It is undeniable that physical money is disappearing from our financial lives. A lifetime ago, standing in line to deposit a paycheck, stopping by the ATM for weekend cash or viewing payment cards as the physical mechanism for accessing accounts was normal. Now, these representations of money are becoming invisible, replaced by digital transactions that exist as data only. Direct deposits, P2P money transfers and mobile payments are the new normal, and their functionality is measured in terms of effortlessness.
This begs the question: How does an industry built on personalized human service maintain its relevance in a data-dominant world?
“Credit unions have always been strong with developing relationships because so much of what they do is in-person,” says Matt Maguire, chief data officer at CO-OP Financial Services. “But now it’s critical for them to figure out how to pivot, to go where the market and members are going.” Good news: Maguire believes it’s not only possible for credit unions to gain digital relevance, but also to use their member-first philosophy to prevail in a data-dominant world.
Here are some points to consider:
Be open. This trend is inevitable. “How often do you get cash now, versus paying digitally?” Maguire asks. “You can send money to people directly from your phone, and it’s done.” The growing popularity of voice-enabled assistants like Alexa is further expanding this universe. “We can go even further down the path by talking about Bitcoin,” Maguire says. “Although it has its problems, Bitcoin is changing what we think of as currency.”
Another force that’s accelerating the shift is open banking. Inspired by recent regulatory changes in Europe, sharing data across traditional silos and using open APIs to facilitate innovation is about to become far more prevalent. The net result: opportunity and a faster path to digitization.
Play to your advantage. While upstarts may have agility and flashy features, credit unions have something they don’t: relationships. “There’s a trust there,” says Maguire, “If we can supply members with technology that is relevant to them, we have instant engagement. Think about which apps provide value to you. The CO-OP Mobile application is a good example of an app being relevant for those that travel frequently and need assistance locating an ATM or Branch location in our network.”
Partner with the best innovators. In the same vein, credit unions need partners that can offer an aggressive approach to innovation. But, says Maguire, “You want to make sure that you vet and validate partners based on what you’re trying to accomplish, instead of going for the shiniest penny. Where is your trust and your level of comfort?
“Fintech startups have a clean slate, but they don’t have a customer base, and they don’t have the penetration or trust that an established network has. A value-added partner is not only innovating on a variety of fronts, but they’re also working with you to understand your needs and meet them head on.”
Out of sight is not out of mind: As transactions become less visible, they should also be more impactful. How? Digital transactions generate valuable data. By leveraging this data, you can provide personalized service, anticipate member needs, detect fraud at faster-than-lightning speed and showcase your value to your members.
“Because of the breadth of products we offer – debit, credit, shared branching, ATM and call center, just to start – CO-OP has a large amount of data available.” In turn, this data is being made available to credit unions for their own use and through business intelligence tools. “We’re also using that data to develop new solutions to raise the bar on what we can provide that others can’t,” such as fraud detection that uses machine learning for speed and accuracy, says Maguire.
As our relationship with money transforms, so do the opportunities to be relevant and useful. By expanding your capacity to thrive in the invisible money era, you have the opportunity to make your value more apparent than ever.
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