4 Technology Resolutions For 2019

Industry suppliers dish on how to win the hearts and wallets of credit union members in the year ahead.

Credit unions looking ahead to 2019 have the opportunity to deploy new member-facing technology that effectively targets individual members while providing personalized service. To do that, they must rely on suppliers of those tech tools to deliver the tactical ability to fulfill the credit union’s strategic goals.

Sabeh Samaha, Chief Executive Officer, Samaha Associates, Inc.

Data analytics and fast-developing delivery channels are top-of-mind for vendors in the credit union space as the new year looms, and they’ll be critical in delivering what veteran technology consultant Sabeh Samaha calls “red carpet service” in the months and years ahead.

“That means access to accounts quickly and with tons of hospitality,” says the founder of Samaha & Associates. “That means hospitality that is pleasant to the eye and the ear. That means no multiple phone calls, no waiting on hold, no waiting for a form on the website to work.”


Delivering transactional capabilities across multiple channels is the brass ring here, and the ability to grab it might already be in house. In his firm’s work with multiple credit unions, Samaha says, his team has come to realize that the capabilities to do much of what’s needed often lies in systems already in place. 

Buying the latest and greatest isn’t always necessary. Taking advantage of existing opportunities can be enough. 

“We see a lot of systems that are not configured well and then not deployed well,” he says. “That’s what credit unions should really resolve. I’d rather have a fully implemented medium system than the top system implemented poorly.” 

Fabio Biasella, VP For Strategic Thought Leadership, Raddon

Here’s what other industry players have to say about the year ahead.

Visit the CreditUnions.com Blog Roundup for Callahan commentary, industry insights, leadership perspectives, and more. Read now.

No.1. Commit To Data Analytics 

“Commit to cracking open the rich data trove your members’ payment patterns provide your credit union,” says Fabio Biasella, vice president for strategic thought leadership at Raddon

He says artificial intelligence and data mining tools are becoming more cost effective and widely distributed, including to smaller credit unions. 

Dylan Tancill, Outside Sales Representative, Datawatch Corporation

“Understanding the insights from this activity will be critical to your credit union’s relevancy as you help them acquire the things they want and need,” Biasella says.

Getting more granular is Dylan Tancill with Datawatch. He says a good resolution for 2019 is to create a formal data strategy that includes:

  • Where the credit union stores different data.
  • How the credit union will access data from these different locations, such as a data marketplace.
  • How the credit union will blend and prepare these data sources for reporting or analytics. 
  • A platform for data science, such as predictive and prescriptive analytics, machine learning, and AI.
  • A front end for reporting. 

Scott Hansen, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Harland Clarke

Tancill says business outcomes should underpin a credit union’s data strategy. For example, does the credit union want to launch a credit line increase campaign, lower member churn, deepen engagement with indirect members, or optimize collections.

No. 2. Target Members On A Personal Level 

Credit unions have the ability to use data analytics to personalize offers at levels not before possible, beginning with account opening. 

“Credit unions should focus on personalization when it comes to member onboarding programs and communications,” says Scott Hansen, chief marketing and strategy officer at Harland Clarke

Hansen says personalization involves developing offers and messages at the individual member level, which is even more precise than traditional segment and look-alike targeting. He suggests going further, using personalized web pages to enhance the member experience from day one.

Those missives also could include what Hansen calls “always-on pre-approved lending” rather than single point-in-time offers. 

Gene Pranger, Chief Executive Officer, POPi/o

“By regularly presenting pre-approved offers through the credit union’s digital channels, as well as through printed direct mail and email, the member becomes accustomed to seeing those offers,” Hansen says. “Then, when a need for a loan arises, the member already knows they’re pre-approved, dramatically minimizing the chances of the member shopping around.”

No. 3. Move Beyond Self-Service 

“In 2019, credit unions should implement a digital strategy that moves beyond viewing mobile and web as self-service channels,” says POPi/o CEO and inventor of the ITM Gene Pranger. “There are so many new business, service, and transaction opportunities that allow two-way, face-to-face service through digital channels. These innovations will improve a credit union’s bottom line quickly and strengthen the emotional bond members have with the brand.”

Ted Bilke, President, Symitar

Of course, focusing on digital doesn’t mean sacrificing member interaction, says Ted Bilke, the longtime president of Symitar. In fact, credit unions should use digital to expand and enhance member service, for example, by using voice and chat tools to give members access to a live human 24/7 — even after hours, on holidays, or during weekends.

“Boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials all reach a point of wanting to talk with a human,” Bilke says.

No. 4. Don’t Do Digital Alone

Bret Weekes, President/Chief Executive Officer, CUProdigy

New capabilities are continuously emerging. Services like chatbots, card controls, loans in five clicks or less, and seamless movement between mobile, tablet, and laptop/desktop, ITMs, phone, and more are available now. But keep in mind, a credit union doesn’t need to do everything at once. 

“Resolve to move your digital strategy for retail member engagement one step up the ladder,” advises Bret Weekes, president and CEO at core processing CUSO CUProdigy. “Too often, credit unions take an all-or-nothing approach and think they need to shoot for the penthouse. That's not necessary. Identify one achievable next step and do it.”

Smaller financial institutions have traditionally lacked the resources of their larger brethren in bringing modern, seamless digital capabilities to their members, says Jim Johnson, president of financial institution payments at processing giant FIS. But that’s no longer the case.

Mike Joplin, Chief Executive Officer, CU Lending Cooperative

“2019 will see the availability of new delivery channels for credit unions and smaller institutions to cost-effectively create a truly seamless, convenient digital experience for their members,” Johnson says.

The leveling of the technology playing field plays into the credit union movement’s aptitude for working together to do more than each can alone, says Mike Joplin, CEO of CU Lending Cooperative.

“Credit unions should resolve to seek out technology solutions that allow them to be part of something bigger — solutions that collectively create the same kind of scale enjoyed by the biggest banks,” Joplin says. “If they do that, they’ll be unbeatable.”

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December 10, 2018

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