Credit Union Member Growth

Credit union membership growth! How do you measure it? It seems like a simple question, just like “where can I get the best burger in town?” seems like a simple question. However, once different interpretations of what constitutes a new member—or a good burger come into play—things don’t stay so clear.

I have been on the Board of Directors at South Bay Credit Union for the last 11 years. At almost every board meeting, our COO delivers the monthly new member report. We seem to grow by a certain percentage each month, yet we have had roughly the same number of members for the last decade. How does that happen? Member attrition.

Understanding Credit Union Member Attrition

Member attrition is not a focal point of many credit unions. It certainly wasn’t for SBCU until just last year. I don’t know why I had that epiphany about focusing on attrition, but I did.

It forced us to focus on why members were leaving, which members were leaving, and where they were going. In my opinion, there are members whom we don’t mind leaving. Let that sink in for a minute…

Not all members are good members participating in the cooperative. Just like a team is only as strong as its weakest player, a cooperative is only as strong as its weakest link. Think of the Great Wall of China. It kept China safe for centuries until the gates were opened from the inside and the Mongols walked right into China and took over. The weak link was the open door in the hundreds of miles of brick wall.

Armed with the data on which members we were losing, why we were losing them, and where they were going, we were able to address a growth strategy in a tactical manner. Intuition is great, but data is factual. Using data, we were able to “farm” our existing members and cultivate those members to be our most profitable and highest participating members.

Knowing why members leave and which ones you want to keep allows you to fix the reasons why those members leave. The first step in membe

r growth is to stop the bleeding. You can add 50 new members per day, but if you’re losing 50 per day as well, you’ll never grow.

Credit Union Size vs Member Growth

Now that we have fixed the leak in membership, it is time to start adding net new members. Take a look at this study from NCUA. Can you explain to me why the larger the credit union, the greater the new member growth?

credit union member growth

My guess is that the larger credit unions grow because of their ability to spend on advertising. TV, radio, print, online, etc. are all things smaller credit unions struggle to do at scale.

However, that is changing daily. We are moving from a one-to-many toward a one-to-one marketing environment. Tailoring the message to the individual potential member you are targeting is a much more cost-effective way of doing this.

Credit Union Member Growth via Smarter Advertisement

One-to-many marketing does work. It’s inefficient, but it does work. One-to-one marketing works better, though. If you know who you’re marketing to, you can ensure that you and your prospect are well-suited to one another.

To put it in terms you might be more familiar with, think of it as the RFP process. If I run a core provider or mobile banking provider, I probably get 50 or so RFP’s to complete each month. Some vendors will complete all 50 and hope for the best. If they complete all 50, they will likely get included in 25 searches, do 10 demos, and get 5 new clients. The more efficient vendors will evaluate all 50, score the potential for winning by developing an ideal prospect persona, reply to those 25 that fit their ideal client profile, do 20 demos and get 10 clients. Double the clients, half the work, a pretty good model.

New member acquisition is the same. You can advertise to thousands with your generic message, onboard as many as you can, and then have 40% of them leave because they are not a fit for your credit union (they are not your ideal member). Or, you can use technology to find the potential members that fit your ideal member persona, target them specifically, and onboard the same number of new members who will not leave. And you can do that for half the cost.

The first step is identifying your ideal member or persona, which you will have already done while examining member attrition. Then, find the right partner to help you put your message in front of them at the right time in the right context.

There are several examples of this being done and CU 2.0 would be happy to help you. Contact us here.

And, for the record, the best burger in town is from In-N-Out.

3 Good Reasons You Should Use Video Marketing

Video marketing is here, and it is here to stay. Video has become an integral part of online marketing that your credit union CANNOT afford to ignore. It is the most effective tool for sharing information and entertaining content with your members. According to Cisco, by 2020 video will make up 79% of all internet traffic.

With Facebook Live, Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, and all the video we see popping up in our social media news feed each time we log in, it is clear that video is being used not only by consumers but also by businesses. However, throughout our content creation services at CU 2.0, we still find that many credit unions are not utilizing videos and that executives are hesitant to start. Many credit union executives share the same concerns about getting set up to successfully start video marketing.

  • What is the monetary investment necessary for my marketing team to start using video?
  • Even if we have the money in our marketing budget, where do we even start?
  • Do I need to hire more staff or do I need to outsource?
  • Do my members really care about video? I thought it was just for celebrities, social influencers, or for sharing cute videos of my dog.

So, the question becomes, do the benefits of developing, executing, and sharing a video marketing campaign outweigh the amount of effort needed to successfully do so.

The answer is YES. 100%, without a doubt.

Here are 3 reasons your credit union marketing team should be using video marketing.

1) Members love watching videos

Why does it seem that videos are popping up all over social media and in our email inboxes? It’s because people love watching videos. Our members prefer watching videos over reading long strings of text because videos have the ability to convey a ton of information in a quick and easy to understand way. Video also allows your members to connect with your credit union and receive the personal touch that they would not get with a text article. Youtube has over 4 billion video views per day and is currently the second largest search engine, after Google. In 2015, online videos accounted for 55% of all mobile traffic and are forecasted to rise to 79% by 2020. Video content online is only going to continue to grow.

2) Search engines are all about video

Video is imperative if you are paying attention to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Your credit union is 53 times more likely to show up on the first page of a google search if you have a video embedded on your website. Since Google acquired YouTube, marketers have seen a significant increase in how videos affect your company’s search engine rank. Simply put, your credit union cannot afford not to have video on your website. You aren’t considered relevant by search engines if you don’t have video on your page. Click here to learn more about SEO.

3) Video helps to build a member’s trust

Having video on your website, social media channels, and marketing emails helps to put a face and personality behind your credit union’s brand. Video is a terrific way to build trust with your membership and connect with members when they aren’t in a branch. A terrific example of this is when a member first joins your credit union. Instead of sending a lengthy welcome email full of text, send a video welcoming the member along with a couple of helpful tips, links, and information that a new member would need.

Video can also be used in marketing campaigns to quickly and effectively grab a member’s attention and inform them about products and offers available to them. An email with a video embedded is likely to increase email click-through rates and improve email engagement. Video tracking also allows you to see which members opened the videos, who watched it all the way through, and who replayed it. Having this information will allow your marketing team to build out lead nurturing campaigns and thus build a more effective sales pipeline. Your marketing team will also have a better idea of what content your membership finds relevant, and this will help you build more successful campaigns.

Hopefully, you now agree that video marketing is imperative for your credit union. But how do you get started? CU 2.0 provides content creation services, and in our next blog, we will focus on some of our tips if you want to get started on your own. Keep an eye out!

Want to talk to an expert at CU 2.0 about our services and how we can partner with your credit union? Contact us here today!

Are You Leveraging the Power of Laughter in Leadership?

Could a little laughter improve your leadership profile? This entrepreneur went out on a limb to hone his stand-up comedy skills.

Joe Fuld is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Washington, D.C. and President of The Campaign Workshop, a political and advocacy advertising agency that provides strategy, digital advertising, content and direct mail services to non-profit and political clients. Joe recently participated in The CEO Stand-Up Challenge, honing his humor into a 10-minute set that he performed on stage. We asked Joe about the experience. Here’s what he shared:

There is truth in the adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” as laughter has proven health benefits. But did you know that laughter can also benefit leadership? According to the Harvard Business Review, laughter can boost employee engagement and well-being, relieve stress, and spur not only collaboration and creativity but also productivity and analytic precision.

While that all sounds good, I’m no comedian. I can give a killer talk about political campaigning or advocacy, but punchlines aren’t my forte. That same HBR article states that while employees feel more motivated by leaders who make them laugh, they lose respect for leaders who try to be funny but fail, or who make fun of themselves. Sounds like a slippery slope. Why risk it?

My motivation

In June, a friend I know from EO, Kirk Drake, invited me to participate with him in The Entrepreneur CEO Stand-Up Challenge, an intensive six-week crash course in stand-up comedy culminating in a 10-minute performance at the DC Improv. Was I in?

Well, I turned 50 this year and wanted to stretch myself in a new way–but needed a push. A challenge. But I run a company and have no free time. So why do this now?

I’ve always enjoyed stand-up, but beyond one improv class in college, I had never tried it. I felt confident about having great material: I run a political and advocacy advertising agency, have a wonderful but crazy family and travel a lot. While memorizing a 10-minute set would be difficult, having good stories to tell seemed like half the battle.

I took the leap, hoping a net would appear.

Trusting the comedy process

I had no idea what to expect, but it certainly helped to have a coach. Ours was Matt Kazam, a veteran Las Vegas comedian who owns They Laugh You Win, which helps leaders and trainers take advantage of the power of humor by combining the science of stand-up with public speaking. Matt and I spoke twice a week, both one-on-one and with the group of seven entrepreneurs doing the show with me.

Having a likeminded team of entrepreneurs also preparing for their comic debuts made it feel like I was on a comedy team with good-natured competition! They also provided motivation. The last thing I wanted to do was bomb in front of friends and family or let the group down.

The writing was my favorite part, but I needed structure and inspiration, which my fellow entrepreneurs provided. I learned that you have to make time for inspiration. The more I wrote, the better my material got. It was an excellent outlet for channeling creativity. I wrote 18 pages of material that Matt and I cut down into a set.

Curing hiccups by jumping out of a plane

I train folks across the country to run for office and advocate for causes, but I, myself, was never formally trained in public speaking. For 20 years I’ve just done it and perfected my technique over time. I still had “ands and ums”―verbal garbage that needed to go―and I wanted to be more intentional with my speaking. I saw the comedy show as a way to cure my hiccups by jumping out of a plane.

Setting up punchlines is a precise business, so I was grateful for Matt’s expert guidance. To practice my delivery and memorize the set, I listened to recordings of myself reading it. I would then re-record it―and listen again. Almost daily. Practice makes perfect.

On the night of the performance, I felt ready but vulnerable. I stacked the audience with supportive friends, family members and coworkers. When my name was called, I was nervous, but my coaching and preparation paid off. After I finished and left the stage, it felt rewarding to have tried something new and succeeded.

See for yourself:

I would do it again in a heartbeat. I had fun and learned a ton about myself, and for that I am grateful.

You get out what you put in

To be clear, I don’t plan to headline at McChuckles anytime soon, but the experience slayed a few inner demons. Here’s what I gained:

  1.  Confidence and intentionality in my public speaking skills
  2.  More prolific creative writing skills
  3.  A sense of community with my fellow Stand-Up Challenge entrepreneurs
  4.  Engagement with clients and coworkers about shared struggles
  5.  A renewed appreciation for the impact of coaching

While stand-up comedy is not a one-size fits all cure, it helped me reach my goals. My employees seem to appreciate the increased level of laughter around the office, which has helped us become a more tightly knit group, and I’ve become more intentional about my public speaking. I’ll be reaping the benefits of this six-week challenge for years to come!

Originally published on August 28th, 2018 on INC. com

Learn more about Kirk Drake, Founder of CU 2.0 here

Three ways to better connect with your membership

As small niche financial institutions, it is imperative that we don’t lose sight of who we serve.  It is essential to your credit union’s survival to be highly focused on your niche and to customize and personalize your credit union’s solutions. One of the most essential ingredients in this process is how to connect with your member.  Now, what do I mean by connecting?

connect with member

Connecting is about being highly relevant and memorable at multiple levels.  This starts with the aggregate credit union brand, moves to the products & services, and ends with the individual member.   At the end of the day, if you can create continuity between all three levels you will have members that love you. This is the goal. Members who love your credit union then tell your story and bring their friends to you.

There are three things that can help you better connect with your membership.

Utilize video to Connect with Members

Video is becoming highly important in today’s digital world.  In the next few years, it is anticipated that more than 80% of all content consumed online will be in video.  Your credit union’s website, member interactions, and content should all be heavily reliant on video first.   Every website should have biography team videos, a video on the problems you solve for members, video member testimonials, and at least one video on EVERY page.  All these videos won’t happen overnight, but list out all the videos you need, prioritize, and start tackling the videos one at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it is time to get working on the foundation!  Videos are an essential way to connect with your member.

Connect with Members with a Blog

Now I know what many of you may be thinking, blogs are stupid and no one reads them.  Not true! A blog is simply a more frequent newsletter that allows you to maintain consistent communication with your members.  It is also a key way to train Google on the problems your credit union solves and the community you serve.  Your blog should not be an in your face marketing channel. Members will not click on and read your blog regularly if it is sales pitch after sales pitch. Regular distribution of educational content is a great way to connect with your member. Your blog should be simple quick articles, community news, and things that are relevant to your members. Don’t forget to optimize your posts for keywords and Google.

Use data and machine learning and other tools to hyper-personalize.

Amazon is an example of a company that is a rock star at this.  If you and I both pulled up Amazon on our computers right now, we would see different things based on our historical purchases and what Amazon believes might be interesting to us.  However, your credit union website looks the same to everyone who pulls it up.  The offers on your website are not personalized to the member.  To stand out and be relevant, credit unions should be using analytics, machine learning, marketing automation, and website design to highly personalize every interaction with a member.  The most important ingrediant to connect to your member is personalization.

Ultimately, connecting with members is what it is all about.  Seeing the difference your credit union makes for each and every member is highly rewarding.  Smart use of video, blogging, and data will allow your credit union to enhance those connections and make you highly relevant to your membership.

Originally published on August 1, 2018 on CUInsight

QCash Brings Payday Loans to Credit Unions 

By Robert McGarvey 

$30 billion annually – that’s how big Pew said the payday, pawn auto title, etc.  loan market is in America.  When people need a loan, and everybody else has said no, they go to alternative lenders. That’s 10 to 12 million Americans every year. 

They pay through the nose too. Up to 400% APR.   

But what if credit unions could get involved. And what if credit unions could offer more consumer-friendly options. 

Enter QCash, an innovative, small dollar lending platform that grew out of WSECU (Washington State Employees Credit Union) and also benefited from counsel via Filene. 

 payday loans credit unions

Ben Morales, CEO of QCash, said that QCash in effect brings WSECU back to its roots. The first loan the credit union made, around 60 years ago, was $50 to a member to buy new tires. 

That is exactly the kind of helping hand credit unions were formed to offer and, said Morales, QCash is a platform designed to help many more credit unions profitably offer small dollar loans to members, to the benefit of the member and also to the credit union. 

The problem: many credit unions have abdicated small-dollar loans, said Morales, leaving the market to alternative lenders.  Which often means predatory lenders. 

Said Pew: “The average payday loan customer borrows $375 over five months of the year and pays $520 in fees.” 

Pew added: “banks and credit unions could profitably offer that same $375 over five months for less than $100.” 

Pew continued: “banks and credit unions can be profitable at double-digit APRs as long as applicable rules allow for automated origination.” 

That’s exactly where QCash comes in.  What it offers is an automated platform where the loan applicant answers a very few questions and, in under 60 seconds and with just six clicks, a decision on the loan is rendered. 

That speed is possible, said Morales, because the credit union already knows a lot about the member. There’s no need to ask the member questions where the answer is already known and, because QCash accesses the core, it knows plenty about the member. 

That speed and simplicity is a big plus for loan applicants.  Many fear that applying for a credit union loan means a visit to a branch for a face to face but QCash puts the process online or in the mobile app. That makes it easy for the member and also eliminates much of the embarrassment potential. 

About 70% of loan applications are approved, said Morales. 

Add it up and QCash is a good deal for the appropriate member. 

Why isn’t it offered at more institutions? 

The grumbles about offering payday loans at a credit union are many. There are complaints that this isn’t what a credit union should be doing, that the borrowers will default, that it’s too expensive to process loan apps to bother with small-dollar loans to imperfect borrowers, etc. etc. 

QCash proves a lot of that wrong.  Last year QCash – which presently has five active credit unions involved with several more in the go-live queue – processed around 35,000 loan apps.  It has a track record.  The charge-off rate, said Morales, is around 10 to 13%.  “That’s why you charge as high as 36% APR,” he said. 

He added that some QCash institutions charge significantly below 36%. Nobody presently charges more. 

Morales acknowledged that some in the credit union movement are squeamish about the idea of charging members 36% APR – but he pointed out that, for this member, that usually is a very good deal, much better than the alternatives that might be available. 

Point is: this is helping members. Not hurting them. 

Even so, not every institution involved in QCash is aggressive about marketing it, Morales acknowledged, perhaps because of some lingering concerns about being seen to offer payday loans. 

That’s something the reticent institution just has to get over. Because that’s the better path for the member. 

An obstacle to credit union implementation of QCash is that right now doing so requires significant in-house technical talents and credit unions below perhaps $500 million in assets often don’t have that. 

Small credit unions may also have problems in providing access to the core – frequently because the cost of needed middleware is high. 

Morales said such issues represent a challenge to QCash to “perhaps adapt its product to overcome these issues.” 

Point is: QCash is working on making its product readily adaptable to a growing number of credit unions. Morales said QCash hopes soon to offer QCash to credit unions without regard to size and scale. 

Fees from the QCash side in implementing it run $15,000 to $20,000. 

Bottom line for Morales: going after high interest, predatory lending should be a credit union differentiator – and QCash puts those targets in range.  “We can do something about this,” said Morales. 

“We can make a difference for our members.” 

Credit unions could rock their way up in the public consciousness and put on a good guy aura in the process of taking on predatory lenders. 

He added: “The momentum is there. We just have to get more credit unions off their butts.” 

The 50 Most Convenient Credit Unions 

By Robert McGarvey 

For Credit Union 2.0 

 

Did your credit union make the 50 most convenient list?  Stop wondering, click to see the MagnifyMoney ranking. 

What this ranking is about is how easy it is for a member to access the services he/she wants, when he wants them, and so it looks at both the analog and digital worlds, branches and mobile apps, among other touchpoints. 

Understand a couple things about the ranking: it ranks only the 50 biggest credit unions and, according to the data, the top rated credit union notched 90 points out of a possible 100. The lowest rated pulled down only 46.6 points. 

That represents a huge spread.  The #1 credit union in this convenience scorecard – Alliant – literally grabbed twice as many points as the lowest scorer, Mountain America. 

There may well be many more credit unions, outside the biggest 50, that also outscore Mountain America. 

So what exactly is getting scored?  MagnifyMoney looked at 5 fields: opening hours (more means more points); how many ATMs; telephone service hours; mobile app (how satisfied are users); and data portability (do accounts sync with Quicken, etc.)? 

A complaint about that group of five is that different members want very different touchpoints. I couldn’t care less about branch hours because I live around 2500 miles from the nearest branch at my chief credit union.  I care only about digital access.  But I have relatives who care only about branches and phone services. So it makes sense that MagnifyMoney sifts different channels. 

It also breaks out top 10 scores in each category.  Here, for instance, are the top five scorers for mobile app:  Eastman Credit Union; ESL Federal Credit Union; Redstone Federal Credit Union; SEFCU; Wright-Patt Credit Union. 

Here are the credit unions with the best surcharge-free ATM coverage: Alliant Federal Credit Union; Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union; Northwest Federal Credit Union; OnPoint Community Credit Union; Suncoast Federal Credit Union; Wings Financial Credit Union and Wright-Patt Credit Union. 

As for longest hours, the winner is Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, with 59.9 hours per week. 

You want 24/7 access? MagnifyMoney found a handful of top 50 credit unions that in fact offer exactly that via phone: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union 

  • Alliant Credit Union 
  • BECU 
  • Delta Community Credit Union 
  • First Technology Federal Credit Union 
  • Navy Federal Credit Union 
  • Redwood Credit Union 
  • Security Service Federal Credit Union 

How did credit unions do as a whole? MagnifyMoney co-founder Brian Karimzad said that generally credit unions are not competitive with big banks on branch opening hours and telephone service hours. But, in the other categories, credit unions do very well.  Shared ATM networks – via CO-OP and CuLiance, for instance – give participants ATM networks numbering in the many thousands and those are numbers that stand tall against the ATM fleets of the biggest banks (more than 15,000 each at Chase and Bank of America; CuLiance claims more than 75,000 surcharge-free ATMs in its network). 

As for how credit unions fare on convenience against other credit unions Karimzad stressed that there are “wide disparities.”  But the key is providing what matters to this member.  A generic score is good to know but where the pedal hits this metal is in measuring how convenient the credit union is to this member. 

Karimzad, incidentally, said in an interview that MagnifyMoney readers express a lot of interest in credit unions, usually because credit unions typically offer some of the best deals on loans, credit cards, and similar.  The movement already has significant recognition for its highly competitive rates. 

And maybe now more consumers will understand that credit unions also can be very competitive on convenience, too. The reputation endures that credit unions keep short, banker’s hours, are laggards in technology, and are nearly impossible to join. The reality of course is very different. 

And that’s why, despite the quibbles, it’s a good thing that rankings such as MagnifyMoney’s convenience scorecard get out the message that in many ways credit unions equal – maybe even beat – banks when it comes to how easy they are to use. 

The more consumers that get that, the better for all credit unions. 

Now, where did your credit union rank? 

Reinvigorating the Credit Union Board for the 21st Century 

By Robert McGarvey for Credit Union 2.0

A two word question recently asked by a credit union board member puts in a starkly bright light the challenge many, many face: “What’s fintech?” No need to embarrass this board member who will remain anonymous. In fact this director may deserve some applause for knowing what he didn’t know. 

But a 2018 reality for many credit unions is that they need to confront a big question: do we have the right board to survive and thrive in the 21st century? 

The answer in just about all cases is that, no, you don’t have the right board. Parts may be exactly right but almost certainly there are changes that must be made as every credit union confronts the imperative to digitally transform. 

Smart boards – and smart credit union CEOs – are already tackling this issue. 

You’ll remember that in 2011 NCUA threw down the challenge that directors have to demonstrate a measure of financial literacy. There was grumbling about that but, really, it’s essential and important. 

Just maybe there now should be a requirement that board members have a measure of technology literacy. Not enough to write code. But enough to pay a bill in a mobile banking app, deposit a check with mRDC, and send a p2p payment to a relative. Financial services are migrating to the mobile phone and the institutions that plan to be around will have leaders who understand and use technology. 

Your board has a distance to cover? 

Join the club. 

But know that some are taking steps to get there and they will share what they know. 

At South Bay Credit Union in California, board chair Chris Otey said that a focus has been on creating a board that’s ready for today’s challenges and, said Otey, there are two ways to do this. 

First: commit to ongoing education of the board. At South Bay, most board members will do an educational conference each year. CUES, CUNA, and many state leagues offer good educational programming that can help directors adapt to the 21st century.  

Is that asking too much of volunteers?Sarah Snell Cooke – former editor in chief of Credit Union Times and now a consultant in Maryland – said she fully supports increased educational requirements for board members. She added: “Not just a webinar or one conference. Some feel like that’s asking a lot from volunteers, and it is but if you’re not prepared to do the job to the best of your ability, don’t sign up.” 

Jennifer Kurttila Zanassi, CEO of Western Heritage Credit Union, said: “My board has attended the certification at CUNA for board members. After the class, they came back so much more involved and energized.” She added:  “I’m truly blessed with a great board.” 

But don’t stop with conferences, Make tech education a continuing focus. At South Bay Credit Union, for instance, Otey ups the educational ante by personally leading a short – perhaps 10 minute – tech focused segment at each meeting. His goal is to update directors on tech developments, emerging threats, and innovative steps other credit unions are taking. Said Otey: “Every credit union should have an employee or board member regularly update the board on tech. It’s become essential.” 

The second step: “we have actively recruited new board members,” said Otey. Recently, for instance, he persuaded a 28 year-old member with good tech fluency to join the board. Such approaches aren’t always successful, Otey acknowledged. But he sees this as a necessary part of keeping a board strong. 

In a similar vein, Cooke said she “recommends a board assessment, preferably by a third party, but those can be politically touchy and expensive. Honest self-assessment can be useful as well. The chairman should collate and review the self-reported strengths and weaknesses to determine subject matter areas that need a boost when it comes time to recruit new board members.” 

That’s now a necessity. Recruit to fill needs. Said Otey: “You can’t wait for new board members to find you. You have to go out and find them.” 

Bottom line: “Your board can’t look and behave the way it did in 1987,” said Otey. Succeeding in the 21st century will take a 21st century board and the only way to get there is to start making changes now. 

Who Do You Trust? A Credit Union Misstep 

By Robert McGarvey 

For Credit Union 2.0  

 

Call it a core credit union marketing misstep: there’s wide assumption that consumers trust credit unions more than banks. 

Rubbish. 

They should, I’ll readily acknowledge that, but there is no persuasive evidence that credit unions in fact score any higher in consumer trust than do banks. And banks really stumble in trust ratings, a fact underlined in the recent Landor Pulse analysis of financial services organizations. Guess what came in first? 

PayPal, which, per Landor, emerged “the clear leader.” It came in as the most trustworthy. By a sizable margin. 

Remember this about credit unions. Kirk Drake, the author of CU 2.0, has pointed out that in the aftermath of the 2008 banking meltdown, which costs innumerable Americans their jobs, their houses, their retirement savings, and everywhere banks were excoriated by angry consumers, credit unions “saw their market share grow by a measly 1%.” 

Chew on that. In 2008, credit unions were handed the ball on the opponent’s one yard line and they could not drive it in for a touchdown. How terrible is that? 

The Landor research findings help clarify what has happened here and it starts with the low esteem in which all financial institutions are held.  

Maarten Lagae, Landor’s senior manager of insights and analytics, said, “Comparing BAV [BrandAsset Valuator, a Landor proprietary metric] data over the past 10 years shows that perceptions of trust have eroded in all industry categories, but especially in the financial sector. In addition to secure assets, the ‘must-have’ for financial services brands is trust. Consumers are increasingly wary of institutions serving motives other than customers’ best interests. This is even more true with millennials, who are the first to engage with businesses that provide transparency and disrupt unequal power relationships.” 

How many focus groups have you seen where consumers say about credit unions, nope, I don’t belong, don’t like ‘em because I don’t like credit and don’t like unions. I know I have seen and heard exactly that a number of times. It’s easy to dismiss it as rooted in misunderstanding. But that consumer still walks past your door without stopping. 

Back to the Landor trustworthiness rankings: in second place is Visa with 25; MasterCard comes in third with 23; American Express comes in 4th with 17%. 

Curiously, other than PayPal, digital tools did not fare well. Apple Pay and Google Wallet are each trusted by 13%. Venmo, PayPal’s kin and widely popular among the young, won just a 10% trustworthy rating. 

What about banks and credit unions? Hang on for bad news. Capital One and Chase are the highest rated at 17%. Bank of America came in at 16%. Wells Fargo, amid its avalanche of bad press, tumbled from 23% in 2006 to 19% in 2016 to 14.5% now. That last ought to trouble credit union and bank executives because it says that many consumers are paying attention to the news and they do know bad press when they read it. And it shows up in these trustworthiness ratings. 

As for what the rankings mean, here’s Landor’s take. “Financial services brands are still seeing an impact from the 2007–2008 crisis, augmented by ongoing issues facing myriad financial institutions over the past two years,” noted Louis Sciullo, executive director of financial and professional services at Landor. “We see credit card brands faring better because of their daily place in consumers’ lives and the relative clarity of their fee model. Meanwhile, PayPal’s high trust ranking stems from the amazing job it’s done to establish confidence in its digital platform.”   

Some 55 financial services brands are rated by Landor. 

No credit union bubbled to the surface in these trustworthiness rankings but don’t assume that means credit unions did fine. 

More likely is that none scored enough notice to win a ranking and that is not an endorsement of the importance of credit unions. 

What to do about that?  Landor helpfully offers a six step program to win more consumer trust: 

  • Be transparent. That means open. 
  • “Be honest – it’s the best policy.” 
  • Have true values you live every day. 
  • Treat your employees well – they are brand ambassadors. 
  • Deliver excellent products and services. 
  • Protect customer data. Breaches are costing every FI reputationally. 

None of that is hard. But many financial institutions struggle with taking these six steps. And that includes many credit unions. 

Bottom line: a lot of financial services companies have sunk in trustworthiness rankings in the last decade. Credit unions have an opportunity to win wider public applause but so far have not capitalized on this. Make doing that job 1 in 2018. 

Must a Credit Union Hop on the AI Train?

By Robert McGarvey for Credit Union 2.0

 

Short answer to the question posed in the headline: yes.

More nuanced answer: Yes but slowly, deliberately.

Right now, AI – artificial intelligence – is the hot buzzword in fintech circles. AI means using a computer’s brains to do tasks that traditionally have been done by people, such as speech recognition, translation, and decision making.

What’s happening now is that suddenly AI is entering our homes and offices at a brisk pace. A few years ago, Apple’s Siri – widely introduced in 2011 – was an early form of AI and now there are many, from robo-advisors that plan retirement portfolios to Amazon’s Echo which will let a user do at least some banking with voice commands.

Right now, a lot of AI is more in the spirit of demonstration. “Alexa, what’s the weather?” Sure, it’s cool that she talks to you – but it’s not honestly much faster than clicking an app on a phone.

Next phase AI will be beefier and deliver more benefits, say the experts. Already the money-center banks are deeply diving into AI so ignoring this trend at your peril. But, no, you’re not behind, said Celent in a recent research report on AI and banking. “Relatively few banks have begun production or even full-blown research at this stage. For those who think they’re lagging, the good news is that they’re not — there’s still some time.”

In late 2016 when Celent asked financial institutions to prioritize technology initiatives, AI came in dead last, tabbed by only 6% as a top focus.

Probably today that number has nudged up but don’t expect that AI suddenly is the top priority. It isn’t.

But it remains important to monitor.

Celent added: “We take a rosy view of AI in banking — for those who embrace it, AI will over time provide a better experience for customers and employees while delivering real business value on every dimension.”

Question for you: how and where can you offer AI tools to members? And are there behind the scenes places where AI can star but out of member sight.

In that latter regard, be ready to use AI to help fight fraud. CO-OP is a player in this space and the idea is that a smart computer can get very good at spotting fraud earlier than a human likely would. A real promise of AI is that it can detect criminal innovations just about as soon as they are launched and, theoretically, will thereby cut the loss volumes in the first phase of a criminal gambit. That all sounds realistic, if the AI is powerful and updates itself.

AI, say the experts, will also help credit unions reduce financial risks through better – faster – analysis and very probably earlier warnings about accounts heading into trouble.

What’s tantalizing about AI is that it promises real time, tangible deliverables – if implemented carefully. How to do that?

Celent in its report, offers a three step map for financial institutions looking for entry points into AI.

Step one: “Keep an eye on the market, learn the landscape.” Read articles such as this one and definitely read case studies of financial institutions and AI deployments.

Step two: Put your data house in order (AI needs clean data, simple as that), consider using a partner, and look for ways to help people (members).

Step three: Start small. Track progress and adjust.

Celent’s bottomline: “While there’s more AI smoke than fire in mid-2017 (that is, more banks are talking about it than implementing it), every bank should develop a strategy for incorporating AI into their technology stack over the coming years.”

Do as Celent prescribes.

And know that a key area of AI interest among money center banks are so-called chatbots where consumers engage in what looks like realtime conversation with a computer. Word of advice: pick one out and play with it. Then play with it more.

Can your credit union go the chatbot route?

There’s also a lot of interest in developing product recommendation tools a la Netflix or Amazon where, because you streamed all of House of Cards, the service recommends similar videos and – often – the recommendations are stunningly on target. Can a financial institution do likewise? Many think so. Watch this space for exciting innovations.

Sometimes fintech is more sizzle than steak, more promise than reality. That’s almost certainly not going to be the case with AI. Stay aware of progress. Stay ready to jump in. That’s your 2017 action plan.

Can a Frequent Traveler Use a Credit Union? 

By Robert McGarvey for Credit Union 2.0

“Oh, I couldn’t belong to a credit union.  I travel too much. I need to be able to do my banking wherever I go.” 

I hear that a lot from business travelers when they learn that a primary work interest of mine is credit unions and that’s because I view the member owned institutions as honest and decent and usually community minded. 

So how do I travel and also depend upon credit unions for the bulk of my banking? 

Know that the nearest branch of my primary credit union, Affinity Federal, is about 2400 miles away in north Jersey.  I moved to Phoenix from Jersey City five years ago and took Affinity with me. 

Why? I had BillPay set up. I had the Affinity account set up to receive direct deposits from many clients.  It also works with my person to person payment network accounts. I could unravel all those strings but why? 

At the Affinity website I input my zip and up pop dozens of ATMS where I have surcharge free access – mainly at 7-11s, by the way – and there are also a few nearby credit unions where I can enjoy what’s called “shared branching” and that means I can make deposits. 

Mobile Remote Deposit Capture – snapping a photo of a check with a cellphone – lets me refill my accounts with a few clicks.  I don’t even need to walk to a nearby ATM to make a deposit. I do it at my desk. 

CO-OP, the company that manages the shared branching network, says it as 5600 locations. That’s second only to Wells Fargo with 6100.  It’s ahead of Chase with 5300 and Bank of America with 4300. 

That means my north Jersey credit union has a more convenient footprint than just about all banks. 

CO-OP also has around 30,000 ATMs where there is surcharge free access.  About 7500 also take deposits. 

CULiance runs another ATM network numbering some 300,000. This is the country’s largest surcharge free ATM network. (For the record, I do blogging for this company.) 

Among banks, Chase operates the biggest ATM fleet with around 19,000 machines.  B of A has around 16,000.   

So, you see, a credit union actually provides more convenient access than any large bank. 

Not all credit unions belong to CO-OP or CuLiance.  Most do – thousands of them. But ask before setting up an account if far-flung ATM access matters to you. 

Can you do everything at a credit union that you can at Chase?  Nope. Maybe at a handful of the very biggest credit unions but maybe not. Navy Federal is the largest credit union and has been for some years; its assets are around $81 billion. J.P. Morgan Chase’s assets are about $2.5 trillion.  That’s a lot bigger and I know just about any banking need, in just about any corner of the globe, can be handled inside Chase. 

But the other reality is that for most except the 1%, credit unions have ample services and products. 

Truth is, I also have a Chase account which I have because I write about banking and Chase is a good one to study.  It’s also convenient – there are two branches near me – when a deposit is above my MRDC limit at Affinity (and, yes, I could get it raised with a phone call but why bother).  And I used Chase to handle a five-figure wire transfer in association with a real estate purchase a few years ago because It was easier to do it in branch and I also happened to be in Las Vegas at the time on a trip and a Chase was a short cab ride of Strip.   

Could I get by without the Chase account? Yep. 

But my suggestion isn’t to burn all bridges with money center banks.  It’s to open a credit union account and see what it’s like to bank in an institution in which you are an owner. 

Oh, even if you travel abroad, your credit union ATM card will work as well as a bank’s.  I’ve used mine in Italy, Germany, Spain,the United Kingdom and other countries I am blanking on.  No problems.