Many customers like credit unions for the personalized service they may not find at larger banks or financial institutions.
But how do credit unions measure up to banks in terms of the latest technology? Are credit unions on par with banks with their menu of online and mobile banking services?
The answer is yes for many credit unions, which offer their members a plethora of high-tech, user-friendly options to meet the needs of an increasingly fast-paced and tech-oriented culture.
“A number of of the largest credit unions in the United States offer many of the same technologies you would expect at any financial institution, including online banking, loan applications and budgeting tools,” said David Polet, director of voice of customer research for CUNA Mutual Group, based in Madison, Wis.
Polet said a critical factor credit unions consider when evaluating their technology is how it fits into the overall customer experience for their members.
Polet said most credit unions have their own strategies for identifying the technological needs of their customers. Services customers use are online banking, which includes document signing capabilities; and applying for loans and making remote deposits from their smart phones, which involves taking a photo of the check with their phone then making the deposit with the app. Polet said the availability of online banking and mobile phone applications lessens the need for members to physically visit their branch to make inquiries and conduct transactions.
One of the latest tech trends that credit unions are considering is the use of interactive teller machines, or ITMs, according to Polet. ITMs provide the convenience of an automated teller machine with the additional bonus for customers of being able to speak with a remote, live teller via video conference. Having the ability to interact with a human teller in real time can provide a more personal, nuanced service for customers compared with using a standard ATM, Polet said.
Many credit unions are embracing new technology to better serve their customers’ needs. “The goal is to provide that same level of customer satisfaction along with new technologies that are low in effort, simple and easy for customers to use,” said Kevin Foster-Keddie, president/CEO of Washington State Employees Credit Union in Olympia, Wash.
Foster-Keddie said a loan program developed more than 10 years ago by WSECU called Q-Cash is now offered via smart phone and online for customers. It was developed after tellers noticed members were sending money orders to lenders on payday. Created for customers who generally do not qualify for a loan through the normal process, QCash loans are granted based on proprietary algorithms, and members can borrow up to $4,000. Foster-Keddie said the nice feature for members is “they can apply for a Q-Cash loan with six clicks and within 60 seconds” receive loan approval and funding.
Meanwhile, Foster-Keddie said credit unions are continuously working to improve cyberecurity for their members. One security measure is the “suppression” of credit cards, which involves having the ability to turn off and turn back on a credit card. Currently, WSECU members can call the credit union to request a suppression be placed on their credit cards, which the credit union does manually. However, Foster-Keddie said a mobile phone application is in the works that would give credit union members the ability to suppress their credit cards, which would offer increased security to customers when they are traveling or if they only want their card to work in a particular city.
Freelance writer Carole Jakucs contributed to the writing and research of this article.