Financial Inclusion & Its Role in Your CU Growth

 

Our sister site, IMS, recently featured a blog article discussing ways you can foster financial inclusion within your credit union.

Financial inclusion is part of a larger conversation taking place right now about how individuals and businesses are creating solutions and campaigns that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion for everyone who interacts with their brands.

CUs Are Perfect for Fostering Financial Inclusion

The history of credit unions is one that centers these institutions as a perfect partner in the financial inclusion conversation. Credit unions often serve areas that other banks and financial institutions don’t focus on. This includes marginalized and underserved communities in both urban and rural areas of the country.

As member-owned, not-for-profit businesses, credit unions have the luxury of already being positioned to create solutions that serve communities with specific cultures and religious affiliations, and even areas with specific financial needs.

CUs already work to promote local businesses and local charities. The conversation doesn’t have to be about catering to massive audiences and trying to implement a bunch of one-size-fits-all programs that can help everyone in small ways.

You can create spaces that highlight the cultures and perspectives that most represent and foster the diversity of the communities you’re already serving or are hoping to serve in the future.

Stabilizing Financial Tools

Many areas with diverse populations (both in culture as well as financial situation) will also benefit from the stabilizing financial tools that come from the implementation of financial inclusion practices.

These can be things like helping set up accounts so that those who are receiving government assistance like unemployment are able to access those funds quickly and record them accurately for tax and other financial planning purposes. It can also include things like calculator tools for car or mortgage payments, online self service forms, eStatements, online account opening, and Skip a Pay.

These stabilizing financial tools can help orient members who are still learning how to manage their finances, encourage others to enroll in programs that can help them pay down debt or increase their savings, and so much more.

It Starts with Your Staff

Your credit union’s financial inclusion initiatives should start at the employee level. If your staff members are stressed out about their financial situation, studies have shown that they are actually not as productive at work as employees who work in a place that has achieved most or all of their financial inclusion goals.

Close Gaps in Member Desires vs. CU Offerings

Many of the initiatives that are touted as perfect for fostering financial inclusion are often things that your credit union already offers. But the focus here should be on targeting what your underserved communities, like the unbanked and underbanked, would need from those offerings.

For example, your credit union may already have a successful rewards program that works for current members. However, if offering a different set of rewards or a range of choices in what those rewards can be used for, you can target the underserved segments of your communities.

This is a common business practice across all industries. It’s why we have such a big range of vehicles (from luxury sports cars to reliable and affordable sedans and minivans), restaurants, and other consumer-focused businesses.

Your members who are living paycheck-to-paycheck won’t likely be interested in saving for retirement or creating tons of lines of credit to open a business, but the opportunity to capitalize on your services shouldn’t be reserved solely for those in ideal financial situations.

Catering to the unbanked and underbanked means you have to evaluate why and where your current programs don’t meet these potential members’ needs.

Technology Fosters Financial Inclusion

One of the best tools for fostering financial inclusion is technology. Implementing user-friendly and other helpful digital programs, products, and services goes a long way toward closing gaps between your average members and your outliers.

When you are choosing and implementing these digital tools, it’s important to think about how your members can use them. Are there ways to personalize the process or tool? Customization is a great way to use a single tool in a myriad of ways in order to better serve those who are underrepresented in your member ranks.

Financial Inclusion Means Digital Inclusion

Navigating trending credit union topics have long-lasting implications for your CU. And that’s why you need cutting-edge solutions that have been tailored to credit union needs.

IMSI has created credit union-specific products and services that speak to your customers’ needs, no matter their background, financial situation, or culture. With tools like Make a Statement, Online Courtesy Pay+, Online Self-Service Forms, and Trial Balance+ readily available on your CU website, you can meet every potential member where they’re at.

Reach out to us today and request a consultation.


2022 Pivots Your CU Should Make

 

Credit unions are resilient and creative, and 2022 is the perfect year to flex those strengths to create growth for your business. There are lots of 2022 pivots your credit union should make this year.

Some of these pivots are likely already in the works in your branches and on your websites, while others may have passed just under your radar for the year. Either way, these items should make their way to the top of your priority list in the coming months.

Shifting Payments Preferences

Convenience and automation continue to help drive the demand for accessible payments. These payments preferences have shifted drastically in light of the pandemic, but they also offer a lot of benefits to the users, namely the ability to access and use your money anywhere, anytime.

The challenge here is security. As non-traditional payment methods are offered by more banks and credit unions, these payments preferences must ensure that your members’ private information is not being stolen or corrupted.

The supply chain shortages of credit and debit cards have also affected payments preferences in recent months. The shortage of the digital chips for these cards and countless other technologies has been going on since late 2020, which likely means your members’ new payments preferences will be sticking around.

As part of your credit union’s 2022 pivots, you should consider doing a comprehensive audit of your payment services to see what your members are using the most (and the least).

Loan Growth Initiatives

Many financial institutions are seeing an upward trend in household deposits to their branches, and fewer loans are being applied for and created. To bolster your loan growth this year, another worthwhile 2022 pivot is digital marketing touting your lending services.

For example, 2022 has seen incredible growth in the real estate market, with some areas having houses for sale for just a few days before they find a suitable and willing buyer. To capitalize on this fast-paced market, you need a quick way to increase your credit union loan growth.

IMS Integration offers online loan applications that are designed to incorporate your CU and its brand elements. You can offer these services electronically and collect all the information you need to start the loan process with your most tech-savvy members.

The Digital vs. Branch Debate

The paradox that was created by the pandemic is that we needed to implement and increase technology-based solutions quickly, but that focus has also created a huge desire for human interaction.

Credit union branch visits will likely never reach pre-pandemic levels in the near future, if at all. However, after two years of heavily automated and digital transactions, your members are also craving sincere, thorough interactions with your staff.

With that in mind, it’s important to tailor your branch spaces to maximize these person-to-person interactions and create a space to foster communication and financial advice. Even if you are offering web loan applications and self-service forms, many of your members will still prefer to talk to a live person, either at your branch or over the phone. Your credit union 2022 pivots in this area should aim to shift the use of your physical space to better serve the members who want in-depth financial education and counsel.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency investments have been growing steadily for several years. They’ve also recently seen a huge spike in investment interest. And many people would prefer to control these investments via their preferred financial institution rather than third party and other digital banking vendors.

2022 pivots in the cryptocurrency game have even seen big businesses like Subway, Twitch, AT&T, Starbucks, Home Depot, and more accepting bitcoin for their products and services in-store and online.

Just as you’d want your members to choose their CU credit or debit card to pay for those transactions, your credit union should be moving to capitalize on the rise in crypto’s popularity.

Addressing Staffing Issues

Employee turnover issues are affecting the financial industry just as it has been affecting other industries like hospitality, food service, and healthcare.

For credit unions, this can not only create staffing issues due to your business’s inability to provide remote work options at the volume that other industries can, but it can also affect your regulatory compliance.

It’s important to assess the potential risks of losing specific members of your teams, maintaining resources to fulfill compliance requirements, and more.

The Best of Your 2022 Pivots: Elegant Member-Facing Digital Solutions

Serving your members is the mission and goal of every credit union. And that means creating amazing customer service opportunities, both in your branches and online.

Your credit union has likely spent years, even decades, perfecting your in-person services, and IMSI has done the same thing when it comes to providing top-tier online support and services to credit union members.

IMS Integration has everything from elegant member-facing solutions like Online Courtesy Pay, Web Loan Applications, Online Self Service forms, and account opening to sophisticated professional services that include custom web development as well as batch and UI scripting to ensure your website runs smoothly and offers your members the best in online credit union and banking services.


Trending Credit Union Topics for April 2022

 

Recently, the Credit Union National Association held its annual governmental affairs conference. They covered a wide range of topics from regulatory changes to future initiatives and more. After the conference, American Banker compiled a list of 6 topics from that conference that credit unions are talking about. Those topics include:

  • War in Ukraine
  • Economy and fee income
  • Struggles of starting a new credit union
  • Inclusion initiatives
  • LGBTQ+ affiliations and communities
  • Credit unions buying banks

Let’s discuss some of these trending credit union topics and what they mean for the future of your credit union.

War in Ukraine

Many industries are wondering how far the effects of the war between Ukraine and Russia will spread. We have already seen a hike in gas prices, and the supply shortages caused by the pandemic will also compound any issues furthered by the ongoing conflict.

Many countries are cutting ties with Russia, making it difficult for them to retrieve any assets or benefits of commerce from these areas. And since Russia has already been accused of interfering in American politics, many businesses are concerned that we are about to get hit with an increasing number of cyberattacks originating from the Russians.

As far as credit union-specific dealings, the Ukrainian National Credit Union Association has partnered with its members to help send aid to those affected by the war. According to their website, “the Ukrainian American credit union movement in the United States exceeds 100,000 family memberships…our asset base has surpassed $4 billion.”

Of the trending credit union topics we are talking about in this article, this one is likely the most volatile, as the war could potentially have global repercussions regarding economic stability, and the rise of military involvement from various countries.

A recent article from the Credit Union Times talks about the issues the Ukrainians face as their towns are invaded and destroyed. There is looting and the sparse reports from the region include insights into a near-total collapse of all cashless payment options in the country. Relief efforts in the country are being debated currently to help even the playing field and allow for credit union depositors to be treated the same way bank depositors are treated.

In early March, the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and the World Foundation for Credit Unions have launched campaigns to aid Ukraine, including the creation of the Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund, and many other credit union organizations have created funds that collect and disburse donations from all over the world to aid in relief efforts.

Credit unions across the world are being encouraged to help by providing monetary donations and using their platforms to help show Americans where and how they can donate through their CU memberships.

Economy, Financial Inclusion, & Fee Income

The economy is another trending credit union topic right now, and that has been the case since the pandemic began. With the huge global events that have taken place in the last few years, it’s hard not to be wary of market shifts and other economic indicators.

Many credit unions have been focused on creating opportunities to aid in the recovery from the pandemic, especially for those who live in underserved areas.

And one tactic that many credit unions have embraced is the reduction or elimination of overdraft and other complicated fee systems. These fees can actually harm credit union efforts geared toward increasing financial inclusion.

We’ve previously shared our insights that explain why the era of overdraft fees is ending. However, the discussions around these topics and the push for more financially inclusive initiatives mean that reducing or eliminating your overdraft fees is the most likely path forward. And that means your credit union will have to analyze their specific branch data to adjust their programs to account for this loss of an income stream.

The Struggles of Opening New Credit Unions

Though there are many difficult things to navigate this year, there are some trending credit union topics that center around how we can make it easier for new credit unions to open their doors.

For example, Village Financial Credit Union is a Black-led credit union that was set to open in 2019, but after several setbacks – including a global pandemic – the leaders of this enterprise are hopeful they will be able to open their doors in North Minneapolis by early 2023.

As we continue to strive for financial inclusion, it will become more important to create and look for opportunities to increase the presence of reputable credit unions in areas that are historically underserved.

Use Optimized Tools to Navigate Trends in the Credit Union Sector

Navigating trending credit union topics have long-lasting implications for your CU. And that’s why you need cutting-edge solutions that have been tailored to credit union needs.

Luckily, IMS Integration can help augment those offerings with elegant, member-facing solutions that include: Make a Statement, Online Courtesy Pay+, Online Self-Service Forms, and Trial Balance+.


Why Credit Unions Should Offer Sustainable Loans

 

Your credit union members, whether they have personal or business accounts with you, are becoming more interested in sustainability. Part of customer service today includes offering products and services that better the local community, and the environment.

There are several trends in the financial sector right now, but two of the biggest include financial inclusion and a focus on sustainable banking and loan practices. Let’s talk about the importance of green financing and sustainable loans.

The Basics of Sustainable Loans

Sustainable loans offer low rates and flexible terms and are intended to help individuals and businesses finance projects that increase the energy efficiency and sustainability of a home, business, or another project.

These loans are part of many green financing initiatives that are gaining popularity in the banking industry.

Green financing and sustainable loans can be used to create funds for projects as big as full-scale corporate climate change initiatives or as small as personal projects to install energy-efficient appliances or equipment for your home

Here are some common projects that often qualify for sustainable loans:

  • Purchase of electric vehicles, charging stations, batteries, and similar products
  • Solar and wind energy technologies (wind turbines, solar panels, etc.)
  • Advanced agricultural projects with goals of water purification, ocean cleanup, desalination, irrigation alternatives
  • Green home renovations including the purchase of energy-efficient appliances, electric and hybrid vehicles, updated insulation, and other equipment that aids in the reduction of personal energy consumption
  • Improved landscaping
  • Energy-efficient door, windows, roofing

Sustainable Loans – Evaluation & Proceeds

The proceeds of a sustainable loan must go to a green or sustainable project. And not only that, but the borrower and lender can also work together to determine the objectives of the loan, the management of the proceeds, and the reporting of results.

For example, if a business is looking to switch their company cars out for electric vehicles, the sustainable loan goals should be to meet certain sustainability objectives.

The proceeds of this loan should also not be mixed in any way with other non-green proceeds. And finally, borrowers should generate and organize data with the most recent findings that speak to the use of these proceeds.

Touting Your Sustainable Services

There are also several ways your credit union can become certified in green financing practices, sustainable loans, and more.

If you want your credit union’s sustainable loan program to flourish, you have to market it to the right people.

Listing your loan types out on your website is great for informational purposes, but it doesn’t draw people or businesses to your new green financing programs.

You can spread the word in a lot of innovative and captivating ways. Partner with local green businesses like solar panel providers, green appliance warehouses, or electric vehicle sellers. Offer information about their products and services, and then include your sustainable loan information along with it.

Celebrate eco-friendly holidays like Arbor Day or Earth Day by offering lower rates on sustainable loans or holding special refinancing events.

The inclusion of sustainable loans is just the first in a long list of effective green financing initiatives you can start building at your credit union. Environmental and social concerns continue to be differentiating factors for members and potential members.

Consumers across industries are looking for businesses that are transparent in their practices and dedicated in their commitments to communities in the local area and around the world. It’s time to start positioning your credit union as a forward-thinking, sustainable brand.

Sustainable Loans Help Your Bank Go Green

Green initiatives have been gaining momentum for decades. The effects of climate change have become more apparent, and banking members have started to put pressure on financial institutions and other businesses to prove they are part of the solution and not the problem.

Sustainable loans, mobile banking, online self-service forms, eStatements, and more digital-friendly options are now becoming a standard, rather than a valuable addition to your credit union offerings.

Offering sustainable loans is a small way your credit union can show its commitment to more green financing practices. And it’s much easier than switching all your branches over to solar power.

As we’ve seen with the great digital transformations spurred by the pandemic, the time to create momentum for future green and eco-friendly practices is now. And it’s much easier to do one initiative at a time than it is to try and “catch up” to other financial institutions’ sustainable practices and eco-friendly building certifications.

Sustainable Loan Applications Made Easy

IMSI’s web loan applications create greater efficiency in your credit union’s lending program. It is quick and convenient for borrowers and allows your staff to focus on member requests that need more of a personal or one-to-one discussion.

Whether you want to start a new green lending initiative at your branch, or just increase your lending capabilities to more members, IMSI has web loan and other applications that integrate seamlessly with your Keystone Core.

Check out our website for more information, or request a consultation today.


Benefits of Credit Union Content Marketing

 

Credit unions occupy an interesting space in the financial industry. Many of them are smaller, local businesses, but there are others that operate on a national or global level. Regardless of the size of your credit union, there are many reasons why you should be using content marketing to promote your CU’s services.

Content marketing is one of the most popular forms of marketing right now. But what is content marketing? How do you create effective marketing content? How does it benefit your credit union?

Here are some of the top benefits of credit union content marketing.

What Is Content Marketing?

Though the phrase “content marketing” seems to be a new buzzword, the practice has been around since the 1700s. Historical pamphlets, almanacs, and other written information used to create a narrative or promote an idea or business are all content.

In today’s terms, content marketing is a strategic approach to marketing that focuses on creating high-value content. The goal of this content is to attract or retain a specific audience, and to use that audience to create or grow your customer base.

Content includes everything you say to your customers, whether it’s through email campaigns, social media, newsletters, webpages, and more.

Even if your credit union doesn’t have a designated content marketing strategy, you are likely still using content marketing in your overall efforts.

Ways to Amplify Your Credit Union Content Marketing Strategies

The Credit Union Times shared an article about new ways for credit unions to use content marketing.

Their first suggestion includes creating a podcast. Podcasts are a great form of content, especially if you are educating an audience on complex or in-depth topics. Credit unions can benefit from podcasts in many ways.

First, it’s an easy educational resource to offer. You can invite your board members to speak about certain financial topics, including episodes about budgeting, securing a home or auto loan, and much more.

And second, the content can often be evergreen. That means no matter when your members listen to it (whether it’s today, tomorrow, or next year), the information within the podcast episode is still relevant. This is much different than other forms of content, like social media posting, for example.

Another great form of content is blog articles. Another great educational opportunity, you can use a credit union blog to share industry or local news, teach members about your products, services, and other insights, and so much more.

There are hundreds of different forms of content, and many of them can be leveraged to share your credit union’s mission, insights, and services.

New Content Freshens Up Your CU Website

The primary source of brand content for your credit union is your website.

Your website is the face of your brand. It tells potential and current members everything they need to know about who you are and what you do. And you would be surprised how quickly website content can look or sound outdated.

The content on your website should represent your credit union as it is today. Have you updated or changed your offerings? Created new initiatives or educational resources? Have you done some analysis of your website traffic and found that certain pages are performing better than others?

You can use these insights and ideas to start working on better, more optimized content. And don’t forget about SEO (search engine optimization). Even the best website in the world needs to be discoverable, and most people head to search engines when they are looking for answers or solutions to their questions and problems.

If you are in a period of high transition in your credit union, revamping your website might need to be done several times in the next few years. Or if you are well-established and running consistent programs that have great website content already in place, an overhaul may only need to take place after several years, to keep the site from looking dated.

Optimized Content + Great CU Solutions = Success

Credit union content marketing is another tool that can help boost your brand. This means more website and social media visitors, and, ultimately, more members. But your content has to be talking about the products and services you offer that make your members’ lives easier.

Luckily, IMS Integration can help augment those offerings with elegant, member-facing solutions that include:

  • Make a Statement: Statements and notices are a necessity for your credit union. And whether you are still printing and mailing statements or sending them all electronically, Make a Statement can help.
  • Online Courtesy Pay+: Regulation E amendments and the fast-changing world of compliance are elevating enrollment requirements. IMSI developed an online solution for electronic enrollment that is fully integrated with the core system and handles the regulation required member notifications.
  • Online Self-Service Forms: IMSI’s online self-service forms collect information required to enable member self-service requests fulfillment.
  • Trial Balance+: This tool enables the export of member account information to an external secured system. It’s versatile, with a rich user interface, and it can be accessed from any branch using your favorite web browser.

Check out our website for more information, or request a consultation today.


How Credit Union Membership Is Changing

 

Credit unions have made massive pivots throughout the pandemic. And now, more than two years later, it’s time to take stock. Credit union membership is evolving, just as credit union services and online offerings are also expanding into new territories.

In 2021, credit unions added 4.7 million new members, which is a 23.6% increase when compared to the corresponding period in 2020, according to a CUNA Mutual Group study reported by American Banker.

But the growth is not universal across all credit unions. Those that have seen growth in their membership numbers year over year, even during the pandemic, have maintained that growth through innovation. Adapting to virtual solutions and online banking services has been a huge differentiator. Credit union membership is changing, and here’s how it will affect your branches and operations.

Mortgage Lending and Increased Hiring Offer Promising Results

The pandemic created supply chain issues all over the world. And we are seeing those issues play out in several industries, at different paces. For example, there was recently a shortage of computer chips reserved for use in vehicles, which then affected credit unions and other financial institutions.

Auto loans were on the decline as the high prices, small incentives, and sparse showrooms were affecting the desire and ability of consumers to car shop and apply for auto loans. The chip shortages are decreasing in severity, but they are expected to last into 2023 and beyond.

But there are other credit union-related areas that are experiencing rebound and growth. The housing market is a hot topic, and that means mortgage lending is helping drive credit union membership increases.

The other factor positively impacting credit union membership is the increase in hiring. Businesses are continuing to rebound after the last few years of hardship.

When the excitement around the housing market slows down, auto loans are expected o bounce back. That coupled with the expected 3.6 million new jobs being created in 2022 will mean your credit union’s value proposition will continue to increase in the coming months.

Data-Driven & Cybersecurity-Focused Approaches Resonate with New Audiences

Another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in cybersecurity breaches. And increasing your cybersecurity approaches to create robust programs has actually been shown to resonate heavily with potential members of all ages. According to Flex, 30% or more of people studied in an Adobe Analytics report, regardless of generation, ranked security as their number one banking concern.

There are also big benefits in revamping how you store and use member data. Your credit union has a huge collection of member insights at your fingertips, but many technologies that store this data need to be updated or replaced in order to make the most of the information stored there.

And this use of targeted member data analytics also feeds into your credit union’s value proposition. Credit union membership thrives on personalization. There’s great power in tailoring your apps, customer service, and member access and transactions to fit everyone’s preferences or lifestyle.

Personalization is not so much a luxury for your credit union anymore – it’s a necessity that facilitates growth.

Increased Connectedness & Crypto Solutions are on the Horizon

The surge in the popularity of cryptocurrency also highlights opportunities for credit union membership growth.

Smaller institutions and credit unions will now have avenues built by NCUA regulations and guidance to help kickstart CU crypto services. Credit unions have an opportunity right now to build crypto programs before they become widespread amongst the small financial institutions.

Between COVID and a growing number of Gen Z members dominating the customer experience space, connectedness is also a priority. This means you need more than just online offerings; you need digital solutions that are available in your physical spaces.

Branch strategies had to be re-evaluated during COVID, and now it will be done again. This time, the goal will be to connect each member’s experience to create seamless solutions. By prioritizing connectedness, credit unions can also increase efficiency in workflows, both on the member side and the employee side.

Physical and digital touchpoints will continue to become more unified.

Credit Union Membership Growth is Rooted in Leveraging the Right Technology

Technology is the medium through which you can market to, communicate with, and ultimately, serve your current and future credit union members. And that’s what IMS Integration was built on.

We have everything from premier solutions for Keystone users (Infuzion, Web Loan Applications, Online Accounting Opening, and more) to professional services like custom web development and electronic forms.

Frequent regulation and compliance changes and the rapid-fire technology trends affecting how everyone does business, IMSI wants to help lighten your credit union’s load. Whether you need forms, notices, or letters, we have the expertise to be able to deliver. Or take advantage of our well-honed industry experience to create a member-forward website experience that both satisfies current members and also encourages member growth.

Check out our website for more information on these and other services, or contact us today if you have questions.

 


The Emergence of Cryptocurrency at Credit Unions

 

There’s big news in the cryptocurrency and credit union industries. In the last several months, new developments in policy have made it so that federally insured credit unions are now able to partner with other fintech and third-party companies to provide digital asset services. That means cryptocurrency might be headed for your credit union if it’s not there already.

Current Cryptocurrency Trends

Cryptocurrency, in its most simple form, is very different than traditional forms of currency. It is a digital asset that can be transferred without the assistance of a financial institution. The appeal stems from its almost unlimited availability. Unlike certain forms of traditional currency – credit and debit cards, cash, checks, and the like – access to cryptocurrency only requires access to the Internet.

And since Internet access continues to stretch to even the farthest reaches of our planet, cryptocurrency is growing right along with it.

It also creates opportunities for those who are unbanked or underbanked. You don’t have to have or create a relationship with a financial institution to trade in crypto.

But many savvy consumers who have invested cash and other assets into the cryptocurrency of their choice wish they could do their crypto-based business through their primary financial institutions.

And other companies are taking notice of these trends and jumping on the trend. Businesses of such caliber as Microsoft, PayPal, Shopify, and Home Depot are now accepting certain forms of cryptocurrency, as are credit card giants like Visa.

By opening credit unions up to the world of uninsured digital assets, they can create a new revenue stream that continues to captivate more and more of their members.

The Path to Cryptocurrency at Credit Unions

Many big banks have been offering cryptocurrency-related services for well over a year. It was only a matter of time before smaller institutions and credit unions were able to take advantage of these assets.

The NCUA stated that federally insured credit unions can facilitate “member relationships with third parties that allow FICU members to buy, sell, and hold various uninsured digital assets with the third-party provider outside of the FICU.”

Over 100 million people are credit union members, and many of them are already investing in cryptocurrency. But what does that mean for your credit union?

Right now, more than 10,000 different types of cryptocurrencies exist in the world. And that means your credit union will have some decisions to make.

One big risk associated with uninsured digital assets is the volatility associated with them. According to CUInsight, Bitcoin – the most recognizable form of cryptocurrency – jumped to more than $60,000 in April, but its value fell by half before the end of May. This risk provides a great opportunity, though. The institutions dealing in cryptocurrency right now are doing business in an unregulated industry.

And that means tons of startups are handling these important assets with little or no experience in risk management. While cryptocurrency is often presented as a safe asset and less vulnerable to fraud than other currencies, this isn’t necessarily true. Access to your digital assets is granted by way of a digital key. But if that key is lost or stolen, your entire crypto portfolio can be taken from you in one fell swoop.

Credit unions have been operating under regulatory and compliance guidelines for decades, and risk management is the name of the game in this field.

While it’s important to weigh the risks and rewards associated with creating a cryptocurrency program at your credit union, it’s a sort of “get on the train or you’ll miss it” type of situation. People are searching for crypto-friendly banks and financial institutions. That high demand must be taken into account when you are weighing your options for future financial offerings.

Your CU Options

If you and your credit union believe cryptocurrency is a necessary offering in the coming years, there are several options that can help streamline the process and mitigate risk.

You can partner with a third-party provider. In this situation, your credit union acts as a proxy or middle man: the currency is run through the external provider, but can be viewed through your credit union accounts or via a related mobile app.

You could also provide crypto custody services. These include things like safekeeping, analytics, asset servicing, lending, pricing and valuation, trading, payments, and settlements and collateral, says CUInsight.

And, just like with any other credit union offering, you’ll need a resident expert. Whether that means you add a cryptocurrency-savvy employee to your staff to help field questions and give sound financial advice, or you feature an out-of-house expert and partner with their services, having a face to put with the cryptocurrency movement at your CU can help tremendously.

Investing in credit union-based cryptocurrency services is also a great way to increase your brand reputation and to break the mold that has held credit unions back for years: the belief that credit union technology is outdated or slow to evolve.

By situating your credit union at the forefront of digital banking transformation, you can draw in new crowds and members.

IMSI Has Comprehensive CU Solutions

Technology and innovation are what IMSI does best. We are here to help you close the gap between tech-savvy big banks and local, community-based credit unions.

IMSI wants to partner with you to bring your team – and ultimately, your members – the best credit union experience from top to bottom. That’s why we offer elegant, member-facing web solutions like Make a Statement, Online Courtesy Pay, Online Self Service Forms, and Trial Balance.

Check out our website for more information, or contact us today if you have questions.


The Era of Overdraft Fees Is Ending

 

Banks and credit unions have been charging overdraft fees for decades. Recently, many financial institutions have scaled back or eradicated the practice entirely. And many more institutions are poised to do the same. Facing harsh criticism from generations of banking members, it seems the era of overdraft fees is ending.

Since these fees often prey on the financially unstable and other demographics near the poverty line, credit unions and banks are removing overdraft fees in order to evoke trust and entice prospective members and clients to bank with them. Here’s what you need to know.

The Overdraft Fee Rules Have Changed

One big change in the overdraft fee argument is the implementation of Regulation E of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA).

In 2009, The Federal Reserve Board made an amendment to Regulation E.

The amendment prohibits institutions (financial or otherwise) from charging “overdraft fees for ATM and one-time debit card transactions unless the consumer opts in or affirmatively consents to the institutions’ overdraft services.”

While this helps limit predatory banking practices, many believe there is still more room to be made for transparency in banking fees and charges.

In the last few years, many banks and financial institutions have reduced or removed their overdraft fees and other penalty-based revenue programs.

In an article from the Regulatory Review, and according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 80% of revenue from overdraft fees comes from less than 10% of banking members. That means this small number of members is charged overdraft fees 10 or more times every year.

Thanks to initiatives and awareness being spread around this topic, more and more savvy bank and credit union members are opting to have their financial institution simply decline any charge that puts their accounts in overdraft status.  

The Effect of Ousting the Overdraft

In a report about non-interest income, the Filene Research Institute found that revenue created by overdraft programs and overdraft protection services is shrinking. This is due to increasing regulatory pressures and evolving consumer expectations, as well as the financial industry’s struggle to maintain a wholesome reputation in light of these practices.

Predatory banking is turning members and potential members off. Members see them as indicators that a credit union or bank is looking to profit off financially vulnerable individuals in their communities.

Regulation and reputation are powerful tools. They can turn the tide against something that was once considered a staple of the banking business.

But as we’ve seen before, a reputation problem for big banks is often what makes credit unions so powerful today. Smaller institutions, and especially credit unions, have been providing financial literacy resources and education to their members since inception.

Many big banks can direct prospects’ attention away from these topics by flashing shiny new technology. However, there are credit union partners like IMSI looking to support reputable credit unions by providing them with the best in web development, industry expertise, and superior customer service.

Moving Your Credit Union Forward

Historically, overdraft fees incurred from big banks were much higher than credit union fees. But that trend is changing. Now, most overdraft fees – whether from a big bank or a local credit union – are about the same price.

Many financial institutions are creating new, less predatory practices to replace the overdraft system. Many are creating “low balance alerts.” These and other preventative protocols warn credit union members that they are approaching the limit of their account’s funds.

There are also the many products and services credit unions already offer to help those living paycheck to paycheck find ways to improve their financial situation over time.

Community outreach and financial education are great tools that can be more heavily marketed to replace the declining revenue that was collected from overdrawn accounts.

It’s true that everything has its season, and it looks like the season of overdraft fees is ending. Overdraft fees started in the 1990s but look to be on their way out.

Make a Statement at Your CU with IMSI

Make a Statement is not just a catchphrase – it’s a valuable service that IMSI provides to credit unions around the country. Our Make a Statement tool creates portable print and electronic documents delivered electronically and integrated behind Internet banking.

Similarly, Online Courtesy Pay+ is your online solution for electronic enrollment. It is fully integrated with your core systems. Online Courtesy Pay+ handles regulation-required member notifications like opt-ins and other Regulation E-affected processes.

Check out our website for more information, or contact us today if you have questions.


Moving to Conversational Banking

 

Digital transformation has been moving financial institutions from traditional banking models to online banking models and beyond. As member needs grow and change with the advancement of technology, the approach to customer service must evolve with it. Part of the transition from traditional banking to the future of banking involves the inclusion of conversational banking.

Traditional banking is based on a one-to-one model of financial customer service – and while this practice is still important when mixed with technology that can increase efficiency, convenience, and member experience. Let’s discuss what conversational banking is and how it could benefit your credit union.

What Is Conversational Banking?

For the last several years, and especially throughout the multiple waves of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen exponential growth in conversational user interfaces: messaging apps, chatbots, voice-activated software, and more. These tools are a great opportunity for bridging the gaps between the old-school benefits of one-on-one banking conversations, meetings, consultations, and Q and A sessions versus the convenience of online banking and drive-thru ATMs.

Conversational banking stems from this need for banking members to communicate via technology with the brands and services they use and buy from. The foundation of this banking style is built on interactions between members and non-human interfaces. But just because a live credit union representative isn’t talking to your member, that doesn’t mean the interaction can’t be intuitive and helpful in much the same way as a phone call or a discussion with a credit union employee.

When done correctly, you can leverage the power of conversation to help your members find the solutions they need and navigate those conversations to also recommend other products, services, and solutions. Rather than replacing interactions between members and credit union employees, these methods can augment and enrich the member experience.

The Benefits

One of the biggest benefits of conversational banking is that it lends itself to widening a credit union’s omnichannel approach. You can increase the number of touchpoints in the member journey, increasing the chances that your credit union solutions and insights can create a positive impression on members and potential members.

The use of hybrid technologies also helps cater to different types of member preferences. You can incorporate more phone calls and on-premises visits for those members who would prefer speaking to a live credit union representative. And for those who would prefer to use self-service channels over visiting a physical branch location or making a phone call. Digital solutions continue to gain popularity as online and mobile banking is a more convenient and safer option for people today.

It’s also important to remember that personal service doesn’t necessarily mean face-to-face. Conversational AI software and applications can often be as satisfying for online members and prospects as other methods of communication with a brand or financial institution.

Conversational Banking + Superior Software = CU Success

Your members want to have control of their banking needs, but they also want to be able to depend on you when they need financial education or advice. IMS Integration has a host of premier solutions for Keystone users that can help keep your credit union competitive and relevant compared to fintech and big bank institutions. You can take advantage of online offerings like web loan applications, online account opening services, Infuzion, and reward checking by leveraging our expertise in Keystone, Java, JavaScript, and other credit union-specific professional and comprehensive services.

By partnering with IMS Integration, you will be able to streamline operations so you can optimize your conversational banking assets and spend more time helping your members when they need you most.

Check out our website for more information, or contact us today if you have questions.


Exploring the Buy Now Pay Later Boom

 

We often talk about the differences between older and younger generations, and we can add another trend to the list of factors that divide them: the surge in buy now, pay later program participation among younger Millennials, and Gen Z.

Let’s explore the BNPL boom and its role in the future of banking.

Why is BNPL Gaining Popularity?

As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, more and more we are seeing checkout prices being listed as “$349.99 now, or $29.17 per month for 12 months” or “4 payments of” a much more manageable amount. And younger shoppers are loving it. Buy now pay later is gaining popularity.

The younger members of the Millennial and Gen Z populations are not fans of credit cards, and their buying habits back this up. For example, in 2021, 12% of the 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed said they used BNPL for holiday purchases, compared to 0% of the 65 and older demographic, says CNBC. Overall use of the buy now pay later method was up nearly 30% year over year.

But why is BNPL so attractive to younger shoppers? Because it costs less than using a credit card, they say.

The attractiveness of BNPL comes from the idea that shoppers can create a bit more flexibility in their medium-sized purchases. Purchases that fall in the $100-700 range can be split into a handful of smaller payments that are spread out over the next few months, or even over a year. It eases the burden these occasional purchases bring, without incurring the high interest fees one would be stuck with if they used a traditional credit card.

It can be useful for more than just low-income shoppers, though. BNPL often is being used by those who are financially stable, but who want the predictability of the plan without having to incur costly fees or go through a long or drawn-out loan application process.

And, says CU 2.0, younger generations crave financial stability in a world that has been exceedingly unstable for them, they want solutions that leave no surprises. While a loan amount or balance is always available, banking members don’t know what the actual cost of their purchase will be until they pay off the full amount – and this depends on the frequency of payments (and whether the member pays in variable amounts), initial loan amounts, interest rates, the member’s credit score, and more. And if a member puts that purchase on a credit card but doesn’t pay off the full amount during the next billing cycle, the end expense is, once again, a variable and often a much higher price tag at the end. But with BNPL, the total cost is given upfront, and the timing or amount of the payments made will not change that.

How CUs Can Use BNPL Plans to Their Advantage

Credit unions looking to capture and engage more younger members can implement programs and offerings that follow this ultra-convenient and straightforward buy now pay later idea by using account data history for current members, and by advertising these services in a friendly, quick, digital offering.

More and more businesses have these BNPL plans built into their websites either on product pages on somewhere in the shopping cart or checkout process.

Focusing on smaller, more upfront methods of creating recurring payment plans for your members can help differentiate you as a credit union that is both up-to-date on the current trends and also committed to helping and educating members so they can become more financially sound.

Digital Solutions for Rapidly Evolving Banking Trends

IMS Integration wants your credit union at the forefront of digital transformation. From online account opening to web loan applications and Skip a Pay, our solutions are tailor-made for credit unions, because we know that your CU has unique needs and goals for the new year.

Check out our website for more information, or contact us today if you have questions.