Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Plaid Among Fintechs You’ve Never Heard Of But Changing Banking

No, I’m not talking about the clothing pattern. Plaid is a Fintech startup which just announced a Series C funding round of $250 million. That gives them a valuation of $2.65B. Yes, billion. Chances are, 25% of your credit union members are using their service without even knowing. And Plaid isn’t alone, either in ubiquity or in valuation.

Powering The New Banking

Plaid powers the backend technologies which connect cool financial apps to your bank (or credit union) account. Little players like Venmo. Which is owned by PayPal (they bought them in 2013). I’m sure these aren’t worth your attention.

It’s not like Plaid does anything which may make your credit union into a “Dumb Bank”, simply a place where your funds sit and nothing else. No, they have no plans to take on other traditional bank services. Like mortgages. Oh, it appears they do. But it’s ok, they want your help.

This appears to be a common theme. PayPal’s new debit card “checking program” links with banks across the country to provide needed services, like deposits, check scanning, and lending. ApplePay partners with Discover and GreenDot Bank, itself a Fintech providing reloadable debit cards.

You’re Still Necessary, But Only For the Boring Bits

Fintechs look to partner with banking institutions because the bank part is hard. There’s lots of regulations, safeguards, and steps you know lots about. Basically, it’s easier to buy space in the safe than to build one yourself. Except they don’t pay you. Your resources get used, your members find great value, and might forget you’re the one holding their money.

“So if Fintechs need us banking institutions, why worry?” It’s a good question. And I’ve answered it before, in reference to lending services. How do you best serve your members? Is it with zero interaction, contact, or even awareness from them that you exist?

Of course not! You’re a part of their lives and they know it.

Well, what if your members never knew who you were? What if you were as recognizable as the brand of tires on your car? (I think I have Dunlop, but I’m not sure, and don’t really care, so long as they do their job) Could you still accomplish your mission?

At Least There Aren’t A Lot Of New Fintechs…

If only. Here’s a short list:

  • GoodMoney – Taking a piece of the credit union playbook, they give shares to all users, making them part owners, then use funds to support charitable works. Mission-focused and mobile-centric.
  • Netspend – Prepaid debit products in lieu of using traditional banking
  • Gotransverse – Backend software to allow complex billing solutions for companies
  • Simple – Banking with an app and debit card
  • Koho – Canadian firm with similar product to Simple. Site makes it clear “We are not a bank”, yet with their card, you don’t really need one.
  • PayPal – Besides powering online payments, making business loans, offering the underbanked a checking solution, they can also replace your banking needs. At least they did for this financial sector journalist.
  • Amazon – Business lending, potential checking, and pretty much anything…they’re Amazon

This list is by no means exhaustive. And, more importantly, the larger firms listed (and many more not included, like big banks and other tech companies) acquire start-ups for millions once they offer a competitive advantage. That’s a competitive advantage over you, to be clear.

What Can Credit Unions Do?

It’s unlikely your team will develop the next billion dollar valuation financial services solution. They’re too busy serving your members and countering the efforts of emerging Fintechs!

For me, the only answer is in partnerships. Some Fintechs seek to replace you. Others, like Kasasa or Econocheck (Disclosure: My company represents this service) focus on adding value to your services, while keeping your name front and center.

Your members will look to make their financial lives easier. Services like Plaid might be part of that answer. However, to remain relevant, you must deliver clarity on your value proposition to members as well. Take a look at some of these Fintechs, understand what they are doing and why they are so popular, and then decide how you can adopt these principles to grow into the future!

Zero UI: What It Is and Why It Matters to Your Credit Union.

Originally published on CUInsight.com

I want you to share a piece of information. Anything. There’s only one catch: You have to do it using only your voice. You’ve just used Zero UI.

Pretty easy, right? Thank millions of years of evolution (and a unique amino acid order in a specific gene) for its silent help.

Now, imagine I placed you in front of a computer and said, “convey information to this system, receive additional information in response, then ask it to perform an action, all while using only your voice.” You’d offer me an exasperated look. Because you’ve done this before. And it’s…not fun. Voice assistants improve every day, yet they’re still a ways off from equaling a simple person-to-person exchange.

Part of that is due to the complexity of computer systems, plus the depth of information they can access, while adding the struggle of context. Asking a coworker about “the game” incorporates prior knowledge of the person, their activities, their preferences, and much more.

Harry Potter Playing Quiddich

You’re thinking it was a professional sports event. Nope. They’re really into Muggle quidditch. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Computers are getting frighteningly good at context (see constant stream of, “I know what you did last summer…and will do for the next 5 summers” demonstrations from large tech firms). Yet the user interaction still leaves much to be desired. As I write this post, I’m typing on a keyboard into a section of screen, surrounded by a lot of tappable (iPad) spots which do everything from change how the text looks to switch to another notebook (I’m in Evernote). At its core, what am I trying to do here? Convey information to you. If we were standing face-to-face, it’d be stupid easy. No “user interfaces” (UI) needed to take in my thoughts, process them, format what’s written, and so much more. I mean, really. Think about all the little steps that have to occur for me to get my thoughts to your brain. It’s not simple at all. That we manage to communicate at all is amazing (though, we seem to be struggling with it lately).

The easiest and most direct way to communicate is with voice. That’s why Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have enormous potential (I’m not the only one to say this), and are so vocally (see what I did there?) critiqued when they fail. We expect an app to crash. A browser to freeze. Yet when Siri misses one word of our dictated sentence, we’re all, “this tech is such garbage…YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW!” Because our voice is part of us, and it’s pretty reliable, until you’re in front of an important crowd, then it just shuts off like the computer giving you those low battery warnings. Barring that, our voice accomplishes its task much of the time.

Bringing Everyone To The (Tech) Table

The idea of interacting with tech using only our voice is called Zero UI. And it’s a goal of most tech firms. It’s also really hard, because computers haven’t had millions of years to learn how to do it best. We’re trying to teach them to teach themselves in less than 0.0001% of the time it took us. Imagine the potential, though. It eliminates the need to learn specific steps for any computer-assisted task. You just say it. Think of the person who struggles to find the icon for the web browser. Or looks at modern tech and recoils, dreading the learning curve. Zero UI makes them part of all improvements, and they can reap the benefits as much as a total geek like me.

Zero UI As A Guide

Veggie Burger
Not that burger. (This one’s veggie, anyway)

Think of your entire digital ecosystem. I’m certain it isn’t Zero UI, and that’s ok. The technology isn’t there yet. In the meantime, how can you reduce what a user has to do to accomplish their goal, while minimizing any learning curves? Remember, a learning curve can be as simple as knowing that the icons on the bottom of the phone screen in your app actually represent different sections. Or, that the three lines on the top left mean it’s a “hamburger menu” (which, after becoming the norm, is going away again) with more sections within?

Ask Your Grandmother!

When designing websites, phone systems, mobile platforms, and more, I’ve always deferred to the tried-and-true method: If you showed it to your grandmother, would she have a basic idea of what to do? I’m not suggesting she’ll start using Alexa to pay her bills (though, being a Zero UI solution, she probably would rather that than the app), only, did you design something simple enough to explain simply?

Alexa, help close us out.  Sing a song about paper airplanes. (Seriously, ask her!)

Paper Airplane Held in Hand

My Ultimate Guide To Helping Members In Distress (Audio Post)

Update: The Resolution, and Some Great Lessons

Our hosting provider provided the damaged files (thus, that development site is back) and admitted fault in the issue. Below is a 2nd audio post where I show the other side of customer service and explain what in the world happened (even if you’re not a techie, it’s still pretty wild). Super short summary: It was the polar opposite of that first, critical interaction. And they managed to not blame me the whole time!

Listen while I share the rest of the tale. With some great customer service examples! Note, it goes for 5 minutes.

Original post: Listen First

When things go wrong with computers, they always seem to go big. I bet you have some repressed memories of digital challenges. Given I have had a computer on my desk since I was 5, there are many I definitely blocked out by now.

But this post isn’t about the computer portion. It’s about the service portion. Namely, how to do it right, by experiencing it done wrong. Really, really, wrong.

The audio is about 4:30, and I get that’s a bit long, but it’s worth the listen. If you’re in a crunch, the advice comes in at around 3:30. You’re missing lots of great content, but I want to respect your time!

I would tell the story here, but since it’s sharing advice on how to deal with customers over the phone, hearing for yourself is the best path.

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