Improve Your Credit Union Member Experience

 

Almost 40% of credit union members with adult children do not want their children to have an account at the same credit union to which they belong, according to an August article from CUToday. But rather than dwelling on the negatives, now is a great time to see this as an opportunity to improve member experience and reclaim these potential accounts. So how do you improve your credit union member experience? We’ve pulled some great insights from a handful of resources to help you make your credit union more member-centric.

Eliminate Physical Location Requirements

In the same CUToday article, one of the main reasons adult children of credit union members leave is obvious: they moved away. As credit unions try to close the gap between what they can offer and what national banks already do, digital banking software, websites, and apps can entice members’ children to continue banking at their hometown credit union.

Offer a Family Plan

Another interesting and untapped idea is incentives for families that bank together. Starting dialogue within families could be a valuable addition to your CU’s educational and financial offerings.

If cell phones, and streaming services, and music apps create family plans to cater to members, why not try it at your friendly, neighborhood credit union?

Create a Customer Experience Management Strategy

It’s easy for managers to delegate the fostering of customer service excellence to those employees with direct customer contact. But the customer experience, especially in this digital age, is not just about having a helpful and friendly teller at the counter or drive-thru window.

There are dozens of touchpoints that your customers will experience without ever interacting with a human. When building new pathways and digital solutions, always put yourself in the mind of that customer. If you are developing an app, ask employees with tech skills similar to those of your members to test the new process. Ask them what they liked, and what they didn’t.

You can also foster the same feedback from your members after the new tech has been offered to them. Ask those using it how they feel, and even more importantly, ask those who are not using it why they haven’t.

Show Empathy for This Year’s Unique Struggles

COVID-19, at its core, has been a master class in disaster planning and recovery strategy. And with the effects of the pandemic being projected to stick around for the next year or two (depending on your source), now is the time to pull out all the stops.

Your members are stressed, and confused. Many are worried about their financial situations. You could create new or modified programs to combat these new worries. Add education about government financial support, or reach out to prospects by differentiating yourself as an advocate for their financial stability and success.

Stay on top of new government, legal, and regulatory mandates to show your members that you are in their corner, always. On a larger scale, modifying your core system to incorporate new fee waiving protocols and other relief packages are fast becoming essential.

IMS Can Enhance Member Experience

IMS is your home for virtual private cloud services.

Contact us to find out how you can enhance member experience with our core hosting, virtual desktop, and disaster recovery tools.


Protect Your Credit Union From Disasters

 

Though many people like to think spring is the time for most natural disasters like floods and tornadoes, many forget that the warm summer temperatures and dryness of fall can create perfect conditions for tornadoes, fires, and severe thunderstorms in the US. And if this year has taught us anything, it’s that you can never be too prepared.

“Recent events have highlighted the importance for credit unions to perform ongoing reviews of their plans for disaster preparedness and response,” says the National Credit Union Administration’s Chairman JoAnn Johnson. Disaster recovery and disaster planning are important all the time, but the best time to protect yourself and your credit union from them is before that first disaster or close call.

Eliminate Downtime

It’s the worst feeling in the world to be face-to-face or on the phone with a member and you have to tell them, “I’m sorry, our network/system just went down.” The uncertainty and confusion that downtime creates can negatively affect your business, your employees, and your customers.

Any good disaster recovery provider should be able to tell you exactly how they will deal with and minimize downtime in the event of a disaster. Their – and your – top priority should be to minimize downtime and restore business operations promptly.

Offer Real-Time Solutions

Having a disaster recovery system in place prior to “disaster-heavy seasons” (fall and spring) means your data is constantly being backed up and protected, so when disaster strikes, you can begin the recovery process automatically and with little to no data loss.

Serving community members means that losing their data could result in losing their patronage. Any disaster recovery solution you choose should have real-time solutions that are running in the background at all times, giving you constant peace of mind.

Data Center Routing

Disasters don’t just mean a tornado or fire wipes out some or all of your credit union’s physical location. Sometimes, it’s just a quick power outage or a single server crash. Disaster recovery can also include having a data center take the load and carry it while you repair and recover the crashed server. IMS can route anything from a single location to multiple branches of your credit union. Sometimes, disasters are small and isolated, other times they are all-encompassing, and you need solutions in place for issues of any size.

Re-Evaluate and Customize

Putting a disaster recovery plan in place is a great way to protect your credit union, but as 2020 has shown us, something can come out of the blue and create brand new, unheard-of issues. One of the biggest mistakes credit unions make is implementation without re-evaluation.

Putting a fire extinguisher in the office is great – but not testing it for 5 years is not. The same is true with your disaster recovery protocols. Every year, you should evaluate your plans. Does your recovery provider have new or updated solutions that could improve your own strategies? Have you talked to them about customization for your branches in the southeast regions versus those located in “Tornado Alley”? It’s worth your time to think about it.

Protect Your Credit Union Now

IMS offers private cloud services and offsite data storage. It is important for you to safeguard your member data at all times, but especially when your credit union is affected by a disaster.

Contact us to find out how you can protect your credit union and its members with our disaster recovery tools.


Why Having the Right Core System Is Important

 

2020 does not look like anyone could have ever imagined, and having the right core system for your credit union is paramount. Innovation, rapid adoption of digital solutions, and finding ways to keep our customers without allowing them to visit brick-and-mortar locations as they have always done are just a few of the huge pivots the year has brought us so far.

Your core system is the foundation by which you serve your loyal customers and your community. Is it time to consider changing or upgrading it?

Areas for Growth

With the need for digital solutions at an all-time high, credit unions are faced with the need to update their online offerings. As a whole, credit unions serve smaller communities and customer bases than many banks, but the personal service and helpful staff are what sets them apart.

Since the in-person visits are lower than ever and many employees are working from home, offering web portals and apps for doing credit union business in a safe and socially distant manner will potentially create an influx of new, younger clientele.

Your Core System

The Credit Union Journal  reports that “more than 20% of members surveyed expect a permanent decrease in the frequency of their branch visits once post-COVID-19 life begins.” As we shift and adapt to this new normal, perhaps it’s also time to see what technologies your credit union employs, and how they could be optimized to better serve you and your customers.

Many credit unions have a historically well-rated core system, but that doesn’t mean the standard core system from years ago is still the best option. In a world full of technology solutions, flexibility and customization rule the day. And while change is hard, the last few months have proven that when push comes to shove, a business can adapt rapidly.

Core systems have all the power that a large corporation needs to run its business for decades. But what happens when a smaller institution using that same core system runs into problems? These smaller businesses, like credit unions, don’t have the resources or manpower to justify having a team of people available to monitor and fix these systems. As with hiring, payroll, and other departments, credit unions have to streamline their business to offer the same valuable services at a fraction of the scale.

Opportunities

Your core system is the lifeblood of your business. And when it’s implemented correctly, it saves your credit union time and money by taking some of the tedium out of your employee’s hands so they can focus on serving your customers. In these uncertain times, analyzing your core system could help keep costs down and streamline processes that are difficult to perform with some or most of your workforce conducting business from home.

Core Hosting with IMS

IMS offers core hosting. If your credit union is considering a core move, let us share how we can save you significantly and provide peace of mind knowing you have industry experts maintaining and managing your most valuable assets.

Contact us to see what solutions we can create for your credit union.


The Future of Banking

 

What do credit unions need to focus on to stay relevant in this new future of banking?

Though we may not have known it at the time, COVID-19 has created a need for better digital solutions. The hurried changes that were made to continue business operations as the coronavirus pandemic took hold have changed the world, and many of these changes are here to stay.

There is a unique opportunity to update and digitize your credit union’s process in ways that will keep you and your customers safer and cut costs over time.

Disaster Planning vs. Pandemic Planning 

Disaster planning is a necessary exercise and typically includes processes and protocols to “tide your business over” during a short-term but high-impact event. The goal is to use the disaster plan to get through hardship or an unforeseen issue by mitigating the damage so you can return to your normal business practices.

Unfortunately, this pandemic has changed the future of banking in such a way that “getting back to normal” is probably never going to happen. The good news is: now is the perfect time to implement large and radical changes in your virtual offerings and security.

A Virtual New World

 The ability to work, and bank, from home has been gaining momentum over recent years, but 2020 created a trend that will likely have virtual desktops and remote offerings become a staple in businesses of all sizes. The future of banking will require digital solutions like these to keep people safe in the coming months and create consistent expectations for how your credit union conducts business.

More and more young people are flocking to businesses that have a jump on their digital offerings, and implementing virtual processes will not only keep you, your staff, and your customers safer – it can also increase your value proposition and allow you to reach more customers in these tech-savvy demographics.

Off-site Peace of Mind

Diversifying and flexing the physical space in which you do business not only opens up many doors for customers who aren’t willing or able to come to your branch’s location, it also protects your business by spreading out your assets. If backups and other important items are stored off-site, the risk of losing everything at once will decrease drastically.

Sounds like more risk, you say? Before this year, many companies had strict policies prohibiting credit unions and other businesses’ employees from taking computers and files off company property. But now, it is imperative that some or all of your workforce be able to work remotely.

Rather than worry about the liability, credit unions that are investing in the future of banking will take this time to survey their digital offerings and security measures in the hopes of implementing newer, bolder solutions like IaaS (infrastructure as a service), virtual desktops, cloud storage, and offsite data backup.

Many of these solutions have the added benefit of being more cost-effective than their previous counterparts.

Let IMS Help

Contact us to see what solutions we can create for your credit union.


Data Security Best Practices for Credit Unions

 

Credit unions often serve some of the most vulnerable businesses in their communities. About 50% of small businesses that have a data breach in their operations will close permanently in the following 6 months. While credit unions may not fold so easily in the midst of a cyberattack, it’s still important to have excellent data protection protocols and contingency plans in the event that your data is hacked or compromised, and it’s not just for the benefit of your IT managers. Adopting credit union data security best practices can curb the risks associated with the storage and curation of sensitive customer data.

Data security is an ever-evolving and often underestimated superpower in the financial world. There are many great ways to improve your data security. 

Barriers to Entry and Enhancement

Protecting your data, while always a worthy investment, is often very expensive, especially for smaller institutions. Onsite data protection is a great start, but the events of 2020 have also shed light on the many business’s shortcomings in the online data security arena. Without proper training and monitoring, employees can also easily perform unsafe data handling. As email scammers and hackers get more creative, the chances you or your business will be a victim of a cyberattack only grows.

Recognize potential threats

The first thing you should do is check your weak spots: gather a list of information that is most valuable to scammers. Knowing what the high-risk data is, and where it’s stored, is half the battle, as they say. Creating protocols and programs that scan for these valuable tidbits is a great way to pull this information together quickly and precisely.

Potential threats can also include older technology, like employees who leave login credentials or other access information somewhere easily accessible or noticed. Just because it’s not stored in a sophisticated and expensive device doesn’t mean it can’t be used to wreak havoc on your business.

Put Your Guard Up

Once you’ve identified your top targets, it’s time to reinforce them. Encryption is a common tool for protecting sensitive information, and it can be used on many fronts. Leverage tools like the ACET to set standards and controls that install safeguards against bad actors on your systems.

Diversify your approach using malware defenses, continuous monitoring systems, employee procedures, and the like. Your outside vendors are also common entry points for cyberattackers. Make sure your protections extend to these dealings as well. 

Don’t forget to test your systems. Remember school tornado drills? It’s wise to practice these protocols in a controlled environment to be sure your institution is prepared for the real deal.

Conclusion

Credit union data security is an industry that evolves at breakneck speeds. A system that worked perfectly last year could leave dangerous gaps in your cybersecurity offerings this year and it is wise to keep an eye on new trends both in cybercrime and in the tools industry leaders are using to mitigate the risks.

Cybersecurity maintenance is a continuous and all-encompassing endeavor. Contact us for help, we can protect your data and meet your cybersecurity needs.


Credit Unions and COVID-19

 

The emergence and development of the coronavirus pandemic have impacted the world in ways that likely won’t ever go away. Credit unions are not immune to the pandemic, but what have they been doing differently since the COVID-19 outbreak started? 

Changes for Members

The changes for members go much deeper than just incorporating social distancing and expanding online options to curb the spread of the virus. Many credit unions offered (and continue to offer) things like loan repayment holidays, emergency loan guarantees, credit card interest rate reductions, fee waivers, and extensive financial counseling.

These changes, coupled with targeted government stimulus and unemployment relief has helped ease the financial burden on credit union members. According to a Credit Union Times article, credit unions paid out $9.6 billion in business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, supporting 51 million jobs.

To slow the spread of the virus, many credit unions also relied on recommending members perform more cashless transactions. Credit and debit card use as well as limiting large cash deposits and withdrawals were also encouraged.

Changes to Credit Union Operations

While deciding how to help members continue their financial journey, credit unions were also navigating the transition from physical business to mostly virtual and digital operations. Many countries deemed credit unions (along with larger national bank chains) as essential, so new protocols were implemented at astonishing rates.

The room and building maximum capacities are being downsized and many CUs had at least part of their labor pool working from home during shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, which created a need for cybersecurity tips and best practices.

The WFH measures are likely here to stay, and the limited room capacities will be in place for the rest of 2020. Some countries have gotten a handle on their COVID cases, but the US is a long way from being COVID-free. This means in-person meetings and transactions will continue to be lower than average, while online offerings will continue to be a preferred method.

Policy Changes

From a technical standpoint, many institutions even made changes to services like commercial underwriting processes. While the COVID-19 pandemic may be a once-in-a-lifetime event, the importance of a strong contingency plan could be a higher priority for lenders considering the merits of a small business loan application.

Post-COVID

Though this pandemic is far from over, credit unions have now stopped merely reacting to the crisis and are working diligently to adapt and move forward. Many businesses are taking this time to search for ways to streamline, digitize, and automate certain aspects of everyday operations. 

73% of employers, regardless of business size, are now considering keeping work-from-home positions, which means data security and easy online access will become a necessity. Larger businesses may need to make tough decisions concerning mergers and consolidations. For smaller CUs, this is a great time to trim time-consuming practices from employees’ workloads.

Contact us when you’re ready to help take some of the burden off your team so they can focus on growing your credit union during these unprecedented times.


Using IaaS to Grow Your Business

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is an instant cloud computing infrastructure provisioned over the internet. In an IaaS model, a cloud provider hosts the infrastructure components that’s normally present in an on-site data center, including servers, storage and networking hardware. 

IaaS provides a range of services to accompany infrastructure components, such as billing, monitoring, security, backup and recovery. These services are policy-driven, allowing users to automate and orchestrate important tasks. In general, credit unions benefit from IaaS because they don’t have to maintain the hardware, networking or maintenance involved with physical assets like servers and data centers.

For many credit unions, especially small and medium-sized institutions, IaaS is an affordable, high-performing tool that keeps costs low. Managing IT resources on-premise can be cost-prohibitive, so IaaS makes you more competitive with larger companies.

Here’s what IaaS can do:

  • Enhance business continuity by maintaining access to your applications and data during a disaster or outage. Organizations are better equipped to handle unpredictable and growing storage needs, especially for the management of backup and recovery systems.
  • Accommodate specifications on-demand. Teams can quickly set up and dismantle test and development environments, expediting the process to bring new applications to market. Essentially, it’s easier to scale up development-test environments with IaaS. 
  • Increase stability, reliability and support on an ongoing basis without having to upgrade software or troubleshoot equipment.
  • Support new Software as a Service (SaaS) applications for call centers, customer portals and e-commerce solutions – anything that makes it easier and more efficient to do business. 

Advantages

Powered by VMware vCloud technology and accessed through vCloud Director, the IMS cloud is designed to support development, testing, disaster recovery and production.

We offer a self-service, enterprise-grade cloud IaaS solution for your specific needs. Our latest offering reduces capital expenses by eliminating upfront costs that comes with setup and ongoing maintenance. The IMS pay-as-you-go model allows you to pay for only the components you need. 

We invite you to make the most of your virtual data center and optimize cloud costs. Contact us when you’re ready to free up your team to focus on growing your credit union.


Protect Data When Working from Home

With so many people working from home during this time, virtual desktops have become the norm for credit unions today. Remote connections provide workers with the ability to access data at home, on the road or a remote office. However, the increase in remote work has also led to an increase in cyberattacks. As end-user applications are evolving, so are the techniques bad actors are using to attack your data system. 

Credit unions should ensure they have the proper security protocols in place to stay safe. There are multiple vulnerabilities where remote desktops are exposed to malware attacks, including email and user-installed applications. Attackers like to gain control over a personal and work laptop and impersonate the user.

Additionally, there may be logistical challenges with assessing hardware needs, privacy and managing multiple devices. But, adopting the right security practices will protect data across all endpoints. Taking a comprehensive approach to security will allow you to easily manage the status of these areas.

Since employees are connecting to your system through a corporate virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), it’s important to have security solutions in place to work across different platforms. Everything from transferring data to personal devices to using unsecured networks are common mistakes employees make when working from home. Here are a few things to keep an eye on with your team:

  • Using an insecure network. It’s possible employees are using home networks that are less secure compared to being at the office with WiFi acting as the biggest offender. That’s why your credit union should use a secure, virtual desktop environment to access sensitive information and apps. 
  • Transferring data to personal devices. Your credit union may have issued workers with a company laptop but your team may also be using a personal computer to work. It’s not uncommon for employees to move documents from work computers to a home computer, smart device or personal cloud service for ease of use. Unfortunately, the security mechanisms in place are far less secure than a business laptop or a VDI. 
  • Sharing access credentials. Bottlenecks often occur when one employee has to wait for another colleague to complete a task. To expedite the process they might share their login credentials to an application or database so their colleague can access what’s needed and reduce that bottleneck. Not only is this an unapproved action it becomes problematic when done over an insecure network. 
  • Inadvertently sharing private information with friends. While teams have transitioned to hosting meetings via video chat and using social media as an outline to stay connected, workers may be leaking sensitive information without knowing it. This may be leaving a comment on Facebook about what it’s like working from home, taking a photo or video of your home office or displaying a computer setup. These are all risk factors to causing data leaks.

To avoid these pitfalls, your IT team should implement additional security controls and set up guidelines on what to install, download or share to avoid security breaches when working from home. They should also retrain staff on the most appropriate ways to handle sensitive information. Performing continuous security testing will reduce the possibility of malicious attacks on your system.

Financial institutions are always a target for cyber attacks, so it’s critical you identify any vulnerabilities. The most effective thing to do is enable our private cloud to deliver easily managed services. IMS provides a complete virtual workspace that allows your credit union to rapidly transform desktops and applications to users on any device, anywhere in a secure way.


Preparing for Hurricane Season

 

The official start of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1 and runs until November 30, but there’s already a tropical storm developing off the coast of Florida. That means it’s time to take another look at your disaster recovery and backup systems to make sure you’re prepared for any storms.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. South, Central and Southeast regions experience a higher frequency of billion-dollar disaster events than any other region in the country. Severe storms like hurricanes and tornadoes lead to extensive power and telecommunications outages, mail service disruption, facility damage and transportation restrictions that impact how people access their money. Credit unions are no exception and may have to shut down or move operations for safety. In these moments it’s crucial your members can rely on you to continue serving the community.

Our client Louisiana Federal Credit Union has experienced many storms over the years, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Isaac. During the aftermath of every storm, their community has relied heavily on Louisiana FCU to provide full financial services. Knowing they are located in a hot zone for natural disasters, the credit union decided to move their core system to a safer region in the Northwest. By upgrading their core system, they now have peace of mind during hurricane season knowing that their services will be available to its members in their time of need.

business people planning at meetingMajor storms can disrupt a financial institution’s operations, sometimes lasting a significant period of time. While some interruptions can be anticipated, others cannot. That’s why it’s critical to have a business continuity plan in place. This is how the DuGood Federal Credit Union was able to effectively begin its backup plan when their data center was in the direct path of a large-scale hurricane.

The credit union knew they needed to act fast for the safety of the business and their staff. Members would be evacuating soon and it was important they could access their funds. After contacting our team, we worked together in coordinating a graceful shutdown of their systems and implemented a remote backup solution. It took less than three hours to back up systems, recover servers and bring up third-party vendor services like the ATM and internet banking. Ultimately, we were able to help with other technical operations as the team evacuated to another office.

With a continuity plan in place, your credit union will be able to jump into action if there’s any disruptive event. Test your disaster recovery service and reassess how well your institution is prepared for threats across all levels. When working with our team, you can count on no-cost annual testing to verify the integrity of your data.

We cannot predict the severity of all disasters, especially when it comes to natural disasters, but there is practice and preparation. Know where to go, identify what critical functions are needed and develop planned responses. 

Don’t wait until a storm is on the horizon to start making plans for your credit union. Contact our team to talk about the disaster recovery solution your credit union has in place. When disaster strikes, you’ll want to focus more on your members, staff and service than on complex logistics.


Leveraging the ACET to Advance Cybersecurity

 

People choose credit unions because of their customer service, accessibility and focus on its members. Credit unions instill a sense of trust and loyalty by creating customer-friendly relationships and ensuring members their money is safe. To nurture that trust, it’s essential for you to do everything possible to keep information safe. 

Examining protections and operations

Credits unions are still financial institutions that must have the same protections as any bank. In setting standards and controls to install safeguards against bad actors, more credit unions are embracing the Automated Cybersecurity Examination Tool (ACET), provided by the National Credit Union Administration. The ACET assesses how each institution prevents and prepares for cyberattacks and threats through a standardized examination of nearly 500 questions and 200 documents required for submission. 

Based on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s (FFIEC) Cybersecurity Assessment Tool, the ACET improves and standardizes how the NCUA supervises cybersecurity for all federally-insured credit unions on a rolling basis. It basically helps determine a credit union’s exposure to risk by identifying the type and complexity of operations, as well as the level of risk and corresponding controls. The ranking ranges from baseline to innovative.

Last year, NCUA used the ACET to assess credit unions with more than $250 million in assets and will continue to deploy an updated version this year for credit unions with assets over $100 million. Ultimately, the exam will be scaled to the size and risk profile of the financial institution. Starting in 2022, maturity assessments will be done once every four years.

Improving the maturity of your cybersecurity

A lot of attention has been focused on how to prepare for the assessment, but your team should also be focusing on ways to improve cybersecurity maturity. The ACET uses the same maturity levels as the CAT: Baseline, Evolving, Intermediate, Advanced and Innovative.

Business people analyzing financial dataThe question becomes, what technologies are you implementing to move beyond the baseline and into an advanced and innovative tier. What technologies are being used to reduce risks and attacks while also increasing ease of oversight and collaboration. Additionally, what practices and processes are in place to protect data, infrastructure and information? 

Resilience entails everything from planning and having continuous, automated backup protection to mitigation and recovery during a cyber incident. 

What steps are you taking to ensure your systems and data centers are hosted offsite and within cloud environments? What type of ransomware recovery is in place? Is your IT team spending more time managing complex legacy systems?

The ACET is an opportunity to do more than answer questions but also take steps to evolve your backup and recovery process. Ultimately, an investment in the right system will go a long way in building trust and strengthening relationships with members.

We understand that cybersecurity compliance can be costly, which is why specialize in providing the best and most cost-effective services for credit unions. Let’s find the right solutions for your credit union.