Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: member service

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?

Ransomware. What is it and should you be concerned?

If you’ve been keeping an eye on cybersecurity or computer safety news lately, there is a good chance the term ransomware has crossed your vision. So we’ve got phishing (not the band), malware, viruses, worms, and now ransomware?

First, the primer: Ransomware is a form of malware, which in some circles is also considered a virus. Still confused? So am I.

Primer, even more basic version: Ransomware locks your computer unless you pay some bad guy.

Less basic primer: Ransomware is computer code which, once on your system, makes it so that you can’t access any of your files. The creator gives you an option to get the key, or program to unlock all your files, for a fee. This fee goes up the longer you wait, making it no less than a ransom demand. Hence, malware which asks for a ransom: Ransomware.

Who would do such a thing? There’s always people looking to cause mayhem and make a buck as a result. Some of them also happen to be skilled in computer programming. Sure, they’d serve the world better by designing code to help reduce poverty or hunger, but, crime is often easier.

Are you vulnerable to ransomware? Yes. Any computer, which, in a chain of connections, has a link to the Internet, can be infected. Yeah, it can spread from one computer to another in your network on its own. Then it deletes your backups. Even having all security updates installed isn’t enough (Macs tend to block them within 24 hours of discovery). Is no one safe?

How do you get ransomware? One of the more common ways is through an “evil” Word document. You think it’s an executive letter, invoice, or timetable, and you open the e-mail attachment. For you to get infected, Word then prompts that the file has a macro and asks if you’d like to run it. You, thinking it’s an essential aspect of the file, say yes (It bothers me that Office programs don’t display the file before this prompt). And your day just got really bad. Even NAFCU is warning credit unions about this infection strategy.

What can you do to avoid ransomware? The old computer security strategies hold true:

  • Don’t open e-mails from addresses you don’t recognize. If you do, definitely don’t open attachments in those messages. Also, ensure that HTML content isn’t set to automatically load when reading the message (Steps for Outlook 2010/2013, OS X MailiOS Mail).
  • When opening Office documents from those you know, always defer to No if it asks to run macros. If the file seems to need it, ask the sender to confirm.
  • If an e-mail file extension isn’t what you think it should be (JPG, PNG, GIF, PSD for images, as an example), ask the sender to confirm.
  • Ensure all computers within your workplace are current in security updates. And not just for the operating system, but software programs installed, too.
  • Avoid visiting questionable websites, but if you must, use an archaic computer (too old to be infected) or an obscure operating system (ie. BeOS).
    • On second thought, just avoid the suspicious sites. You can also check a reputation monitoring service like Web of Trust prior to visiting.
  • Be extremely careful when using USB drives to transfer data to more secure (ie. non-connected or connected with member data) computers.
  • Train your staff on computer safety…regularly. We can all get fooled. You know those, “A lost Saudi prince wants to share their $400,000,000 with you” e-mails? You still get them because people still fall for them.
  • If your password is “password” or “12345”, change it right now. I’ll wait.
  • Use common sense. If something seems off, your instincts are probably right.

As mentioned in the above article, one ransomware developer brought in a confirmed $45,000 after only 3 weeks of infections. It’s big business and is only going to grow further. Knowledge is power and sharing this information with your members can help them avoid costly headaches as well.

Image credit: http://hackwhiz.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/encryption-img.png

Sheer Experience

Friday, I took a road trip to meet with one of our credit union partners. Though I’m sure they wouldn’t mind their name being used, let’s say it was “Awesomesauce CU” in the Central Florida region. The goals of the meeting were simple: Get to know the staff face-to-face, learn about how our solutions were going for them, and brainstorm ways we could make all processes simpler and more effective.

So what did they want?

The CEO wished for access to more benchmarks, guiding their initiatives with respect to other average and best performers within the industry. Makes complete sense, and is already underway. The CLO wanted more processes in place to ensure members 1) get pre-approved for loans and 2) book those loans with the credit union. Agreed, because that’s the whole point of the game! The Loan Call Center Supervisor wanted less work and more results, or, in her words, “It don’t gotta be that hard.” It sure doesn’t.

At the outset, the staff all made clear they supported the program and wanted to see it succeed, but had concerns about initial hiccups along the way. That’s normal, we explained, as our partners have the most issues in the first three months following implementation, then they find a rhythm which works well for them. But that doesn’t make struggles ok! What can we do to minimize those launch challenges?

We had an all-hands meeting scheduled to run for an hour. Two and a half hours later, everyone was satisfied with the ideas generated. Thus begins the process of seeing what can be implemented and how. But first, lunch. Three of the staff were able to join us for a meal filled with everything but business. That’s not to say these CU staff didn’t care about their work!

Between our three lunch companions, there was nearly 100 years of experience at this one credit union. Looking back at our board room meeting, if you weren’t with the CU for over 20 years, you were a newbie.

After a too-large lunch combined with stories of travel, motorcycles, and families, we returned to the branch to get cracking. When a successful initiative means your staff is overwhelmed, it’s time for some better processes. I listened as the credit union’s point person moved step-by-step through their daily effort. “That’s way more work than we intended,” I thought as she finished. However, our company doesn’t have access to the LOS or internal member lookup system for each credit union (and given the security needed, we don’t want it). As a result, it’s difficult for us to know what is involved to move, view, or edit data within their system. We made some suggestions on reducing steps and explained how other credit unions have found their stride, with an eye on making everything just take less time. I relished the opportunity to learn how it all “goes down” in a working environment.

They requested process improvements for our side as well, and those are now being organized and sent to the appropriate parties for consideration. If we can do them today, it’ll happen. For things that take some corporate cooperation, we’ve begun that endeavor.

We had 2 hours of interaction time scheduled with their team. Over 4 hours in, we were still sharing ideas and seeking to overcome challenges. When we arrived, we were vendor partners there to streamline the system and answer questions. That evening, we left as friends. And I found a fellow Whovian!

As partner meetings continue to be more common, I’d like to devote some time sharing those experiences on this blog. Since we learn the most when everyone’s participating, I welcome your comments when you see something that resonates, or is completely different from how you’re always done it. Without the “Credit Union”, this blog would just be a geek rambling. Thanks for reading, sharing, and contributing!

Image credit: http://www.zedonbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Business-Partnership.jpg

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