Posts Tagged ‘technology’

SwitchTracker: A completely new way to help your members make the switch to your CU

September 17, 2014

The team here at EverythingCU has been hard at work, making innovative and bold strides in the way things are done, and we’ve developed a brand new service to help your CU get stronger.

We know that one of the things that forward-thinking CU professionals on EverythingCU (that’s you!) are looking for, is a better way to help your members make the switch to your CU.

Enter your new secret weapon, SwitchTracker.

What does SwitchTracker do?

SwitchTracker gives your members everything they need to make the switch to your CU quickly and efficiently, in an easy-to-use format. Not only does your member get personalized step-by-step instructions, they control email reminders that keep them on track to the finish line. And when your member needs help, they can reach out to your MSRs instantly from within the service.

Here are a few barriers your members face in trying to make the switch, and how SwitchTracker solves the issues:

  • Multiple intimidating forms and paperwork – SwitchTracker has a simple and easy one-page input
  • Questions arise that the member doesn’t know how to deal with – SwitchTracker has a help button and instructions
  • Members are unsure in what order to do the many steps – SwitchTracker breaks it down into a step-by-step checklist
  • Switch process started, but no follow-through – SwitchTracker sends periodic emails to remind the member what to switch next

Demo Time!

Take a quick ride in the SwitchTracker experience. Even if you’ve tried it before, demo SwitchTracker again so you can see these new features:

  1. Instructions on how to complete each step
  2. Member or MSR can input the checking account number so that the member has it handy for each switch
  3. Ability to contact each organization to be switched via PDF letter or email
  4. Congratulations message with your CU’s loan department contact information when the member finishes the switch

When you demo SwitchTracker, click one of the printer icons on the checklist page to view the PDF letters generated. Also, be sure to check off all of your switch items, and then click the “Update Checklist” button to see the congratulations message displayed when the switch is complete.

For more details, view the SwitchTracker information page.

There’s even more to SwitchTracker behind the scenes in your CU’s control panel, including comprehensive usage statistics. If you have questions, or would like a personal online demo, please email me, morriss@everythingcu.com, or Matt, matt@everythingcu.com. You can be up and running with this new service to help members make the switch to your credit union within a matter of just a few days.

Bring your members the best tool to help them make the switch to your credit union: SwitchTracker.

We’d love to get your feedback on this exciting new way to help your members make the switch to your CU. Feel free to comment here or ask any questions you may have!

The business value of personal connection

May 23, 2014

Who are you striving to be?

10275516_705648832830172_5588543601566778944_oThanks to this photo of Roy Bergengren recently shared by credit union advocate Matthew Cropp of Vermont, I realize that we now have fewer credit unions in the U.S. than at any time prior to NINETEEN THIRTY-NINE. Think about that for a minute…. what does that mean? Now some would explain that away saying that overall membership in the U.S. is at an all time high. So let’s put those two equations together: more people, but fewer institutions. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? Just a thing?

What would Ed Filene and Roy Bergengren think? That after the past 75 years of credit union advocacy, we now have fewer credit unions serving all of America? Are the products better than before? Is the service worse than before? Is the differentiation between credit unions and banks better or worse than 75 years ago? Do we still have a need for credit unions, or has the reason they were founded pretty much gone away? Is there more opportunity than ever before for smaller CUs to succeed? Or is it just too challenging, and every CU below $10m in assets should just get merged into a larger one until there are none in this size range anymore? Do you need to offer every financial product and service that your competitors do in order to succeed? Or does that pursuit just drain time and money resources away from your CU’s core mission?

What is the mission and purpose of your credit union? Who are you trying to be? Who are you serving? What is your connection like with the members you serve? Tight? Barely there?

One of the reasons I bring up this topic is that it seems to me that more and more credit unions are basically operating as tax-exempt banks; attempting to grow no matter what, and becoming more generic in appearance and attitude (and losing connection with the group that founded them). To operate this way may serve the needs of the institution (although it may actually not), but in any case seems a disservice to the membership, and perhaps just as importantly, a disservice to the CU movement as a whole. If a credit union is going to operate like a bank, it should just acknowledge that fact and change charters and switch to being regulated and insured the FDIC instead of NCUA. That tax-exempt thing is not really that a great a business advantage anyway.

But the other surprising thing about credit unions operating like banks (aside from failing to live up to its mission statement) is that in many cases, the trend is away from generic large institutions and stores, and TOWARDS unique, local, and independent organizations. So-called “big box” stores are on the decline; while one-of-a-kind shops find their niche. Many people avoid chain restaurants in favor of unique eateries.

But being different, in and of itself, is not a sustainable business model. To increase success in business, you need to provide something different for which there exists a customer base. One way to approach this differentiation is to employ technology to make it easier for your customers to do business with you, whether that be in facilitating the process of ordering products and services, the delivery of those products and services, or help in using those products and services. From our own point of view; we’ve found that every time we make our own technology easier to use, more streamlined, and more personalized, it pays dividends immediately.

How are you using technology to differentiate and personalize your credit union? Are you using technology to strengthen the connection between your employees and your members, or is it weakening that connection? Who are you serving, and how are you making their experience with you easier and better? If providing “better, more personal service” is the differentiation point of your credit union (as many state), is your technology living up to that promise? What are your thoughts?

eSwitchKit enhancements

June 13, 2013

Here is the latest on the new developments we’ve added to the eSwitchKit. We didn’t sit on our haunches after the launch; we’ve already made some improvements.

One of the most important portions of the new eSwitchKit is the real-time status checklist that’s created for the member to use throughout the switching process. A major upgrade we’ve just implemented is the ability for the member to re-send switch emails and/or to print switch letters at any time, via their personalized online switching checklist.

For member convenience, we’ve also added an “Already fill a switch kit out?” login area on the first page of the eSwitchKit. Just in case they’ve lost their email with the login link, or can’t access their email, they can still log in and view their checklist to see the status of their switches. We’ve also implemented a password retrieval system in case they don’t have that info handy.

If you are demo’ing the eSwitchKit, then in order to experience the eSwitchKit’s full capability, be sure to input your email address as well as create a username and password. After doing so, you’ll feel the same hand-holding experience your members will be receiving. You’ll get a copy of all of the secure emails, along with the most important email; the email guiding the member to their secure and personalized eSwitchKit checklist. If you’re interested in the eSwitchKit’s full capability, be sure to complete this step. There isn’t another switch kit in the country like it.

Why is the personalized eSwitchKit checklist important?

  1. In one convenient spot for the member, they have a record of every company that has been informed of the switch, and can check it at any time to see the real-time status of each company that has, or has not, replied to the notification.
  2. The secure emails sent to companies have specialized replies pre-written within the email that use radio button technology. The vendor selects an answer and that answer is instantly updated on the checklist.
  3. The member can stay in the know at all times concerning their account switches and they can re-send and re-print the switch emails and letters any time they need to.
  4. The receiving company can send notes back to the members via the secure emails and the notes will appear in real-time on the checklist.

Click here to demo the eSwitchKit.

We are also extremely pleased to announce that already six credit unions have signed on to the eSwitchKit in less than three weeks. Welcome aboard Pam Griffiths and the Railroad & Industrial FCU team as well as Malinda Warchus and the Electric Service CU team.

Geolocation, Geolocation, Geolocation

August 26, 2010

Climbing Mt. TomI’ve been following the developments of our geolocation-enabled world for many years now, starting with car GPS navigators and geocaching, through to Gowalla and now Facebook places. Geolocation’s ubiquity is part of the reason this blog is called World 2.0.

There are some applications of geolocation in the credit union world, in social media in general, and there are even more applications in the field of real estate.

I had the great honor to present a session on geolocation at RE BarCamp Orlando yesterday. I received some excellent feedback from it, and the slide deck was featured on Slideshare.net‘s home page this morning.

I hope to present this session at RE BarCamp New Hampshire!

Credit Unions being a Cooperative

July 9, 2010

Recently, the “dot-coop” (or .coop) extension topic was brought up on EverythingCU.com. This question was about whether or not it’s a good idea for credit unions to use this domain extension to signal that they are part of the broader cooperative movement.

This leads to the question: does being a part of the broader cooperative movement still mean anything in today’s credit union world? The reason I like to raise this question is that I had been working with this movement for about eight years before I had ever heard of the Seven Cooperative Principles. I knew that credit unions were member-owned, members had equal voting power, and that they were run as not-for-profit financial institutions. But I didn’t put two and two together to realize that all of these things are principles of the larger Cooperative movement.

So I recently voiced this question in response to the .coop issue, and received a wonderful response from my friend Gene Blishen. Gene is an amazing guy; he walks the talk. He’s the CEO of a successful, small credit union in British Columbia, where he remains true to credit union and cooperative principles while running a productive operation, one which has done some excellent technological innovation based on improving service to the members.

For many credit unions, in the U.S. especially, being a Cooperative has little or no meaning. They are simply trying to be the best financial organization possible, while running under the not-for-profit banner. It’s not that these credit union professionals care any less about their members. They still want to do the best they can for them, and make their lives better. It’s just that they don’t see any significant purpose in the Cooperative movement, or perhaps don’t see how it fits in their workplace. And that’s fine.

Here is Gene’s response on the matter, also posted on his Tinfoiling blog:

I think there is an elephant in the room and it never gets invited to leave.

IF you read the 7 Co-operative principle on which most CUs were founded years ago they were important in the structure and culture of the credit unions. As the financial industry has advanced somehow those principles have been forgotten, neglected or just unknown.

If one makes a decision about anything there are some fundamentals that act when arriving at that decision. Without the knowledge of these principles then the decision gets hijacked by being made outside those principles. If we bring to focus these absolutes that are a given i.e. we need to make money, we need to compete and neglect to discuss and bring forward how we incorporate these values (principles) in our CUs we do an incredible disservice.

Of course we need to make money, I don’t think that is a principle that needed discussion when CUs started. Of course we need to compete, they started because they could compete. But what about democratic owner control? What does that mean in todays CU? Or the education principle? I think we don’t want to discuss those. Why? To be honest because we have failed to bring these to the important level they need to be, we have been too busy making sure we make money and are moving forward in the marketplace.

I look at a CU like a car. You get it into shape. You tune it up. You keep it working well. But is that all? No you then decide where you want to go with it. What destinations are available and when will you get there. You always pay attention to the operation of the vehicle otherwise you won’t get there. Just remember you have seven places to arrive at and the journey can be exciting and very interesting. Remember we do have GPS to get us where we are going these days! :)

Here is a related blog post I wrote on the 6th principle of Cooperatives, which is that Cooperatives cooperate with each other: Zucchinis and Credit Unions: Not strange bedfellows

The Innovator’s Dilemma

January 29, 2009

Today, Matt Davis, aka the CUWarrior, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last October’s 2008 Indy Partnership Symposium, and has a blog here, posted a great article on Open Source CU, titled Using the Blue Light to get a Green Light.

He brings up some great points about innovation, which I can’t disagree with in the abstract. It is indeed an excellent technique to start an innovative project at the lowest cost possible in order to get buy-in from upper management. It doesn’t make sense to spend large dollar amounts if the payoff is unsure. Financial institutions, or any businesses for that matter, would go downhill rapidly if they did so often.

But I want to make the case that it’s not always possible or advisable to innovate by dipping a toe in the water. Here are a few cases where “DYI” innovation won’t make the grade:

1.) The innovation requires a large scale for the desired effect to be realized, or it’s launched in such a small scale that it doesn’t get noticed.
2.) More cost in dollars is expended trying to do it yourself than it would have taken to hire a professional
3.) The innovation does not take off because it was ahead of its time
4.) Your competitor spots your innovation, and implements it more fully than you did, stealing customers in the process

But on the flip side, here are reasons why you SHOULD attempt something on a small scale before going bigger:

1.) It turns out no one wanted your innovation after all. At least you didn’t through money away, and you’ve learned something along the way about your customers and/or your organization.
2.) Your original idea was too complicated; it turns out that the foundation was right, but it needed to turn in a different direction. By expending the minimum resources in development, you can make the necessary adjustments without having spent too much.
3.) If the innovation is a good one, it should reach a self-funding state relatively quickly. You can test, prove the business case with results, then develop it in due course as funds warrant.

So how do you tell in which camp an innovation belongs? It comes down to your organization’s DNA, the filter by which you run everything. The more an innovation directly lines up with your organizations brand, its DNA, the more resources should be allocated to the innovation.

On a completely unrelated note, check out this cool restoration of an old school traffic light, made before the color yellow was invented.

A Report on CUs and Technology Outsourcing

October 26, 2007

Just heard an interesting podcast on a report which covers the past fifteen years of credit unions and technology, with George Hofheimer of the Filene Research Institute and Victor Stango of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. The podcast and report details the role of outsourcing IT in credit unions.

It seems rather obvious that CUs benefit from outsourcing IT. Namely, none but the biggest of CUs can afford to devote the time and money to developing one’s own core processor solution. Outsourcing to a third-party, who can devote all their time and energy and can spread the cost over multiple institutions, is the natural way to go. But there are indeed certain dangers along this route, one being the lack of integration from the members’ point of view (e.g. my mortgage, CU credit card, and online banking are disassociated from each other.)

Professor Stango says that CUs who outsource their IT spend more per member than CUs who do it in-house. I am not surprised by that finding, but what I really want to know is: Does the higher amount spent per member translate into a superior ROI? Because if it does, than I will continue to spend as many $5 bills as I can if it’s bringing me back a $10 bill each time. But the correlation between increased spending on IT and ROI may be extremely difficult to measure and pinpoint. It may be difficult to show what the ROI would have been had not certain technologies been outsourced.

This brings me to another point brought up in the podcast that savvy business people must consider: Professor Stango states that the outsourcing of IT has enabled CUs to offer a much greater diversity of products than if they had not. While that is true, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that diversity of product offering is almost never a good thing as far as businesses are concerned. In fact, usually it’s the other way around. Most businesses thrive with a narrow focus on their most profitable products. A diversity of products is good thing only in an environment where consumers have no other choices. And that’s clearly NOT the environment financial institutions find themselves in.

Which brings me to my final point. In the podcast, Professor Stango talks about the extreme consolidation in the core processor industry. While core processors have incentive to merge for increased profits, it actually could lead to disaster in our own industry. Let me explain: I belong to several financial institutions, if only to keep tabs on what various FIs are doing. And the only online banking service I’ve ever seen comes from ORCC. (Which is a horrid online banking interface — is it the cheapest one out there?) Anyway, online banking is increasingly becoming virtually the only contact the majority of members have with the institution. If all that I know about the institution is what I see via my online banking, and its the same as every other FI, what competitive advantage does my credit union have? If I were a credit union, what I would really want to know is if I spend more for a better online experience for my members, does that translate into increased ROI? I’m curious if the Filene report addresses this question.

I am not saying that the only point of difference a CU has versus a bank is their online interface. Nothing could be further from the truth. But when your members see that the CU’s online banking interface is identical to their banks’ online interface, what are they going to think?

What this means to the CU professional:
1.) Focus on making your best product even better, thereby further differentiating yourself from the competition. Eliminate me-too products, especially the ones that virtually none of your members care about. Those are draining time, energy, and dollars from the credit union. (As evidence, check out the eye-popping 20% loan growth rate of $800M Whitefish CU in Montana that does not offer checking accounts, and doesn’t have a web site that works.)

2.) Yell at the management of your core processor (politely of course): UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO MERGE. As an industry, because we depend on our core processors so much, we need a diversity of them so that competition and innovation continues to the greatest extent possible. When they merge with each other, they are not looking for the industry’s best interests necessarily (though they will put themselves out of business if they put us out of business), but they are looking after their own (short term) bottom line. In this regard, I agree with those who are calling for renewed commitment to establishing a CUSO-owned core processor. In fact, it would be wonderful to have two or more such organizations.

3.) Hammer on your Core Processor’s rep to allow you to SOMEHOW show your credit union’s difference via your online banking interface. You don’t have to put up with the bland awfulness that I’ve seen so far in online banking interfaces. As far as I can see, there is no reason for this, other than so far we haven’t cared very much about our online banking interface, beyond simply that we have one and it is functioning. If I’m wrong about this, let me have it. Use the new online tools to find each other, and gang up to petition to make this happen. Yes, it’s truly THAT important.


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