By Todd Clark, President & CEO
On the heels of Thanksgiving, CUToday.info’s Frank Diekmann reported on a concerning trend. For the second year in a row, credit unions have been rated below banks for consumer satisfaction. Even more troubling, credit unions reached an historic low in the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey.
I want to thank Frank for his column, which I think also indicates the commitment of our movement to search for answers and the passion we all share for reversing this trend. Truly, this news feels like a gut punch. Credit unions are doing so much on behalf of their members – perhaps never have they been more integral and essential to the financial wellbeing of their communities than in this extraordinary year.
How do we solve this genuine problem? I think the most basic lesson of the ACSI survey is this – credit unions, listen to your members. They are telling us everything we need to know. The traditional credit union strengths of low rates and people helping people philosophy may not be enough. To earn primary financial relationships with more members, credit unions must prove their worth in more everyday ways.
At CO-OP, we believe the way to deliver more value to your members is by meeting them where they are in their everyday habits. The way to do that is through payments. In a study commissioned by CO-OP and conducted by Filene Research Institute, it was found that 90 percent of credit union members prefer to obtain the majority of their financial services from their primary payments provider. In other words, payments are not just a source of non-interchange revenue; they are the pathway to building deeper relationships with your members, broader usage of your solutions and ultimately creates a more balanced P&L across interest and non-interest income. Every time your member pulls out their card or digital wallet, sends money to a friend or checks their spending activity, you want them to be doing that through your services and solutions.
However, even offering the right solutions isn’t enough. If it were, the big banks and fintechs with their billion dollar balance sheets would have captured the entire market by now. Instead, those organizations are also scrambling to figure out how to deliver the kinds of experiences consumers expect and stay ahead of evolving consumer preferences.
Here’s the great news: never has delivering the technology and integration members expect been this possible for organizations, large and small. Meeting the modern member’s needs through hyper-personalized, digital-forward payments experiences is very doable for even the most resource-strapped cooperative. That’s because of credit union-built and credit union-owned technology platforms like the one built by CO-OP Financial Services.
Our organization has gone all-in on the design of a truly elegant, seamlessly integrated and flexible payments platform. We have since invested millions in making it possible for you to compete in a swiftly changing financial services marketplace and deliver on the expectations of your members.
This year we were honored to see more credit unions join those that are already tapping into CO-OP’s expanding payments ecosystem. We are building a movement within the movement and it is thanks to the continuous feedback from bold, forward-thinking credit union leaders that we are able to deliver.
I want to reassure you: everything we’re doing at CO-OP is designed to help you build a more satisfied, more engaged member-base. We want to help you turn the tide of member satisfaction by:
First, Deepening Member Engagement. We provide the tools and services to help you bring value across your solution set and meet your members where they are. Members asked for a more convenient way to send and receive money and this year we launched the first-ever Zelle integration specifically for credit unions. Members looked for payments alternatives to move through their day with less exposure to a still-spreading virus and we responded by expanding our EMV contactless payments solution. And, we are taking that journey a step further with digital card issuance (coming soon to the CO-OP ecosystem).
We also know that helping your members improve their financial wellness is critical to driving satisfaction and engagement. This is why we have invested in a sophisticated card controls and alerts solution, and we will be soon launching a new credit and debit rewards solution, CO-OP Lifestyle Loyalty.
Second, Tapping into a Modern Payments Platform. Just as important as the solutions you are delivering are the experiences, integration and infrastructure that support them. We’re designing our ecosystem to connect the front-end member experience with the backend to improve credit union operational efficiency. We want to make it easier for you to know and understand your members so that you can deliver the solutions they want quicker and at scale.
Credit unions can deliver faster, better service to their cardholders with the addition this year of three new APIs to our CO-OP Developer Portal. We launched CO-OP Insights Center so that credit unions can rapidly leverage their data to comprehensively understand their debit and credit portfolios and own more member moments. We expanded our Springboard platform to integrate real-time access across all CO-OP card processing to improve credit union operational efficiency. And, the investments we made in our CO-OP Contact Center could not have come at a better time, providing an important frontline for credit unions during the height of the pandemic.
And in keeping with the rising cost and risk of fraud, we continued to prioritize the security layer of our payments ecosystem. We are getting ready to unveil new solutions within account-based fraud mitigation (CO-OP Fraud Score) and dispute resolution.
Third, Doing What We Do Best – Collaborating. CO-OP has invested heavily in the credit union system and will continue to do so. The best way to reverse the current negative trend in member satisfaction is to join forces. That’s entirely possible for credit unions. Not so much for big banks and young startups, which compete ferociously. The credit union industry is more powerful than the sum of its parts.
I believe our client credit unions, combined with the investments CO-OP has made to create a powerful, credit union-owned technology platform, offer answers to the questions posed in Frank Diekmann’s Nov. 29 CUToday.info piece. I’m supported in this belief by the smart, purpose-driven and innovative credit union leaders who are helping to build CO-OP’s strategic roadmap.
We are confident that with different thinking and traditional collaboration, credit unions will turn this year’s historic low into unprecedented highs in no-time-flat.
Todd Clark, President & CEO