within a policy of only partnering with local banks and credit unions (they share the community nature of the credit union industry).

Are fraud concerns raising your costs and scaring your members? Educators CU teamed up with a tech firm called OnDot to solve these challenges. How? Imagine you forgot your debit or credit card somewhere. With their Ctrl phone app, you can easily turn off your card. Find your card safely? Switch it back on. An additional layer of security, if a member agrees, is a location-based trigger. When your phone is more than 10 miles away from a place your card was just used, you get a notification. “So I did leave it on the counter!” This member convenience also makes money. An institution demoing the service reduced their fraud expenses by 60% while their member spend rose nearly 50%. Talk about a win-win!

Couple programs like these with support for Apple Pay (which more credit unions launch each day), and you are offering “big bank” functionality no matter your asset size. A recent post from Co-Op Financial Services, a leading credit union industry tech provider, discussed this very concept; that credit unions have the power of shared resources to meet or exceed capabilities of much larger entities.

One caveat: Not every solution fits your credit union. As an example, my own credit union added Money Desktop, a self-contained account management system, supporting accounts in any institution (not unlike Mint, discussed in the last post). However, it exists on its own, as a separate site, with no integration. Can I get to it from their mobile app? Nope. Does it even load on my phone or iPad? Poorly. I’m sure my credit union put a lot of effort into adding this program, but it just doesn’t meet my expectations. Like any other initiative, plan ahead, talk to your staff, members, and other credit unions to see what makes sense for you!

Hope you enjoyed the second of a three-part series on credit unions and technology. I appreciate you sticking with me during this longer post. See you in two weeks for the final article, covering the generation challenge; how do you create a future-ready platform while not confusing or alienating your older members?

Image credit: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/01/common-tech-myths-that-cost-you-money/

You Have A Story

Is your tale that of a gallant knight slaying a fearsome enemy? Or maybe it’s something a bit more tame: A family buried in debt, finding a way out through guidance from their friendly neighborhood Spiderm…I mean, credit union MSR?

No matter if it is one to be shouted from rooftops, proclaimed in a royal hall, or told amongst a group of close friends, you have a story to tell.

A recurring theme here is the challenge to spread a positive message to the wider not-yet-credit-union-membership. It’s not as if the message today is negative, rather, it just doesn’t exist. You’re the nice guy/gal at a party recognized by only a few. Humble, kind, and eager to please others, you’re a person the other attendees would enjoy having nearby, if only they knew.

What you need is a wingman (or wing-lady). Good thing the industry has one! I’ve mentioned them before, and will do so again: CU Social Good. CU Broadcast conducted an interview of their team and discussed how they have become “a formidable bastion of benevolence for credit unions.” A few months prior, I spoke with them as part of a larger story on co-ops working together and determining financial benefits of specific initiatives. If your credit union does not have an account with regular submissions, get on it today!

But sometimes, your wingman helps your friends, too. What’s the strategy then?

It’s great to show the giving of the industry, but I know what’s really driving your efforts: Profitable member growth. The challenge lies in translating good deeds performed nationwide into a reason why local citizens should join your credit union. I’ll credit a commenter on a CU Insight story with the inspiration for the idea. In a previous post, we looked at the benefits of being different, both in your marketing strategy and in how you performed community engagement. A growing number of credit unions are empowering their members to drive the giving, through their purchases or voting on charity efforts. There’s a separate investigation on getting members involved in annual meetings, but let’s leave that for a future discussion. What we want here is to, in essence, take a bigger picture and apply it to your own credit union. (It’s a little like a company selling a product based on a larger trend. Except here, you’re just as involved in the work.)

You can grab a piece of that big picture by exemplifying its efforts locally. Remember that group of credit unions in the Pacific Northwest doing bicycle loans? Refresh your memory here. Their strategy is working to grow engaged members. Plus, the side benefit is that these members see the credit union as a wholly separate type of entity than a large bank.

Going back to that crowded room, so many of its occupants have heard you’re cool, but none know enough to walk over. Break the ice by showing (it’s not bragging) what makes you special. I’ve got your back.

Image credit: http://www.teachthought.com

$$$ For Charity, Love for Credit Unions

In a partnership between CUNA and Love My Credit Unions (CU Solutions Group), good deeds and great rewards abound. Know how I’m always talking about getting your efforts out there? Well, if sharing to CU Social Good isn’t enough on its own, here’s a reason your entire community can support: Big money for local charities.

Say hello to Share the Love Campaign (They call it the 1st annual, but I’m sorry, the first year doesn’t get “annual” billing. Next year, no problem!). The love being shared is that of your credit union, its members, and community contributions made by each. Yes, we know you’re giving back. Here’s a chance to tell that story. With video!

As part of the Share the Love Campaign, credit unions are encouraged to create short video clips telling their charitable story. Make them funny. Make them emotional. Make sure they are under 90 seconds. On October 1, every video will be posted. Then it’s time to vote! Members, charity supporters, and bank customers (yes, everyone) can choose their preferred stories. So make yours engaging!

Winners will be separated by asset size, with the smallest award being a $10,000 donation, and a new set chosen each month (through December).

You may think large credit unions and charities have an advantage, and you’d be right, but since everyone sees all posts, do your best and it could be amongst the finalists! Tell your members, your community…anyone! Because what’s good for your credit union is huge for your community.

Which sounds a bit like the credit union mission.

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