CU-2’s Top Online Banking Providers of 2019 (Part 1)

Online banking is a dynamic and ever-changing landscape. Since Paul Fiore and Digital Insight launched and dominated the market almost 20 years ago, the marketplace has morphed, changed, and innovated.

Yet, in some ways, things haven’t changed at all.

Online banking is still the most dominant member connection point. Aside from the credit union’s website, there is no place that is more influential on member brand experience than through your online banking portal. If you have a clunky product or a stale design, that is how your members see you every day.

On the other hand, if you have a great user interface, where it is easy to add products, make changes, or help members understand their financial life better, then you will seem sophisticated, transparent, trustworthy, and innovative.

Evaluating Online Banking Providers

There are lots of ways to evaluate online banking vendors.

Usually, credit unions will establish complex committees or do RFPs and spend months try to compare a handful of features that probably don’t really matter.

In reality, if your credit union wants to pick a good product, they should probably ignore most of that.

Frankly, RFPs are great at telling your vendors how to solve the problem that you are paying them to solve. However, they are terrible at evaluating the things that actually make brand differences: the people.

RFPs tend to focus on feature functionality, which is like trying to drive the car using your only rear-view mirror. In the technology world, what you did yesterday has almost nothing to do with what you will do tomorrow. It’s critical to look forward, not backward, when working with online banking providers.

Most of the history of online banking has followed the same story:

  1. A startup launches.
  2. The founders are nimble, efficient, customer oriented, and innovative.
  3. Credit Unions sign-up.
  4. Business overwhelms the founders and they start building teams and raising money.
  5. Eventually, they sell and exit to a bigger conglomerate that treats development like an RFP. Slow and steady. Mature processes.
  6. Meanwhile your members suffer as change requests take months or years, the UI doesn’t change, and your ability to add new functionality grinds to a halt.

However, online banking providers are learning new stories. There are several online banking providers who are really showing their commitment to providing the best services available.

This guide is designed to help you review online banking providers in key categories. Good luck!

Online Banking Platform Vendor Comparison Guide (Part 1)

Provider (Scale of 1 to 5 – 1 being lowest)

Nimbleness Innovation User Interface Core System Choice SDK API Support Back Office Admin Security Analytics Marketing Support Roadmap Fintech Partnerships
Access Softek 3 3 4 5 Yes Yes 4 4 4 3 3 Yes
Alkami 3 4 4 4 2 ? 4 4 3 3 4 ?
CUBUS 4 3 4 3 ? ? 4 4 4 4 4 ?
Digital Insight 2 2 3 5 ? ? 3 4 3 3 2 Yes
Narmi 5 5 5 3 Yes Yes 5 4 3 3 5 Yes
Tyfone 3 3 3 5 ? ? 3 4 4 4 4 Yes
Q2 2 3 4 5 Yes Yes 4 4 4 3 3 ?

Online Banking Category Definitions

This section goes into detail about the different metrics by which we ranked the online banking providers above.

1. Online Banking Nimbleness

When Amazon first started, most people bet that traditional stores would fight them back. But 20 years later, Jeff Bezos and Amazon knew what the rest didn’t: that traditional, entrenched providers become cautious and slow, allowing new entrants into the market.

The key to Amazon’s success over time has been their nimbleness. Creating a culture and ecosystem that changes quickly is essential. We live in a dynamic world: consumer expectations—and the technologies they use—are changing constantly changing.

Here at CU2, we like providers that resist the temptation to create boundaries and structure. The pace of change is accelerating beyond what traditional approaches can keep up with. Nimbleness is essential.

2. Online Banking Innovation

Innovation is all about seeing where things are going, and then being willing to change and adapt quickly. In our minds, innovation is guided nimbleness.

When the European Union adopts GDPR or Open Banking standards, then it’s only a matter of time until those standards come to the US.

It’s like when California adopts new fuel standards—whether you like it or not, their market is large and influential enough to define the norms.

Hence, picking a vendor that is innovative, who knows the trends, and sees where things are going is essential.

Don’t be stuck on what things looked like yesterday. Recognize that you need a platform that is built for speed, innovation, flexibility, and what the future holds.

3. Online Banking User Interface

Because online banking is such a key brand influencer for your members, you need a great UI.

Here’s the good news: most online banking providers are decent.

Still, you want a UI that changes based on the consumer or the demographic. Why feed all of your members the same sandwich? Instead, if some like it spicy or vegan, you should be prepared to give it to them.

Make sure you pick a vendor that has a UI that A) looks great and works, and B) is dynamic for your different segments.

4. Online Banking SDK/API Support

We highly recommend that you pick a provider that supports APIs and SDKs. That goes double if the provider leverages their own APIs to customize, develop, and deliver software.

An API structure means they are built for speed and efficiency, have standards5 and processes for maturity, and will be able to deliver unique and differentiated products for your clients.

Or, at least an API will allow you to move forward without them.

5. Online Banking Back Office Admin

Of course, you want your primary decision-making factor to be the end member experience.

But what if the back-office is so terrible that ruins the member experience?

Maybe it’s tough to reset a password. Maybe the settings are impossible to figure out. Either way, don’t ignore the back-office administration function. Make sure your member-focused employees can do their jobs efficiently and expertly so that you can deliver a great experience to your members.

6. Online Banking Core System Choice

This is just a yes or no question:

Does the candidate support your core?

Ask this first, because if they don’t support your core, it might take a while!

7. Online Banking Security

PCI, SSAE, Dual Factor—you name it. Online banking security is essential for both the NCUA and your credit union’s reputation.

All the providers in this guide have solid security. However, you should still understand where it’s going. Do your due diligence to ensure they meet all the NCUA IT Security Standards.

8. Online Banking Marketing Support

We can’t tell you how many times we see an online banking platform that has binary or simplistic marketing tools.

Sure, you can ask all members to get a certificate for the hundredth time, but if you want people to pay attention, you need some dynamic marketing content. You need highly individualized approaches customized for each member.

The best providers have good marketing support, and they understand how important it is to the credit union’s future business. After all, it may be great to get a member in the door, but if you can’t get them fully engaged, then you may spend a lot of energy on nothing.

9. Online Banking Roadmap

With such a dynamic environment, it’s essential to know the vision and future for the product you are picking.

This is a key way to understand the future innovations that are coming. If the banking provider is just looking for the next “feature” or thing to round out the product, then they may not be thinking world domination (or at least credit union world domination).

Without a roadmap—a clear vision for the future—they may not be willing to make the tough choices, innovations, investments etc. that will make them a key provider into the future.

10. Online Business Banking

If your credit union doesn’t offer business banking, then don’t worry about this one.

However, if you’re thinking this is a key part of your future, then make sure you understand what is needed. Decisions made for business don’t value loyalty the way that personal decisions do, so make sure you are picking something that aligns with your credit union’s small business future.

11. Online Banking from a Core Provider

This is always a problem, good and bad. The upside is their integration is usually better, faster, and more robust. (Of course, it should be, given that the core provider owns it.)

The exception to this rule would be when a core provider buys an online banking provider, then piecemeals the interface together. Be wary of that situation!

The downside to getting your online banking solution from a core provider is that it’s not a core competency of theirs. They may say it is, and it is certainly a core revenue generator for them, but it’s not a core competency.

Core providers have always lagged here. Whereas an online banking-only provider spends all 40 hours a week focused on online banking, a core provider has other development issues to address. They will never be as advanced as those who focus on the online banking space full time

12. Online Banking Contracts

Changes are coming faster and faster in the space. What is cutting edge today is commonplace tomorrow.

Why would you put yourself in a situation where you were stuck with an inferior product for another 3 years?

It’s amazing how many credit unions put themselves in 5, 7, and even 10-year contracts with technology partners. Twenty years ago, signing a 10-year contract with IBM was a good idea. Today, that is an unheard-of, colossally bad idea. And yet, we see it all the time.

The pace of change in technology creates churn every 18 months. Signing a contract longer than 3 years is asking to be disintermediated by new, faster, more elegant online banking solutions.

American consumers will switch platforms due to ease of use issues. Hire a professional contract negotiation provider to help you get the best price without the obscene contract length.

Further Reading

This is part 1 of a 2-part series on online and mobile banking providers. You can see our online banking providers directory here, or read part 2 of the series here. 

The world of online and mobile banking is changing rapidly, and that pace isn’t about to slow down anytime soon. If you’d like to stay on top of new developments, technologies, and strategies for remaining current, sign up for the CU2.0 blog.