As the novel
coronavirus continues to drive unprecedented business disruptions, many are
questioning how the future of the financial services industry will look. For
years, credit unions across the country have been building technology to handle
remote work. However, the industry has not historically seen rapid technological
adoption by financial professionals at credit unions, or by credit union
members. Now, in the face of unpredictable business circumstances, these
technologies are seeing increased demand and usage.
At the core,
these tools provide two significant benefits: connectivity and optionality. The
ways in which credit unions and financial professionals communicate with and
serve their members have evolved significantly over the past ten years, and the
demands from members are becoming more transparent. Through expanded
connectivity and optionality, financial professionals can offer members choices
in how, when, and where they communicate with them.
doubt the current work from home environment and socially distancing has
changed how financial professionals connect with members. With limited ability
to meet in-person, these professionals have placed an increased emphasis on
using all available technology tools, which has paved the way for maintaining connectivity
and building relationships with their clients.
pandemic, CUSO Financial Services (CFS) unveiled new tools like business
texting to financial professionals to increase their engagement and expand
touchpoints with clients. Texting is often a more convenient and efficient communication
option than traditional modes of communication, including email. Text messages
offer a much quicker way to connect and have an average response time of about
three minutes, based on our firm’s data. Additionally, texting helps avoid
email inbox clutter. Texts allow for more frequent and timely messaging by
financial professionals, which keeps credit union members engaged and
up-to-date on information that may impact their accounts — ultimately
strengthening the relationship with their financial professional.
The shift to
more convenient and advanced communication methods is not unique to our
industry. We’re seeing a massive shift in technology usage by clients across
all facets of their lives, undoubtedly driven by the pandemic. Members are
using technology like Zoom to connect with their friends and family, which
makes them more comfortable when using similar tools to communicate with their financial
professional. In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, Zoom’s average
daily calls have risen
from 10 million to 200 million. There has also been an increase in people
utilizing technology to minimize everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping. Research
shows that before the pandemic, fewer than 40% of Americans did their grocery
shopping online, but that number jumped to 78.7% as a result of COVID-19.
Electronic signatures and mobile deposits for investment services have also seen tremendous surges in usage during the pandemic. While eSignature may have been foreign to some members even a year ago, adoption since COVID-19 mirrors a massive transformation in consumer preferences that will undoubtedly last well beyond the present situation. Because the option of visiting a credit union branch is currently limited, members have widely adopted mobile deposits. The convenience of innovations that enable clients to be more efficient will ensure the popularity of these tools well into the future.
In addition to
continuing to increase connectivity with members, credit unions should also
prioritize optionality. In this ever-changing financial landscape, what makes
sense for some members may not work for others. It’s the responsibility of
credit unions to provide an array of financial options to their members and
ensure they have access to them.
ago, people were reluctant to take cash out of an ATM. Now, using an ATM is not
only commonplace but has also evolved to include more advanced technological
options like Information Technology Managed Services (ITMs) and online/mobile
banking options. While many younger members have been accessing these tools for
years, with many branches closed or offering limited access currently, the reliance
on mobile and online banking options now spans the generations.
At CFS, we’ve
seen a broad range of clients take advantage of the optionality we offered long
before COVID-19. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, the usage of
Clear 1, our client portal that is fully integrated with credit unions’ home
banking systems, has increased significantly. This increase demonstrates the
newfound need that members of all demographics have for additional options and
are rapidly adopting technologies developed for them.
professionals now have centralized platforms that enable them to conduct diverse
tasks and manage an extensive range of client accounts. It’s essential for
credit unions and financial professionals to showcase the breadth of services they
can provide to their members. There will always be clients who like the status
quo, and there will also be those who embrace new products and tools. It is critical
to be there for every credit union member—meeting them where they are and showing
them where they can go. Providing clients with optionality and everything they
need to handle their finances in a way that makes them most comfortable is the
overriding priority for credit unions.
Where do we
go from here?
This pandemic has unquestionably been an event that will have a lasting impact on the credit union industry. Credit unions need to expand both connectivity and optionality by continuing to develop innovative tools that change as their members’ preferences and needs evolve. Credit unions must continue to integrate ground-breaking technologies into their investment programs to foster better client interactions. By arming financial professionals with these tools, they will be able to strengthen relationships with members and become a true trusted financial partner – enabling success long after the pandemic ends.
About the Author
Valorie Seyfert has more than 30 years of experience in the securities industry and is a member of the California Bar Association. She is the President, CEO and Co-Founder of CUSO Financial Services, LP and Sorrento Pacific Financial, LLC. (subsidiaries of Atria Wealth Solutions) which are full-service broker dealers serving financial institutions and their clients. Previously, Valorie worked as an attorney specializing in securities regulations, contracts and corporate law. She was the winner of the 2008 EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in Business Services for San Diego County and is a frequent speaker and a recognized expert on the structure and strategy of successful investment services programs in financial institutions.