5 Ways to Increase Member Service Representatives’ Productivity

Increasing the productivity of your Member Service Representatives is crucial if your credit union is aiming for significant growth. Not only are your employees the face of your financial institution, they are also the foundation that ensures your front-end operations are always running smoothly. Take a look at ways you can make your MSR’s more productive without overburdening them with too many responsibilities: 

Promote a work environment that is non-toxic and rewarding

Every credit union wants MSR’s to treat members with exceptional patience, empathy and friendliness. Staff should also readily inform members of additional services that can upgrade their current relationship with your credit union. To create this customer-oriented experience, it’s imperative that MSR’s are also treated with the same respect and provided with relevant development opportunities. When work is enjoyable, MSR’s will also enjoy serving and attending to member concerns. 

Be clear with your expectations

From the start, limit your expectations to MSR’s job descriptions. They are often the face of your institution and need comprehensive understanding of your products and services, as well as the exceptional personality to match. Though staff often take on multiple responsibilities, please don’t expect them to do tasks beyond their job functions. This can lead to resentment and an overwhelming feeling of being overworked.

Ensure they have the necessary training and tools

Credit union technology is constantly evolving and adopting new innovations is important to keep up with the industry. Not only is it necessary to always update software, but we also have to stay updated on the needed knowledge of how to run it. Staff should be trained and comfortable with the technology you’re currently using. If they need help, they should also know where to go for assistance. Many vendors and tech partners offer comprehensive customer support and documentation where MSRs can learn the ropes.

Establish SMART goals

Once staff know your expectations, you should always give them a way to measure their progress against your expectations. It’s not enough to tell them they’re doing well. They should know which actions contribute to their progress, how what they do affects their performance, and what they’re measured on. Set SMART goals, or goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. If they meet these goals, don’t forget to show recognition! Staff who feel appreciated for their efforts will more often than not strive to work even harder.

Allow them to take actual breaks

The truth is that most of the time, taking a break from work can lead to more productive days. This is especially true for jobs that are customer-facing, like that of your MSR’s. Aside from scheduled breaks, don’t forget to encourage them to take vacation days off. 

One of the strongest advantages of credit unions is the personalized attention that members rarely get from bigger financial institutions. When you support your staff and give them the tools they need to increase their productivity, your team, your members and your business will be better for it.

How Can Your Credit Union Prepare For Disaster Recovery?

For financial institutions and the majority of organizations across the U.S., natural disasters can strike at any moment and in many forms. When the inevitable happens, your credit union should be able to handle your disaster recovery and resume operations as soon as possible.

Your members’ financial information is extremely valuable, but it is also vulnerable. When there are threats against your data security, natural or man-made, this automatically puts your credit union at risk. Having unsecure data significantly affects a large number of people and the fallout can devastate your credit union.

A comprehensive recovery solution doesn’t have to be extremely specific about the type of disaster it can protect your credit union from. However, it’s advised to consider the most common potential crises depending on your location, such as:

  • Cyber crime
  • Human error
  • Tropical storms or hurricanes
  • Wildfires
  • Flood
  • Earthquake
  • Tornado

How to Safely Store Your Data

When the worst-case scenario comes to pass, you need to make sure your data is backed up in a secure area. The first step is to keep it backed up on an offsite location. While many stop at this point, this doesn’t secure your valuable credit union data.

Redundancy is a must. You’ll never know if the next disaster is far-reaching or if it will strike two areas at the same time. To be truly prepared for a calamity, you need multiple data backup and recovery centers.

Multiple physical backups are the most common solutions for disaster recovery purposes, but it can be cumbersome and costly. Several physical sets of equipment, connections, etc will be needed. Also, the right peple should always know where the data is stored, at which location, and with which service provider. This significantly drives up the cost.

IMS offers credit union disaster recovery solutions without the unnecessary equipment, expense, or the headaches that come with it. If your credit union has high standards for your organization’s data and information, our robust systems will exceed your expectations on data security and disaster recovery.

Think of it as another form of insurance. As much as we want to, we can’t always accurately predict the weather or when the next disaster will affect our areas. But what we can do is to prepare for the worst.

3 Ways To Stay On Top Of Credit Union Technology

credit union technologyEvery time a member completes a simple transaction, chances are they won’t be thinking about all the integrations your credit union implemented for it to happen. Members aren’t thinking about how the core is integrated with applications whenever they check their account balance. They just expect their account data to be there, and for your app to work as it should. It is now your credit union’s responsibility to anticipate members’ needs and provide the specific tech solution they demand.

But how can your credit union provide these solutions if there is little awareness of available technologies?

Technology advances every single day. Staying updated on the latest available innovations not only gives your credit union a competitive edge, but it also helps you provide a wider range of member services.

Here are 3 quick and practical ways your credit union can keep up with the latest technology:

Opt In To Tech Marketing Communications

Third party technology providers usually send out marketing emails that you can subscribe to. While not every email may offer the insight or breakthrough that you’re looking for, keeping tabs on what’s new will help you stay up to date on credit union technology. Your core system provider might be offering services you could use to your advantage but you didn’t know that they were available to you and your members. It’s rare that you discover innovations if you aren’t looking for them!

Attend Industry Webinars

Tech partners often announce and hold webinars. These are low-risk and high-reward ways to educate clients and partners. Sessions typically last 30 minutes to an hour. Providers often discuss new and emerging innovations, or more effective ways to use current systems. If one of your primary goals is to optimize credit union operations, it’s crucial that you learn to use core technology to its fullest potential.

ELearning Programs And Other Online Resources

As of this writing, there are multiple credit union associations that offer helpful eLearning programs, as well as online resources provided by technology partners. These learning centers develop and share industry training and professional development to help partners improve in several areas, including operations, compliance, research, marketing and strategy.

By regularly exploring these resources, your credit union will have a better idea on which areas of knowledge you should invest more time in.

Continuous education is a critical part of being an excellent financial institution, although leadership often underestimates it. It’s easy to fall behind when it comes to tech and service offerings since they constantly improve and change. If you embrace the wealth of resources that credit union technology partners offer, you’re well on your way to staying on top of industry technology and core solutions.

Respond And Recover From Credit Union Cyber Security Incidents

As financial processes become even more reliant on current technology, regulations and restrictions on cyber security tighten by the day. In recent years, the financial industry in particular has gone through more than its fair share of security breaches. In fact, credit unions and other financial institutions with less than $35 million in assets accounted for a shocking 81% of data breaches just this 2016.

The fallout of these malware and hacking incidents resulted in stricter security policies and higher expectations for the data security of members, staff and businesses themselves. 

Credit unions have since been striving to develop a culture of cyber security that is deep-rooted in each stage of data storage and transit, including over networks and in-branch. While the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) provides a recommended process for determining, protecting, and discovering potential security risks, it is crucial to have a plan in place if a breach should occur.

Below are a few considerations for responding to and recovering from credit union cyber security incidents:

How To Respond

As always, prevention is better than cure when it comes to cyber disasters. Having a recovery plan in place before such a calamity strikes is extremely important. But while a comprehensive cyber security protocol will protect against the majority of breaches, even the most stringent programs are not immune from attack. Preparing how your credit union will respond will help you work through these incidents with calm and confidence.

Directly after a security breach, disconnect affect networks and equipment to effectively take them offline. Contact your vendors or in-house IT staff to help assess the situation. Connect with your credit union’s legal representation as well to begin tackling any effects of the attack.

Being able to continue operations as usual can be your credit union’s lifesaver, so consider disaster recovery solutions that minimize downtime and help you restore your business as soon as possible. Lastly, make sure you are familiar with state data security laws before notifying the critical parties as soon as you can after a breach occurs.

How To Recover

Begin recovering from a cyber security breach by analyzing your credit union’s post-breach process. What did your credit union do well and what could have been done better? Take these observations and document them as needed improvements for security policies that you will communicate to your staff and incorporate into your current cyber security program. It can be very helpful to encourage further education and improvement of cyber security knowledge so your plan will be as effective as it can be.

Finally, your attention and resources should be directed to doing damage control to reassure members of their trust and confidence in your credit union. Security breaches aren’t just a negative incident for your credit union, but a moment of panic for your members too. They will need your reaffirmation that your institution is taking all the needed precautions when it comes to their data.

No two credit unions are the same, and this goes for their cyber security plans too. Depending on its size, different types and levels of security will be needed. Preparing for a cyber security breach is critical even for credit unions with exemplary security protocols. Don’t make the biggest mistake that credit unions can make when it comes to the security of their systems and member data: assuming that they are safe from cyber crime.

3 Reasons Why Your Credit Union Needs Disaster Recovery Solutions

We’ll get straight to the point: you need a disaster recovery solution for your credit union. And it’s not just because it’s mandated by the NCUA. Your CU’s resilience and continued success is all the more easier to achieve if you have this strategy in place.

Disaster recovery involves practices, policies and tools that work toward continuing operations in the event of a man-made or natural disaster. This business strategy helps to mitigate damage and assist with recovering from the incident.

The recent years have been challenging for credit unions across the country. Natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes have taken their toll on American citizens and businesses. Your credit union needs a plan to recover from one if it happens.

Read on to learn 3 reasons why your credit union needs disaster recovery solutions:

  • Members may leave if they don’t have access to critical credit union services

If your credit union is handling a disaster, chances are high that your members are dealing with the same. During emergencies, easy access to critical services and most importantly, their money, is of the highest priority to members. 

If your credit union is caught unaware when a crisis occurs, members are likely to lose confidence and leave for an alternative institution that can better ensure the safety of their finances.

  • The NCUA has strict sanctions for credit unions who don’t follow regulations

According to the NCUA, all credit unions have to test their disaster recovery solutions at least once a year (source). They require credit unions to have a working disaster recovery plan or system in place, and failure to keep one would lead to strict regulatory action.

  • Crucial data might be lost in the event of an actual disaster

While your credit union can recover from lost members or a sanction from the NCUA, it’s very likely that you won’t be able to recover from a true disaster.

Without a comprehensive credit union disaster recovery strategy, you can lose a large amount of significant and crucial data. Without data and records, your credit union could be permanently affected.

The Value Of Cloud Storage In Disaster Recovery Strategies

In the past, credit unions primarily stored their data using on-site storage and in remote branch facilities. This practice carries significant risks because data is stored in just one physical location.

With cloud storage, data is much safer from the majority of all disasters. If you’d like to learn more about how disaster recovery can ensure business continuity, our experts will be happy to speak with you!

Debunking 3 Credit Union Cloud Computing Myths

Cloud computing has been in popular use for more than a decade, but it still suffers from a few myths that are easily debunked. For modern credit unions, making the shift to the cloud is a matter of when, not if, so it’s essential to understand the facts about cloud computing.

The top 3 misconceptions that we hear about the cloud for credit unions are:

  • It is too expensive
  • It is less secure because you ‘lose control’ of the data
  • Current IT staff will become obsolete

These concerns may sound serious, but the reality is that they aren’t valid. Take a look at why your credit union shouldn’t fear the cloud:

Misconception: The cloud is too expensive

When you initially study prices of cloud hosting services, it can be easy to balk at the pricing structure. However, cloud pricing only tells a small part of the story. Remember that you are balancing capital expenditures and operating expenses. You don’t need to invest in costly infrastructure when you move to the cloud.

When you take into account the total expense of running on-location networks compared to that of cloud services for credit unions, the actual numbers are very reasonable. As with other expenses, sticker shock only occurs if you don’t take the time to educate yourself on the true costs.

While the operating expenditures make your monthly payments go up, it is offset by several benefits such as more predictable costs, hassle-free budgeting, no significant cash outlays needed every few years, and no need to be concerned about maintenance and support because these are included in the operating costs of cloud services.

Misconception: The cloud isn’t secure

Many professionals, even those in the IT industry, remain skeptical about credit union cloud security. Their reasoning is that they can’t trust a system they can’t physically see or manage.

The truth is that when it comes to data security, physical storage location matters far less than the ability to manage and restrict access.

Having proper security suite and firewall configuration, as well as active security management, is much more important for protecting data integrity than physical server control.

One more benefit to cloud services for credit unions is the fast and efficient adoption of innovative technologies. Instead of regularly paying for new upgrades and security features, the cost of these technologies are already baked into the cost of the cloud platform.

Misconception: Current IT staff won’t have anything to do

After transferring infrastructure management to the cloud, your current IT staff is still responsible for server management even though it is located elsewhere.

Aside from this, IT also has other non-cloud related tasks to finish. Because of all the time and resources freed up by not having to actively oversee physical servers, your IT staff can work on your business more. One suggestion is to work on member-facing initiatives for your credit union, a project that they wouldn’t have time to support otherwise.

Many of the hesitations that credit unions have about the cloud can be easily addressed. Not only is the cloud more cost-effective than originally thought, but it’s also more secure than the majority of on-premise systems. The staffing implications of moving to the cloud is positive as well. Instead of spending time on maintenance and support, IT can now address member-facing services that provide significantly more value to the credit union.

4 Female Pioneers In Tech: Women’s History Month

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, the IMS team is putting the spotlight on the women who have played an essential role in the field of information technology and computer science. The four pioneers we’ll be featuring today have developed some of the most vital components of current technology, including the creation of the first computer program, development of programs that influence how modern computers work, and the advancement of human space exploration among many other achievements.

Read on to learn more about the world-changing contributions that these four women have made in IT:

Ada Lovelace: History’s First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace displayed a gift and incredible passion for mathematics from an early age. She is said to be the world’s first computer programmer because of the plans she created for how the Analytical Engine could perform computations. The Analytical Engine was a machine invented by her friend, a famous mathematician called Charles Babbage, and it is considered to be the first general computer. The applications that Lovelace detailed for the Analytical Engine still relate to how computers are currently used in modern times.

Because of her significant contributions to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), Lovelace is celebrated annually on Ada Lovelace Day, which is held every second Tuesday of October.

Grace Hopper: Inventing The Compiler

Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and an admiral in the United States Navy. She was one of the first programmers for the Harvard Mark I computer, an electromechanical computer used during World War II. In 1944, she created a Manual Of Operations for the Automatic Sequence-Controlled Calculator, detailing the basic operating principles of computing machines.

Hopper also invented the compiler, a program that translates instructions in English into a target computer’s language. This groundbreaking invention led to other computing advancements, such as formula translation, subroutines, and code optimization.

Every year, women technologists around the world attend the Grace Hopper Celebration in her honor.

Katherine Johnson: Advancing Space Exploration Executes Critical Space Calculations

If you’ve read the book or seen the movie Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson should be a familiar name. Johnson is an American mathematician who helped execute vital calculations that ensured safe space travel from the ‘50s onwards. She worked on maintaining the accuracy of NASA computers as well as co-authored a report that included equations used for orbital spaceflight.

In 1961, she performed trajectory analysis for the first human space flight. To prepare for the 1962 orbital mission of John Glenn, Johnson ran equations on a desktop mechanical calculating machine. Johnson further advanced our journey into space exploration by working on calculations for the Space Shuttle, Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander, and the Earth Resources Satellite.

Margaret Hamilton: The Creation Of Software Engineering

Margaret Hamilton is an American systems engineer and computer scientist who spearheaded the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. NASA credits Hamilton with coining the term “software engineering” after working on Apollo 11, the first spaceflight to successfully land people on the moon. Hamilton’s insistence on comprehensive testing led to the mission’s success and the safety of its astronauts.

The software that Hamilton helped develop for Apollo 11 was later used on the Space Shuttle, Skylab and the first digital fly-by-wire aircraft systems.

The Future For Women In IT

Today, women continue to thrive in computer science and IT as they invent new innovative tech, improve programming, and create tools that we use in our everyday lives. Women in tech have made significant contributions in entertainment (special effects), government (IT systems), and every other industry (innovations in laptop computers that allow for work-from-home setups, as well as Bring Your Own Device programs in offices).

Are Your Employees Suffering from SAD?

The winter months can be difficult for many, regardless of where they live. Shorter days often mean leaving for work while it’s dark, and returning home in the same way. Spending most of the daylight hours indoors can lead to feelings of constant fatigue and depression. This seasonal-specific condition is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Psychology Today estimates that about 10 MILLION people in the U.S. suffer IMS We Know Credit Unionsfrom this condition, which is actually categorized as a form of depression. The severity of symptoms can differ from person to person, but the most common include:

  • Mood swings
  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Indifference

While there are many resources that discuss how individuals can deal with SAD, what do you do when you’re worried about your workforce as a whole? Wellness in the workplace needs to incorporate mental wellness into ongoing employee programs. Most of the common suggestions can apply to the workplace, too. Modifying them to accommodate the workday isn’t difficult, and it will help boost the morale – and well-being – of employees.

Get Outside!

Encourage employees to get outside for a walk, lunch break, or to get a coffee. Just being outdoors will boost spirits and increase energy.

Seasonal depression in the workplaceLet the Sun Shine In!

Allow for natural sources of light, where possible. Open blinds and curtains to let the natural light inside. Consider options such as floating desks, for those employees who tend to be tucked away from the natural light sources.

Offer Flexible Work Options

When possible, allow employees to alternate coming in and leaving early. This can allow for employees to enjoy daylight hours before or after work, increasing mood and well-being, which equals increased productivity.

Provide Healthy Food & Drink Options

If coffee is available to employees, consider offering a variety of herbal teas as well. Make fresh fruit available, or other healthy options. You don’t have to take away coffee and pizza Fridays, just make additional options available!

While the symptoms of SAD usually begin to diminish as the days get longer and the temperature warms, those with more constant and severe symptoms should see their healthcare provider for additional treatment options.

How do you keep morale up and employees engaged during the winter months?  Share!