Financial Preparedness Approaches for the Future

 

Financial preparedness meant something like a “rainy day” stash or “disaster fund” before the events of 2020. Many credit union members were lucky enough not to have worried about what it takes to be financially prepared. If they don’t live somewhere with extreme weather, many thought financial preparedness plans didn’t really apply to them.

And then a pandemic happened, and nearly everyone in the USA and the world was forced to take a hard look at their financial situation because the stability we thought we had was gone.

Credit unions and members alike should be looking forward with a renewed appreciation for financial planning. Let’s discuss some important financial preparedness approaches for post-pandemic life.

Have a Plan B

In 2020, many workers experienced a sharp decrease in wages due to layoffs, furloughs, and quarantine-related shutdowns or capacity limitations. While we hope never to live through something like that again, it’s important to realize how desperate many families’ situations were before the pandemic hit.

According to CNBC, “roughly 1 in 3 households had trouble making ends meet right before the coronavirus pandemic.” 33% of the population were struggling to keep up with their bills in a normal financial climate, and that number only grew as the pandemic stretched on.

That’s why having a plan B is essential. If you encourage members to start now, it’s much easier to get through rough patches when you’ve been stockpiling funds a few dollars at a time. Encouraging members to create separate savings accounts for emergencies is a helpful way to teach financial preparedness in a way that is relatable.

That emergency fund can be used for sudden changes in job status or pay, sudden expenses like replacing a totaled car, or paying for medical emergencies. When you phrase it as a series of probable bumps in the road, rather than an “in case a tornado or hurricane wipes out our house”, emergency funds start to make more sense to your members and become a valued service and insight you are offering them.

As for natural disasters specifically, it’s also good to inform credit union members that they should keep a small stash of cash at home, in the event that power in the area goes out and ATM withdrawals are not an option.

Budget What You Have

Budgeting is an elusive concept to many Americans. In fact, an Intuit survey showed that 65% of Americans have no clue how much money they spent last month.

But that doesn’t mean you should jump right into a hyper-detailed budgeting strategy. Just like learning to read, you don’t start with an entire book. You move through each letter, and then on to words, sentences, paragraphs, and so on.

Incorporating budgeting strategies a little at a time can help your members learn basic financial preparedness and planning, which can improve their financial stability little by little. Younger generations have previously been reported as not financially responsible, and you can’t teach that responsibility overnight. Creating budgets for small things, like groceries or streaming services can help members recognize and identify areas in their life that could use a good budgeting once-over.

Mitigate Debt

The COVID pandemic caused more than 51% of adults with credit card debt to add to their balances from March 2020 to January 2021.

In leaner times, financial goals should shift from growth and expansion – new house, newer car, impulse purchases on Amazon – to debt mitigation. If credit card debt is trending upwards, it’s important to revisit that budget, maybe cut out a few of the less essential expenses and make some goals to pay off credit card debt. For Millennials and Gen Z, offering these insights through your credit union is a great way to appeal to this very debt-conscious demographic.

Ensure Quick & Easy Access to Financial Information and Services

As a result of the pandemic, more people are using online banking services than ever before. Credit unions that wish to see success in a post-pandemic world need to be implementing and troubleshooting more digital services and offerings so as to keep up with the demand that is now present for these contactless banking options.

IMS Integration is here to help you optimize your credit union’s website with Web Loan Applications, Online Account Opening, and so much more.

Contact us today for more information about our credit union solutions.


6 Ways to Improve Your Credit Union Website

 

Your credit union’s website is getting more traffic, and your members expect to be able to find more information and services than ever before. After a long year of hurried digital transformation, now is the time to optimize your business’s online presence. Here are some of the best ways to improve your credit union website.

Update Your FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions pages are one of the first places your members go to get information about new website features and common issues or questions.

To improve your credit union website, spend some time reorganizing and updating your FAQs. Questions should be grouped by topic or category (mobile banking, online loan applications, etc.). You can even include a search feature, especially if you have a long list of FAQs, to help your members find the information they need faster.

With all the crazy 2020-inspired changes to your business, your FAQ section is likely in need of a good update.

Analytics and Personalization

Predictive analytics can create a more tailored experience for every member or potential customer who visits your credit union website.

“By leveraging application programming interfaces (API) to connect customer relationship management (CRM) databases, your website can display personalized content, advertising, and product information uniquely targeted to each individual,” says InetSolution.

You can use existing tools like Google Analytics and customize the insights to capture specific data that can improve your website’s (and your business’s) performance.

Include or Improve Site Search Functions

We already mentioned including a search feature on your credit union’s FAQ page. It is just as crucial that your website includes a global search feature too, so visitors can quickly and easily search your entire website content for specific information or services.

Before you create or commission work for a one-size-fits-all search function that also searches Google or other internet content, remember: the function of every piece of information and page design should be optimized to get your members or potential customers to the content or service they are looking for.

This site search function would also likely benefit from the same analytics and personalization features that you’ve built into your site mentioned in the above section.

Create and Curate Financial Education Content

Blogs, links, infographics, events pages – many people visit websites for advice or information that is related to your business or industry. To improve your credit union’s website, having a section dedicated to financial education content is a perfect companion to your credit union’s mission to serve and educate the communities your offices are in.

When you provide relevant resources, you also help your customers become educated and invested in their own financial literacy and experience. A blog or resource page with relevant links or infographics not only adds value to your website but also provides another reason for visitors to check back in on your website for the latest helpful tips or interesting articles.

Ensure All Site Functions are Mobile-Friendly

89% of American bank account holders use mobile banking for account management. And 94% of mobile banking customers use online banking platforms at least once a month.

Whether your credit union has a website, an app, or both – all pages and functions of your online services should be optimized to work on mobile platforms. This is even more important when it comes to the longer, more involved service processes, like account opening or web loan applications.

Offer Online Web Loan Applications and Account Opening

And speaking of web loan applications and online account opening – both of these should be features on your credit union’s website and app. Younger prospective customers have always tended to prefer any solution that is fully online and contactless.

This is even more important as we continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 restrictions. Rather than losing them, you can give potential customers the power to initiate business with you. This is safer, faster, and often more preferred anyway.

Need Help Improving Your Credit Union’s Online Presence?

IMS Integration is here to help you optimize your credit union’s website with Web Loan Applications, Online Account Opening, and so much more.

Contact us today for more information about our credit union solutions.


Lending Trends and Loan Applications: What’s Next for CUs?

Online lending and loan application practices have been around for a while, but many credit unions have not implemented or improved these processes. While COVID-19 mandates and social distancing practices may have pushed the tide toward more online lending, there are many reasons why it is here to stay and why there could be more changes on the horizon.

Digital Service Is Expected

Having reliable and expansive digital services available for members is a must for credit unions hoping to survive these tough times. Brick-and-mortar locations are becoming less and less frequented, which means you are losing members and customers if you aren’t implementing and expanding your online services often.

The current pandemic has pushed a lot of things to digital platforms out of necessity, but rather than seeing these as a temporary stop-gap measure, credit unions should consider adding things like online lending and loan application services to the website permanently.

Take Advantage of PPP Issues

Many small businesses applying for the Paycheck Protection Program loans had a hard time accessing the things they needed through big banks. Everyone was scrambling for the same funds and the lengthy wait times and delays cost a lot of small businesses their ability to keep their doors open, even at diminished capacity.

While this is nothing to celebrate, credit unions could use this as an opportunity to market themselves as a better alternative lender to the big banks and PPP. Customer service is always a strength that credit unions wield, so why not tout it during a time when lots of business owners are frustrated with their current bank’s lack of satisfactory service?

Travel Changes Mean Lending Changes

According to this CU Management article, some interesting loan trends may start to emerge as some areas lower their COVID-19 precautions due to dwindling case numbers.

There is a potential for air travel and hotel stays to decline and stay low for a time, even after COVID-19 has passed. This doesn’t mean that everyone will suddenly stop wanting to travel, but it does mean the mode of transportation could be changing.

RV and boat sales are expected to increase in the near future, as a safer travel alternative to flying, which means loans for these items will also increase – something for credit unions to think about in the coming months.

Credit Union Culture Is an Advantage

Though digital solutions often focus on taking out the human components, there are ways to incorporate the standard credit union customer service throughout the loan application process. Creating virtual inroads to your credit union by using your CU website to showcase both your commitment to helpful customer service and the ease of online loan applications can add value to potential customers.

Building custom lending processes that highlight the personal touch credit unions can offer is a great way to differentiate your services from the services your competitors have to offer.

IMS Integration Has You Covered

IMS Integration’s Online Loan Application white paper is a quick read and helps outline many of the benefits of creating web-based loan applications.

We also offer online self-service forms, which can be customized to meet your credit union’s and your customers’ needs.

We also have expertise with many software solutions for your credit union. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.


Have You Prioritized Content Marketing at Your Credit Union?

You don’t want to lose your potential members before they even complete the application. Language, personalization, and targeted content all help draw your members toward your important services. 

You want to show that it will be easy to work with your credit union, and your potential members will be convinced of this by the smoothness of the application process, as well as the language you use.

When you’re in the business of providing financial support to your customers, you want to make it clear that you’re open to helping. Financial stressors often join your credit union members when they come to you, so you don’t want them to be unclear on how you’ll be able to help.

Various forms of content, such as blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, social media content, and other forms of communication should all demonstrate ways that your credit union has assisted members to overcome financial hurdles. This messaging helps to target the customers that need a solution and show them where it’s easily found. 

The same way that the reliability of your services and customer support builds loyalty, content marketing builds loyalty (though slowly, over time) and brand recognition. 

However, spending time on the technical side of the credit union application doesn’t help to build the personal support you offer customers. Online self-service forms help to guide your customers through the services they need from you. We can focus on the technical needs that serve your customer, while you focus on the emotional needs. Other features can help to build brand recognition and keep your CU recognizable as a reliable brand and business.

Once you’ve curated the messaging of your brand and drawn in your members, you can keep them happy with services like Skip a Pay, which can save your members in a pinch. By consolidating multiple notice types into a single notice and minimizing mailing costs, Make a Statement helps to deliver statements in an easy-to-read format.

If you want to free up more time to spend on your marketing as well as more efficiently deliver the information your members need, let’s talk


How to Optimize the Member Experience

Starting from the very beginning, credit union members should tap into an intuitive system that anticipates their needs and provides the solutions they want.

It is now vital to distinguish between demographics when marketing to credit union customers. As younger generations grow up with technological fluency and a more intimate relationship with businesses they trust, they want to be heard and seen.

It’s not impossible to reach out to both older and younger demographics. Older generations might prefer to conduct business in-person rather than digitally, but recent trends have shown that Generation Z may actually bear some similarities to baby boomers in that they actually prefer going to physical locations, but are versed in the omnichannel experience—where they retrieve and use information from various sources, such as the internet, a physical location in-person, and other service options.

Streamlining the member journey

This is possible by our integration with Corelation, which is highly compatible and user-friendly. Corelation is a tightly integrated system that can work with any bank or credit union software.

Some of our products (which can be integrated into Corelation) include:

  • Skip a Pay: Capabilities like skip a pay evaluate loan applications based on credit union criteria and assess eligibility.
  • Reward Checking: With Reward Checking by Corelation, credit union members can gain points based on the percentage of the transaction amount. Points then accumulate when statements are produced. Members can also redeem Points for Cash.
  • Online Courtesy Pay+: Integrated into our Keystone core system, OnlineCourtesyPay+ allows members and staff to complete the opt-in enrollment quickly. With our hosted solution, this option is easy to implement.

Read more about our Corelation solutions.

Need a custom solution?

Our custom solutions address your unique needs by using the Keybridge API, Jasper report, ExtJS, combined with batch scripting, which joins our Java SQL and KeyStone knowledge.

Not all credit union forms are developed equally—we get it. That’s why we offer the development of forms that can extrapolate data from your core database. When optimizing the customer experience, you’ll also be minimizing instances of menial employee tasks.

We’ve been creating custom solutions for our customers for years.

We can provide custom web development as well as capitalize on our existing technologies and vast knowledge of credit union business practices to address the challenges we haven’t seen before.

We know you need rapid turnaround and we’re skilled in providing you with the tools and solutions to achieve it.


Credit Union Trends in 2020

Credit unions are preparing for an unpredictable new decade, which will begin on the brink of global friction, elections, trade wars, and economic instability. However, credit unions can still implement best practices to retain new members by providing an intuitive customer experience. 

Preparing for the economic downturn of 2020.

While it might be a source of worry at the moment, we won’t know the true nature of the predicted economic downturn in 2020 until it actually happens. On the other hand, customers often look toward credit unions as a solution as they seek out loans during the financial slump of a recession. 

Physical locations will be a bit emptier. 

The Financial Brand reported in 2017 that through 2022, actual visits to branch locations will decline about 36 percent. 

Gone are the days when a loan officer was the ideal strategy for credit unions since the advent of online loan applications. However, this type of digital loan processing can improve efficiency and profitable lending. 

The advent of digital solutions for typical credit union processes directly correlates with a younger generation that has grown up alongside smartphones and who expect intuitive digital options. Credit union members can easily be updated via text or email regarding their approval status, as well as upload supporting documents.

Everyone will be talking about cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity will also be at the forefront of organizations’ and customers’ minds after a year punctuated by rising instances of ransomware and malware attacks. Hacking systems that have become more powerful against defense systems and cybercriminals emboldened by their success should prompt credit unions to seriously assess the quality of their security systems. 

Preparing for a new decade.

In 2020, credit unions should strongly consider investing in technology as well as assessing the quality of their digital delivery to customers. 

For example, focusing on how your targeted offers are placed within your online banking platform and how accessible your application is within your system can help to increase the volume in applications. Read more about how to drive more web loan and online account opening applications.

Focus on the members

Credit union service is all about focusing on the members, and you can do this even in the midst of an economic uncertainty. As younger generations begin to explore financial literacy, they’ll be looking for solutions that are specifically tailored to them. You can meet those generations where they are by paying attention to their preferences for money management

By ensuring your customers that you have their best interests at heart, you’ll more likely retain customers even throughout an economic downturn.


Managing the Generational Gap of Your Credit Union Members

When it comes to millennials and Gen Z, preferences for money management are changing.

Where millennials and Generation Zers grew up with digital literacy and simple solutions to common problems, baby boomers and other older generations have a different approach to finances. Most consumers, in general, are looking for convenience over security when it comes to consumer payment needs. Millennials are looking for student loan relief, first mortgages, mobile banking, and pet insurance. Baby boomers are looking for manageable ways to maintain their savings, but want to do it in traditional ways.

With the looming generational crisis on the minds of credit unions everywhere, it’s important to understand how the generational gap can be managed in the context of onboarding, retaining, and retaining older and younger generations with your services.

How to Manage the Generational Gap

The main tactic to uncovering how to reach different generations via the credit union industry is by meeting those generations where they are. With boomers, they are looking at more traditional advertising outlets and potentially still using physical banks. With millennials, they want the convenience of being able to access all their information from their phone. 

With younger generations, they want to know how student loans will affect them upon entering college. A good marketing strategy is teaching millennials and Gen Z how to bank. By holding informational sessions at local colleges or even high schools, those students will learn about the benefits of opening a credit union account and be more open to that financial option.

In addition, younger generations now have a different home buying experience. They want to know how they can purchase a home in an easy, mature way. They want to be careful with their money, but also have a reliable and convenient customer experience to clarify any questions.

Tailoring Your Services Toward Specific Demographics

Onboarding is the time to let a new member know that they have made the right decision. It’s also a moment where you can essentially bring a member into the fold. You can clearly lay out the instructions for accessing their accounts, as well as how to access customer service representatives or other information. By doing this, you’ll situate your credit union as a reliable, educational resource that will help members to become better with money maintenance. 

When it comes to onboarding, both generations have a similar goal in mind: they want to know that they are valued members of your credit union. When onboarding a younger member, they likely won’t need specific instructions for understanding how to use digital tools. Older generations will want to see clearly laid out instructions for accessing digital tools in managing their accounts. It may take them more time to understand how to utilize online banking tools, but they’ll appreciate the convenience as well.

Since younger generations spend longer periods of time looking at their phones and are more proactive about keeping their devices regularly updated, it’s crucial for credit unions to keep their apps, websites, and digital tools up to date. Gen Z is also known as the “omnichannel generation,” meaning that this generation fluidly switches between different internet channels. Gen Z is fluent in the Internet of Things and wants continued convenience, meaning that the channels your credit unions use as digital tools must be continually updated and optimized. If there’s an issue with technology, Gen Z wants a quick fix. According to a Cognizant/CGK study, Gen Z is typically willing to pay for technology services, as long as they work and provide convenience.

Acclimating and Staying the Same

Where older generations have a better understanding of money and less digital literacy, younger generations have more digital literacy. A report from Mintel reported that finances are one of the greatest stressors for Gen Z. 

Younger demographics want to have the same financial success that their parents’ generation saw, and older demographics want simpler, reliable financial services. By focusing on the differences between these two generations, your message will become clearer and more accessible to specific segments of your audience. Shoot us a message if you’re interested in learning more about how you can find solutions to these kinds of challenges.