Credit Union Tech: Bots & Virtual Assistant Trends

 

Credit unions have broken their own mold. No longer thought of as anti-tech, smaller banks and credit unions are harnessing the power of new technology practices for their employees to better serve their customers. New research on the increased use of bots and virtual assistants has produced some interesting insights.

Let’s take a look at what trends in the use of bots and virtual assistants are most popular, and the impact they make on credit union business, work, and customer service.

A SilverCloud Labs monthly report from November 2020 “examines Employee Virtual Assistants and what bank and credit union employees search for when they use conversational banking, virtual assistants, and bots.”

One of the most powerful aspects of this study is that it uses “real-time data showing real usage from financial institutions actually in production.” This means the study is measuring and analyzing real bank and credit union employees as they work, not in demonstration or test capacities.

Service Wins Over Sales in Employee Searches

When employees of credit unions and banks are using bots and virtual assistants, they focus 90% more on service than on sales. This is a heartening statistic, especially for credit unions. If your employees are using these resources to search for and talk about how to improve the customer experience, that lends credibility and reliability to your brand.

This focus on service over sales also leads many credit union and bank employees to search for solutions to assist their business customers. Since businesses tend to encourage their employees to call banks or credit unions, using bots and virtual assistants for business queries from a banking customer’s perspective is much less common.

Customer-Facing Trends: Digital Support Is Not One

One interesting positive finding from the SilverCloud study is that employees are not often using bots and virtual assistants to help customers navigate issues within digital banking platforms. But what does that mean?

It means that many digital banking apps and platforms are now very intuitive and user-friendly, which means you can focus your employee training on higher-level functions, like ACH and Wire Transfers, as we’ll talk about in the next section.

ACH and Wire Transfers Were the Top Search Terms

Employees searched for help with ACH and Wire Transfers in 65% of the top searches recorded in the SilverCloud study.

This is another really interesting insight that can help credit unions understand what types of training they may need to include or add refresher classes in. ACH and Wire Transfer questions are more commonly asked by employees who are older or less comfortable with changing technology.

COVID Caused Trends to Lean toward Bots and Virtual Assistants

The coronavirus pandemic caused many businesses to trim hours or employees, and discouraged face-to-face contact. That meant more and more bank and credit union employees were relying on bots and virtual assistants.

While this trend was jumpstarted by the pandemic, many reports and studies suggest that the convenience and safety of digital operations like bots and virtual assistants will still be preferred options even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat.

When you are thinking about implementing new digital solutions that will help your customer, it’s also wise to think about the digital solutions that will allow your employees to spend less time on low-engagement tasks and more time serving customers, whether at teller windows or in more support-based areas.

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3 Hallmarks of Credit Union Resilience

 

Just like people, businesses struggle during times of uncertainty. And after the year of uncertainty we just had, those credit unions that are looking to find success in 2021 are working on increasing resilience.

“Today, 80% of the work is centralized. It comes in a more traditional command and control structure,” Joe Perfetti, innovation fellow with Duke CE and RH Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park lecturer noted. “As we become more agile organizations, the unit of work going forward is going to be the team.” So what are the hallmarks of credit union resilience?

Perfetti says the three things a resilient credit union needs are realistic optimism, agency, and hope.

Realistic Optimism

Realistic optimism is all about setting realistic, attainable goals for your credit union.

The face-to-face aspect of your credit union’s business will likely never go back to the way it was. The COVID-19 pandemic still affects the daily operations of most businesses. And even if it didn’t, out of both necessity and convenience, credit union members of all ages are learning to embrace and even prefer contactless and online operations.

This means your 2021 goals will have to take these new preferences into account.

Agency

Realistic optimism and agency go hand in hand.

Many people all over the world have experienced great losses in agency this year – they lost jobs, houses, savings, and even loved ones. So giving your employees and members some of that agency back in 2021 should be a top priority.

Fostering agency and realistic optimism means giving your employees the tools and opportunities to work on problem-solving. Whether this means creating a space, either physical or digital, where employees can voice concerns and questions, and then offer possible solutions.

Team-building exercises and peer-to-peer discussion groups can help you, the credit union owner or manager, see the day-to-day struggles your employees are facing. And many times, these groups can come up with a workable solution much faster than you can.

A note on agency for your credit union members: the online solutions that have been implemented at credit unions across the country last year are also giving your members their own sense of agency. They may not be able to control how many paychecks they got last year, but they can now choose from a variety of easily accessible digital solutions to stay safe and increase their financial stability and education in the coming year.

Hope

Hope is the third hallmark of credit union resilience. As the vaccines are rolled out and credit union management choose to invest in upgraded solutions that make jobs easier and less stressful, this atmosphere of hope not only boosts workplace morale, but it also leads to better customer service.

Credit unions are unique beacons of hope for their communities in ways that big banks are not, because your credit union’s success is directly tied into the success your community has as well.

Spreading hope in the workplace is as easy as creating a recognition board, where employees and members can shout out exemplary behavior and customer service. Other ways include promoting and supporting charitable opportunities that are meaningful to your staff members.

When your credit union and its employees have hope for the future, it creates resilience.

Digital Solutions for Credit Union Resilience

IMS offers an array of digital solutions that help take care of the things you and your staff need, so you can focus on the big picture.

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The Future of Credit Unions – Planning for 2021 & Beyond

 

Last year at this time, your CU team was making plans for 2020 – how to create growth and continue to serve your members to the best of your abilities. But no 2019 business plan could have foreseen the crazy year we just had. So what does the future of credit unions look like now, and how do we plan for 2021 and beyond?

Here are some strategies and lessons credit unions learned this year.

Member-Facing Strategies

Optimizing member-facing technologies is a must. COVID-19 was a big catalyst for moving products and services online, and a great digital presence will be expected from now on. From apps to online forms to chatbots – contactless and convenience will be the big drivers for process change in 2021.

That technology also means it will be easier than ever to get your members connected with the right financial education classes and offerings your credit union is hosting or featuring. While the financial woes of 2020 could not have easily been anticipated by anyone, it’s no secret that everyone – especially small businesses and lower-income households – struggled to make ends meet this year.

Credit unions are essential contributors to financial education and literacy, and this will only be more important as we try to rebuild and recover all the things we lost in 2020.

Employee-Facing Strategies

The rise in technology can allow for more automation to take over tedious or repetitive tasks at your credit union, but with great tech comes great margin for error. Your employees are the face of your credit union, and your strategies for the future must include their opinions, fears, and concerns.

As you navigate the uncertain waters of 2021, be mindful of their needs – are there new or existing technologies that could reduce stress and increase productivity? Is there a recently-implemented technology that does not mesh well with your staff? Are your employees reporting member dissatisfaction with a new program?

Each of your associates has weathered a difficult year, some even by being laid off or downsized. Ensuring they are treated as a critical member of your credit union team can often result in better customer service, higher productivity, and more positive office morale.  

Community-Facing Strategies

The communities your credit union serves each have their own individual needs, just like each member and credit union employee does.

Community outreach has a number of benefits ranging from strengthening brand image to increasing collaboration within your own workforce. Customers and potential members are increasingly aware of the social and political implications their patronage of any business will have. Creating a brand that consistently cares for and works with local communities can go a long way in creating growth for your credit union in the coming years.

Take the First Step Forward in Your CU’s Future

IMS has a host of virtual private cloud and other tech services for credit unions. If you are interested in upgrading some of your technology with core hosting, virtual desktop, and disaster recovery tools, contact us today.


Changes Credit Unions Saw in 2020

 

As all 4,682 days of 2020 finally come to an end, it’s impossible not to recognize how different the world looks now. And here are some of the big changes credit unions saw in 2020.

Technology Led the Way

A major effort for all businesses this year was learning to do more with less – less face-to-face contact, fewer resources, fewer people in the assembly line for all goods and services. New and existing technologies have created many of the changes credit unions saw in 2020.

More and more large banks created pathways for services previously handled at physical locations, and many small community banks and credit unions either implemented or expanded their app technologies to ensure all members were still able to be served with minimal staff and shorter lobby hours.

As a result of these changes, payment preferences have changed drastically this year as well. While the beginning of the pandemic was marked with a coin and bill shortage – due to people stockpiling cash assets in fear of what the future would hold – the trends later shifted toward online shopping, digital wallets, and other tech-based forms of payment like PayPal, Venmo, etc.

Cash and Payments Had to Move Faster Than Ever

As this shift in technology got underway, the processes that have long been standard for banks and credit unions alike – days-long holds on transactions and payment transfers were shortened or eliminated entirely to allow individuals and small businesses access to funds they desperately needed as unemployment rates and shutdown expenses skyrocketed.

Mobile banking also surged. Not only did payment processing speed up this year, but mobile fintech solutions were encouraged because of their contactless and social distancing-friendly nature.

The Latest COVID-Based Scams Are Tied to Vaccines and 2nd Stimulus

After all this, 2020 isn’t over yet – there are new players in the field of fraud, and this time they’re creating scams centered around the new COVID-19 vaccines and stimulus uncertainties.

Stimulus scams have been targeting Americans since the first round of checks went out in the spring, but as talks of a second stimulus payment bombard the media – scammers are taking advantage of the conflicting information by sending out text messages aimed at collecting direct deposit information from their victims – “As of September 2020, the FTC reported that there had been $145 million in pandemic-related scams.”

Because of the big changes credit unions saw in 2020, there is now a bigger need for secure financial systems and good financial education than there ever has been before. Credit unions can provide the services and security local communities need as we finish out this year of unprecedented events.

Let Us Help Make Sure 2020’s Mistakes Don’t Happen Again

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Payment Preferences Have Changed This Year

Since the start of the pandemic, new and expanded technology has become a way to move through the world safely. And that means your credit union’s contactless payment solutions are probably here to stay.

Here are some of the ways payments have changed this year, and how those changes may look in the future.

Contactless Is Key

As of July 2020, the NAFCU reported a “259% year over year increase in contactless volume.”

Contactless transactions and operations are safer during this pandemic, but there’s no denying that many of these options are also more convenient for Americans, especially right now as they juggle remote work, online schooling with their children, and other COVID-related changes.

A study done recently by Mastercard shows that 46% of cardholders have moved their contactless cards to the Top-of-Wallet positions in their physical and digital wallets.

Online Shopping Is Preferred in 2020: Banking Trends Are Shifting, Too

This holiday season, 77% of online shoppers are planning to do more than half of their holiday shopping online. 

Credit unions often struggle to adopt the latest technology, but that will have to change as the future is becoming more and more digitally-based. Consumers, shoppers, and credit union members are increasingly trusting of online banking and payment technologies.

Some good news here for credit unions is that mobile payments are taking a backseat to contactless cards for the top payment method. Credit unions can work with this by increasing those contactless options with their credit and debit card offerings.

Moving Forward

These payment preferences may have been impacted by the protocols and changes COVID-19 has affected, but the trend toward digital and contactless transactions is here to stay. So what does that mean for your credit union?

It will be wise to plan on implementing and bolstering contactless card options – for debit and credit card options. This could include promoting these contactless options in everyday purchases, like grocery and pharmacy expenses, as well as highlighting the health and hygiene benefits of contactless payments.

74% of MasterCard customers state they will continue using contactless payments as a primary practice post-pandemic, according to a report in April of 2020. And these trends have only gotten more popular as the pandemic continues to impact the activities of daily life.

Upgrade Your Business-Facing Technology, Too

The customer-facing technology updates are only as good as their back-end support and infrastructure. IMS has a host of virtual private cloud and other tech services for credit unions. If you are interested in upgrading some of your technology with core hosting, virtual desktop, and disaster recovery tools, contact us today.


3 Reasons Financial Education is More Important Post-Pandemic

2020 began with some devastating financial blows, and many bank accounts have yet to recover. We wanted to take a moment to share some reasons why financial education is so important right now.

COVID and the Lack of Financial Literacy

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than just our physical health – it has impacted our financial health as well. And unfortunately, many people who were the most financially unstable also took the biggest hits when the shelter in place orders and other layoffs started.

89% of Americans believe that a lack of financial education “contributes to bigger social issues in America, including poverty, lack of job opportunities, and wealth inequality,” according to an article from Fortune.

Credit unions are some of the top institutions that provide low-cost or no-cost financial education to their members, and right now is a perfect time to expand those offerings.

Reasons Why Financial Education is Important, Especially Now

Financial education is not just for kids, though it is always a great idea to start educating young people about the importance of financial health and stability. Everyone, no matter your age, race, gender, or financial background, can benefit from this education.

Your Financial Needs Change as You Age

Financial literacy and education can be more than just learning how to balance a checkbook or create a household budget – it can help students become more aware of the benefits of the FAFSA and other grants and loans with low or zero percent interest rates.

It can teach young adults about the importance and impact of credit and debit card use, or help middle-aged citizens start planning for retirement.

Planning for Disaster is Better than Just Reacting to It

Credit union members, no matter how frugal, were likely not prepared for a majority of 2020 to be spent surviving and reacting to a pandemic, where job loss and economic downturn were rampant.

Financial education is like the Disaster Preparedness lesson you sat through as a kid when your instructor told you to go home and make a plan with your family for surviving common disasters like floods, thunderstorms, and power outages. No one wants to look for flashlights when the lights go out, you want to know where they are.

The same is true with finances: half of all Americans report they would “feel financial hardship if they had to cover an emergency expense of $1,000 or less in the next 30 days,” according to a Charles Schwab Financial Literacy Survey.

The $1,200 federal stimulus checks are long gone for the majority of Americans, and what we thought would be a blip in our year has now become months of unemployment and reduced work hours, and more and more families are facing tough financial decisions as the holidays approach.

Financial Education Helps Younger Generations Move Upward, Out of Poverty

Those who are born into financial stability or excess likely won’t see a drastic change in their investment income and stability by employing tactics learned through financial education courses, but those individuals who are raised in lower economic classes can.

This means those individuals and families who are struggling the most can benefit the most and improve their financial health the quickest when they have access to financial education at a younger age.

Credit Unions Need Help, Too

IMS is your home for virtual private cloud services. If you are interested in enhancing member experience with core hosting, virtual desktop, and disaster recovery tools, contact us today.


Ways to Upgrade Your Credit Union Technology Solutions

 

COVID-19 has likely changed the way the world interacts with its banks forever. If your credit union technology solutions are not upgraded and optimized, you are missing some big opportunities.

The Credit Union System COVID-19 Restart and Recovery Task Force has been working hard to gather and release new insights for credit unions “regarding business continuity, digital services and automation, staffing and operations, and industry financial impact,” according to CUNA.

Let’s go through some ways you can upgrade your credit union technology solutions.

Optimizing Drive-Thrus

Previously, credit unions tried to encourage customers to perform certain transactions inside the building versus in the drive-thru lines.

Now, these same CUs are encouraging customers to perform the lion’s share of their business from the drive-thru and ATM. While certain customers will always prefer visiting a physical location, it’s still wise to train and inform CU staff of the benefits and changes being made to accommodate more transactions via the drive-thru.

When customers come into your credit union, having well-informed staff members relay changes in drive-thru policy to customers and encourage safer banking practices can be a welcome alternative for those who are unaware of these new developments.

Protecting Brick-and-Mortar Customers

Some technology solutions are aimed at the physical experience of your credit union rather than your CU’s website or banking app.

Credit Union Business News offers a few different options. Infrared mirrors are a way for your customers’ temperatures to be checked without the assistance of one of your staff members. Employee surveys and guidelines for travel and reporting symptoms or potential contact with the coronavirus can also mitigate risks and widespread exposure if and when it happens.

Density sensors and mobile check-in can help monitor traffic in your facility. Density sensors keep track of the flow of people in and out of your building, which eliminates the need for repurposing a staff member’s role to include tracking the number of people entering and exiting.

Mobile check-ins are another great way to keep the lobby from getting overpopulated. Credit unions can utilize existing services or create their own tailored protocol for having members check in using a mobile device, minimizing exposure, and keeping in-house time to a minimum.

New Digital Offerings Are Essential

In the last seven months, credit unions have been juggling some big changes, on the digital and physical fronts. At physical locations, whole areas had to be reorganized to accommodate social distancing guidelines and new sanitization practices.

While these issues were disruptive early on, many credit unions now have the hang of these new in-house protocols.

But, like with most things in the digital world, moving core functions from in-person to online in a time-sensitive large-scale effort is not going to happen without missteps.

Credit unions – like all COVID-era businesses hoping to survive – are adding more and more digital solutions to their repertoire. Not only are these digital solutions safer amidst the pandemic, but they’re also extremely convenient for customers who are now trying to juggle work, school, and relaxation in one place – at home.

That means the more options for online and mobile service, the better. Faster access to funds is essential, says this article about a new PSCU white paper called “Fast Access, Fast Payments”

Examples of New Solutions

There are thousands of unique credit union technology solutions that will optimize your customers’ experience. We’ve gathered some examples of new offerings from different CUs in the US.

As mentioned above, the PSCU white paper mentions some key topics for adoption like enabling receipt of real-time deposits, immediate card issuance, consumer protections, preparation for FedNow, and more.

Credit unions can boost technology adoption in members by partnering with tech-savvy institutions that are equipped to train your customers on the ins and outs of your mobile app or website offerings.

The Zoom boom can help your credit union, too. Many members prefer to deal with a real person, and video conferencing and meetings can maintain that human element and highlight excellent customer service, all while keeping your staff and your members safe and healthy.

IMS Solutions for You

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Contact us to find out how you can enhance and upgrade your credit union technology solutions


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

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


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.


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.