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The Future of Member-Facing Technologies in Credit Unions

Most credit union leaders recognize the need for and value of information technology (IT), but few can articulate their credit union’s comprehensive strategy around IT. With the rising importance and sophistication of member facing technology, that needs to change.

Executive Summary

By the end of 2011, smartphones will outsell standard cell phones, and consumers will defect from bank and credit union websites to pay billers directly. For younger consumers and older consumers alike, good service often means efficient service that doesn’t involve a human at all. In the face of all these changes, it’s understandable to be playing catch-up, but credit unions without a defined technology strategy don’t have long to do it.

What is the research about?

The Future of Member-Facing Technologies in Credit Unions, by Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group, examines the trends in member-facing technologies and provides prescriptions for how credit unions’ investments in member-facing technologies can align with—or even drive—their business strategies. The danger of a technology-oriented report is that it risks becoming obsolete almost from the moment it’s published. That’s why Shevlin takes pains to go beyond specific companies or technologies and outline how different enterprise-level strategies will drive different approaches to member-focused technologies.

What are the credit union implications?

Even the best technology won’t do a credit union any good in a strategic vacuum. To that end, Shevlin proposes three scenarios. Credit unions should prioritize very different technologies depending on which of the following strategies most closely matches their own:

  • Operational excellence—Processes are optimized and streamlined to minimize cost and provide hassle-free service. This strategy demands purely mobile apps and cost-saving social media.
  • Product (or service) leadership—A focus on the core processes of invention, product or service development, and market exploitation. This strategy emphasizes connective social media and cutting-edge mobile apps. 
  • Customer intimacy—An obsession with the core processes of solution and relationship management. This strategy prizes streamlined ways to offer remote and detailed financial guidance.

Cooperatives, Shevlin argues, can leverage any of the three for a focus on member advocacy. And credit unions can’t wait five years to decide which, because as you’re reading this, one of your members is searching your website, the Internet, or an app store in the hopes that you offer a service that meets her needs.