Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: technology (page 1 of 6)

Why Net Neutrality Matters To Credit Unions

Update 1/3/18: The vote has been made. Net Neutrality is set to disappear (60 days from vote). That doesn’t mean the fight is over! We’ve now entered a period of regulatory confusion. Credit unions love that, right? It’s time to demand Congressional action to clarify what in the world it all means for credit unions! And maybe, just maybe, reduce the damage it will do. Volunteers, lobbyists, members…unite!

You may have read something online about Net Neutrality.  Or, your techie friend insisted you submit a comment to the FCC about it.  “The fate of the Internet rests on our speaking out!”, or something along those lines.

What is it, and why am I talking about it on a credit union blog?

Put simply, it’s the principle that all information is treated equally.  And, without it, could mean the end of credit unions.

Net Neutrality has always been a part of the World Wide Web, from its humble beginnings.  Tiny upstarts like Google and Netflix got to where they are today because of net neutrality.  How?  Let’s revisit the early days of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  They are the companies we pay to get us online.  In the early days, it was done through the screeching modem and a list of phone numbers.  Now, it’s your cable, fiber, or DSL connection.  In the 90s, dial-up was common and there were multiple choices for service.  The precursor to my own company ran on an ISP out of Miami.  They were great; fair pricing, experienced support, and we knew we were supporting a local business.  The web through one ISP was the exact same web as through another.  As a result, you knew that your website would load on any other person’s computer, and at approximately the same speed, no matter who they paid to get online, or where they were located.

Now, most of us use one of just a few mega-companies.  In fact, there’s a good chance you have no actual competition in your market.  Sure, you can choose between cable and U-Verse (AT&T) or FIOS (Verizon), but that’s not really competition, is it?  It’s like going to the market and looking for some fruit.  They might have bales of oranges from one farm.  The only other choice is a display of different oranges.  Both seem overpriced.  If you ask the staff where any other fruits are, they explain that it is illegal to carry them.  But that’s a whole separate story.

Bottom line, to get online (via a wire or your phone), you’re using one of a small list of giant corporations.  You don’t have a choice.  And they want to make more money.

Net Neutrality ensures that every site you click or every video you watch gets the same priority through your ISPs lines.  There are provisions for QoS (Quality of Service) technologies to make live communication work better (like FaceTime, Skype, or watching a live Apple event), but no one gets access to an HOV/express lane at the expense of others.  This is a good thing, as it ensures that everyone is on an even playing field.

Here’s where Net Neutrality becomes life or death for credit unions.

Imagine Net Neutrality is erased and the few mega-corporations controlling our access to the Internet decide to take sides (for profit or ideological pursuits).  Maybe Chase and Bank of America have been extremely loyal supporters of Comcast’s lobbying efforts.  It’s good to have friends.  Well, as a “reward”, Comcast decides to give both these banks priority access to all of Comcast’s customers.  Goodness, do their sites load fast on my iPad!  But I should log in to my credit union as well.  Hmm, it doesn’t seem to be loading.  What’s this?  “To access this and 3,000 other financial institution websites, please subscribe to our Banking and More package for only $5 a month.  FYI: You always have free access to Bank of America and Chase Bank!  Thanks for being a loyal Comcast subscriber.”

Do you think your members will pay to access your site?  Some might, but many will just move their banking relationship to the free sites.  Unless you can pay Comcast for priority access?  Yeah, didn’t think that was in your budget.

Oh, and I didn’t mention AT&T.  Or Verizon.  You can pay them too, right?

A loss of Net Neutrality is a loss for the entire credit union movement.

You may be thinking, “yeah, ok, it may not be good, but he’s overreacting.”  Wish I were.  Portugal has been in the news as an example of what happens when Net Neutrality goes away.  Their internet access has “zero-rating” data tiers (so you don’t accrue data usage when visiting certain sites), a first step towards this environment.

We need Net Neutrality for an open exchange of information, ideas, and business relationships.  I’m imploring you to speak out.  You may visit www.gofccyourself.com to submit a comment.  But I’d also suggest you speak to your representatives directly.

All 100 million credit union members are depending on it.

Update: Clarified web access in Portugal.

ApplePay & Your Credit Union

Updated 11/13/17 with latest info on ApplePay Cash.

Yesterday, Apple hosted their annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference Keynote. Of their big public events, this is my favorite, as it discusses the technologies they’re pursuing, rather than simply the newest iPhone. And are they pursuing.

There are great sites to read up on the highlights (ArsTechnica is my favorite). From iOS 11 to macOS High Sierra (yes, they actually called it that) to innovations with augmented and virtual reality platforms, they’ve showed their hand for the next year.

But there was something else featured which should concern you more than their upcoming in-home speaker: Payments. After years of requests, Apple has added peer-to-peer payments to ApplePay. Specially, within Messages. Come the release of iOS 11 in the fall, you’ll be able to send or receive money while in a message conversation with anyone. It will use your credit and debit cards linked to your ApplePay account. Of course, these are yours, right? Remember how important it is to get your cards top of wallet, both in the back pocket and digitally!

This new world of direct payments can be an enormous opportunity for your credit union. Think of all the times people share small cash payments. A few dollars for lunch, a bit more for gas, or any number of possibilities. Position your digital card properly and your members can be earning rewards for those, as well as reaping you interchange income (Note: This is an assumption, as the platform has yet to launch.). Regardless of how much you make when members use your card, being the one they use is essential.

Of course, there is also a threat. What if a person doesn’t have (or want to use) a debit/credit card? Well, there will now be an ApplePay Cash account. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Apple just became the face of your cards (and institution)! Careful, or it could start to steal your members as well. My suggestion? Work with it. Encourage members of all ages and financial situations to use it for seamless payments to and from family, friends, even businesses (maybe they can’t qualify for an account with free bill pay?).  Convenient for your member, profitable (and sticky) for you.

Technology can seem scary for embedded industries. Instead of ignoring it (remember how Siri can now handle bill payments?) and hoping doom doesn’t befall your world, brainstorm how you can lead alongside.

It’s always about best serving your members.

Image credit: https://philoforchange.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/mon1.jpg

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

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