Is Your Credit Union Ready?
It goes without saying that the banking industry has undergone quite a few changes since March of 2020. Due to the ever-changing pandemic landscape, back-and-forth policy mandates have forced businesses into adopting hybrid operation models. Drive-through-only banking, reduced hours, more emphasis on virtual interaction, contactless transactions, in-branch capacity limitations (and in some cases closing entire branches), and remote staffing are just a few of the more obvious adjustments that credit unions have had to make. Some of these changes surprised us by the realization that they are here to stay. We have collected 4 financial trends that are here to stay.
Based on consumer response, credit unions recognize the need to adapt to a few of these trends going forward, in order to continue best serving the needs of their members.
1. REMOTE BANKING
Remote (digital) banking is on the rise, and unlikely to return to its “alternate method” status. People have become accustomed to the convenience of making deposits from their phones and applying for loans online – but this was happening even before Covid-19 entered the scene. As it would seem, conditions have forced an expansion of (and sense of permanency on) those practices. Some of the newer adaptations make members feel more in control of their finances, signaling a shifting preference for digital banking over in-branch interactions. This can only mean that more institutions will be embracing fintech acquisition and the virtual capabilities of basic functions.
Undoubtedly, there are many who would rather have a person-to-person experience, furthering the need for a successful hybrid framework within most financial institutions.
One drawback to remote banking can be an obvious one. Cybercrime is increasing right along with the popularity of online financial activities. For this reason, cybersecurity has never been more important, nor has the extra effort a credit union must apply toward educating its members on security measures and instructing them on the proper use of new systems. A good customer-service response strategy is vital in this area, as members can become frustrated by multiple security demands in accessing their accounts, or become vulnerable to fraud or identity theft by not understanding how to follow protocol. Your credit union may become their greatest hero or worst enemy, depending on how new digital-driven practices are rolled out and managed.
3. CONTACTLESS PAYMENT OPTIONS
One area that has seen improvement for the better is the process of exchanging currency in retail environments and from person to person. Automated transactions have been available for decades with ATM technology, however, recent infection-spreading fears have launched an urgency to implement better tools for minimizing physical contact.
A few ways these fears have been conquered are with the use of QR codes, tap-to-pay credit card features, digital wallets, and peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms you will undoubtedly be familiar with, such as Zelle, Venmo, Cash App (by Square), and Popmoney.
- QR (Quick Response) Codes are scannable pixelated patterns that can be easily read with a digital device, like a smartphone. The square-shaped grid can be read horizontally and vertically (as opposed to only vertically, as with barcodes), and with an adequate internet connection will navigate to a URL where the consumer can make a payment, and view a website, or perform other functions. The QR code method does not require costly equipment or extensive training, and instructions are self-explanatory and easy to follow. Digital receipts are delivered to both consumer and retailer and no human contact is made during the transaction. Provided the customer links to a stored credit card within the QR app and there is good communication regarding the amount of sale and expectations of both parties, the QR code method of paying for goods and services can work very well in most cases.
- Digital Wallets, also known as e-wallets, are software versions of payment information storage. Digital wallets store virtual credit cards and access financial platforms like PayPal, ApplePay, and Google Pay – and much like a physical wallet, even hold concert tickets and coupons. A member can deposit funds to reloadable cards, link a bank account, make and receive electronic transactions without having the physical credit card present, and keep a variety of payment sources organized in one place. A compatible card reader is necessary for in-person exchanges.
- Tap-to-Pay features on credit cards have been around since 2004, according to Global Payments Integrated, with retailers installing point-of-sale terminals to accommodate this contactless payment method. (Actually, “tap” is a misnomer, since the card doesn’t necessarily need to touch the point-of-sale device. It should activate within an inch or two from the terminal.) The card is equipped with a chip that the terminal reads when in close proximity, eliminating the need to “swipe” the card, resulting in minimal-to-no contact.
- Peer-to-Peer (P2P) systems allow users to make financial transactions through a linked bank account or credit card to another holder of the same platform. As the name suggests, this type of payment option is ideal for individuals to pay one another for goods or services without a third-party channel. There are quite a few of these apps, but each one seems to possess prime features for individual preferences. For instance, some are best for frequent online shoppers, some are best for groups of friends, and some are best for Apple users, etc.
Credit unions are finding that supporting members’ access to multiple contactless transaction options is the only path ahead. This pertains to interacting with the financial institution itself, and when using their accounts for purchases elsewhere. These practices will certainly continue to shape and inform relationships among financial institutions, merchants, and consumers.
Other more traditional mobile payment options that are still very much in use (and considered to have the most secure protections) include in-app purchases (accessing a payment portal through a downloaded application on an electronic device), website shopping-cart checkout purchases (transactions made directly through a company’s website), and wireless readers – e.g., Square – (a portable card-reading device).
In light of NCUA’s recent regulatory guidance letter, federally insured credit unions are able to offer their members cryptocurrency custody services. Digital assets (like Bitcoin) can now be bought, sold, and held through third-party service providers, allowing credit union members to take advantage of this relatively new form of currency exchange. Specialized education and training in this area will be essential to keep up with this trend, as many institutions already have systems in place to accept electronic money in exchange for goods and services.
To be sure, there is an underlying myriad of trends that will show a pattern in the near future, but the four mentioned here are worth immediate analysis and implementation by your credit union; essentially, you must be ready and willing to accept the changes to come, and the changes that are already here.