Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

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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!)

Your Members Hate Keeping You In Business

“Free is the greatest product never sold.” – Me, just now

Did I just come up with some crazy insight? Who knows. I just heard quotes at the beginning of an article lead some to get “hooked” and continue reading. See? You’re reading.

Back on topic, what do you offer for free at your credit union?  Of those things, which are premium services at other financial institutions, be they banks or other credit unions? I’d like to ask why you decided they should be free. Is there a cost to you? Is it a benefit to the member? If the answer to both of those questions is “yes”, then wouldn’t it make sense to ask, “what’s the benefit worth to the member?”

I’m all for lower or eliminated fees. They are punitive forms of payment (and research shows they are overwhelmingly burdened by those least able to afford them). That means your members aren’t happy when they have to pay. However, many subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Birchbox, and Blue Apron. The money spent is done so happily, as these companies offer more perceived value than the cost. Their products/services are a reward for spending, not a punishment resulting in forced spending. 

So, let’s review. Your credit union makes its money through things people don’t want to pay, like interest rates and fees (even if yours are lower than competition). There is a proven model in society of paying for things you do want. Credit unions should be things people want. What if you could change the dynamic, so your members are excited to “renew their membership” with their credit union?

It’s time to turn the whole model on its head. Instead of jumping about cheering for free and boring, let’s charge for value. Use that income to reduce or eliminate punishment fees. Shift the cost burden for your operations from those who can least afford it to those who want to pay for the benefits. Create an environment where members are happy to pay for all they receive from you. Guess what also comes with it? Members remember who you are. They consider you first for financial solutions. They recommend you to family and friends (your referral platform is ready, right?).

Will all members see the value and want to pay? No, and that’s fine. You can maintain basic, free services for those members. Remember the ones who couldn’t afford to pay? Now you’re really doing them a favor and living the credit union mission.

Sure, things like interest rates cannot go away. And you’ll have to keep some fees, just to protect the credit union. But what’s so bad about (partially) becoming a pay service offering incredible value? Netflix couldn’t offer what they have without charging. Blue Apron’s recipes and food would be pretty awful if they were in a race to free.

So go ahead, step out of the free zone and get uncomfortable. We all know you need to make money to survive. It’s just that none of us want to be the one who does the paying. How can you change that dynamic?

Disclosure: My company offers fee-based checking solutions to credit unions and community banks which deliver ongoing and substantial value to members.

Your Mission Demands It

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Why does your credit union exist?

Go ahead and think about it for a moment. I’ll wait.

Is it to provide safe storage and management of your members’ money? To help those in troubled financial situations? Maybe it’s to create a community of similarly-employed citizens.

Whatever your reason, it should matter. If your purpose for existence is just another version of Wells Fargo’s mission, then why even bother? (For reference, this is their vision statement: We want to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.)

So what makes your credit union different? This seems to get lost in the day-to-day of marketing pushes, car sales, core conversions, and more. It’s a question only you can answer.

Here’s an idea:
We exist to provide top-of-class financial services, education, while offering a unified voice in support of our members’ best interests. 

You probably aim to achieve the first two parts today. Ask yourself: How are your financial services? Would you bank there? Even better, would you encourage friends and family to do so? (Then why aren’t you referring them?!) Financial education is crucial to every member, yet few have the knowledge needed to maximize their savings potential. I’m sure you do what you can to help educate them, right?

And then there’s the last part: “Offering a unified voice in support of our members’ best interests”. This is where it gets fun.

Ask a credit union or industry trade group to support the tax exemption and you get cheers all around. They’ll “hike the hill” 5000 strong to demand “common-sense regulation” that reduces the time and financial burdens on credit unions large and small (but primarily the latter). If you are fighting for survival, then you’re automatically fighting for your members, right?

Not. Even. Close.

I support the tax exemption for credit unions. I also agree treating the vast majority legislatively the same as a national bank is unnecessary. Theresa in compliance cannot possibly provide the same level of, well, anything, that the 200-person team at Bank of America can (and should) offer. Of course, we’re getting sidetracked. I said, “members’ best interests”, not credit unions’. And it’s where we are doing a disservice to 1/3 of Americans.

The next few posts will dive into, issue by issue, areas where credit unions have a responsibility to speak out in support of their members. You’ve already seen my take on Net Neutrality (and my interview in CUtoday; many thanks to them for the focus!). Next up: The allure of Free. Then payday lending. And taxes. With a dash of de-regulation for extra flavor. Because what you don’t have to do can still hurt your members.

Credit unions and their lobbyists love to talk about how they are representing a large portion of America. It’s about time they use their voice to improve peoples’ lives.

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