Tech must-haves for 2015

Originally published on CU Insight on December 29, 2014

Don’t forget your members when choosing where to invest your budget dollars

As 2014 comes to a close and technology budgets are finalized for the coming year, many credit unions are considering key technology investments for 2015. The obvious upgrades to core processors, online banking, loan origination systems, in-branch technology, and the like are, of course, at the top of the list. But there are also frequently overlooked options that credit unions should consider as key to improving their members’ banking experience. Some are small, some are big, but all three of these recommendations will be noticed and appreciated by your members.

Go native with your mobile banking

Mobile banking is the single biggest vulnerability facing most credit unions today and is the most likely entry point for competitors — both traditional and non-traditional financial institutions — to poach credit unions’ members. (Click here for a free report that examines the potential sources of disruption facing credit unions in the next year.) A quick search of the 20 largest banks and credit unions shows they all offer native apps for both Apple iOS and Google Android. Still, many credit unions are still not dedicating enough resources to this critical channel. In a recent report from Accenture, 67% of Millennials said they feel the traditional and digital experience they receive from their bank is “somewhat or not at all seamless.”

Bridge the gap between in-app and in-branch experience by focusing on your mobile banking offering and adding all the functionality your members want — mobile deposit, PFM, p2p payments, etc. Then, make sure that the services available in both channels are connected and the service they provide from your employees in a branch is consistent with what is available within your mobile banking apps.

Upgrade your website with responsive web design

The number of screen sizes being used grows on a daily basis: desktops, laptops, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone (now in 3 sizes), Kindle Fire, Surface, Galaxy — the list goes on. How your credit union is represented on all of these devices, no matter what the screen size, is important to maintaining a uniform image. With 47% of members using the Internet or mobile devices as their primary method of banking, your image needs to be consistent in the same way that each of your branches are. The right image can attract members and encourage existing members to expand their relationship with your credit union; the wrong image can be offputting. Your most important branch is probably your website, not any single, physical location.

Put simply, responsive websites improve how your content is presented, enhance readability, result in faster page rendering, and are SEO-optimized. Josh Rubin, renown interaction designer and co-founder of Cool Hunting, adds, “Responsive web design isn’t just about adapting the interface to screen size; it’s about understanding the situation people are in when they’re using different devices.” Responsive design isn’t a new concept, but it is more important now than it has been in the past as device types and sizes for both tablets and smartphones are rapidly multiplying. To check if your site is responsive, open your credit union’s homepage and slowly resize the screen using your mouse. If the layout doesn’t change and instead scroll bars appear on the bottom of the browser window, you don’t have a responsive website.

Add social media channels to your member service programs

Social media channels — Twitter and Facebook in particular — are important for reaching members and protecting and building your credit union’s reputation. Brandwatch hit the nail on the head when it said, “Every meaningful social conversation can be nurtured into a real relationship that can eventually become a direct revenue opportunity, positive word-of-mouth, or direct referral.”

Social media is the ultimate level playing field. The upside is that it’s as easy way for you to inject your brand into social media conversations as it is for much-bigger competitors. The downside is that it takes a dedicated team member who is adept at handling communications across different technology platforms and is committed to providing real-time responses in the spirit of your credit union’s member service ethos. Look for a digital native with social savvy — probably a Millennial — to run your social media programs with the goal to inform and educate the public, respond to your members in real time with general information about products or promotions, and move conversations to a secure channel when they become confidential and require privacy.

Native apps, responsive websites, and social media connected member service are just a few areas that credit unions should look to substantially improve the service they provide their members. Don’t overlook these areas when creating your budgets or roadmaps for 2015.