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.


How to Improve Credit Union Customer Service

 

We’ve talked previously about trends credit union customers will come to expect and ways to improve member experience in previous blog posts. But a lot has changed in the last year. So let’s take a look at some new ways to improve credit union customer service.

Focus on Financial Well-Being

Credit unions are very community-oriented and collaboration-focused. And as more young adults come of age in these financially uncertain times, they don’t just need a bank, they need a financial institution that can also act as a teacher or guide.

Millennials and Gen Z spend money and view debt differently than older generations. And many times, they look to the internet for answers. So why not use your credit union’s online presence and customer approach to provide those answers for them? You can build trust with younger demographics by positioning your credit union as not only a bank, but also a partner throughout their financial lives.

By focusing on helping your members pursue financial well-being, you can not only provide better customer service, but you can also see what trends and growth areas exist in your immediate market.

This is also a strategic way to invite more small businesses to bank with you as well. Often, owners of small businesses are forced to be their own supervisor, employee, accountant, marketer, and so much more. If you have resources and experienced advisors available, SMBs will see that as a huge advantage.

Leverage APIs

An application programming interface – or API – is a “code that allows two application systems to connect and share information with each other. You can see some quick and easy examples in this CUInsight article.

Leveraging APIs helps credit unions compete with the big banks and their multi-million dollar tech resources. APIs allow your CU to save time and money on significant website and app improvements by using pre-built programs to help drive engagement and growth.

Listen to Your Employees

Being a credit union leader often involves making hard decisions, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it in a vacuum. You have dozens of experienced employees who are your boots on the ground every day. One of the best ways to improve credit union customer service is to listen to the struggles of your staff.

If there are systems or procedures that have not been updated or optimized in a while, talk to the people who use them every day. Ask them what they struggle with, and what their members are struggling with. Having an open-door policy on process improvements can allow your credit union to keep moving forward with incremental changes, rather than forcing shutdowns or huge company-wide strategy overhauls in the coming years.

Take Advantage of Testing

You’ve heard it before: no two customers are alike and no two businesses – even two branches of the same credit union – are alike. Just because a messaging system isn’t well-received at branch A doesn’t mean the system should be scrapped or replaced. It means you should do some testing to find the reasons certain programs are working at each branch of your credit union.

Testing, especially after the year of rapid technological change we just had, is paramount to the success of your credit union. Some of the temporary solutions you’ve implemented may be great tools or resources to keep for the long haul. And maybe others need some refining before they can be considered an asset to your business.

Offer Great Online Resources and Services

Fintech partnering is a big trend right now, and it’s probably going to stick around for a while. Finding companies that can help you provide valuable services online is a great, cost-effective way to improve customer service.

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.


Credit Union Marketing Trends | 2019

IMSI Credit Union Solutions

General Trend Focus

We know that credit unions are member-owned, and therefore provide a lot of benefits to the membership. There are more 6,000 credit unions in the United States, serving more than 100 MILLION members. That’s 45.4% percent of the economically active population! With that said, credit unions still need to plan for marketing, advertising, and new member recruitment. Below are the trending topics when it comes to credit union marketing in 2019.

Credit unions must concentrate on meeting member needs and continually pushing for engagement, member involvement, and fulfillment.  Extending their efforts and stepping into more consumer spaces is also essential, driving trends like community outreach, portable applications and instruments, and chatbots. User experience is KEY in 2019!

Attracting Young Members

With the average age of a credit union member being 47, it is vital for CUs to attract younger members who are more likely to need borrowing and loan support. With Millennials applying for credit cards at a higher rate than any other generation, there is a need to be served. There are a few credit unions who have recognized this need and have come up with very creative ways to serve it.

Online Banking Credit Union IMSIFor example, Fairwinds Credit Union wanted to provide easy access to their services for a generation accustomed to digital access. So they created “Virtual Advisor,” a platform for voice and social media access to banking and lending services. The platform allows member access through Facebook. Alexa, Google Home, and SMS, where members can ask questions, applying for a credit card, make an inquiry, and more.

With an average member age of 39 (well below the national average of 47), Michigan State University FCU has reached younger membership opportunities by offering different types accounts to different age groups ranging from elementary age to college age students. Finding unique ways to attract a younger membership is just as important as keeping your current membership happy, but continued growth is imperative to success.

Improving Member Satisfaction

Credit Unions are known for having high levels of member satisfaction. However, it is important to consider what components of service are most important to the different age groups that make up your membership. While older members may consider having regular face-to-face contact with employees, younger members may find a secure and reliable digital experience a high ranking component. The easiest way to determine how much emphasis to put on aspects of service is to ask your membership.

Create a list of five key components your union wants to focus on, and ask your membership to rank them in order of importance. You may find that older members consistently choose one focus area, while younger members choose another. However, that one key area that both agree on is where you should put the most effort forth.

Embracing Digital Financial Tools

IMSI Credit Union Systems and SolutionsMany credit unions haven’t put significant resources into digital efforts when compared to the “big banks.” However, for younger members, online and voice-enabled banking is not only something they expect but also something they demand. The ability to bank anywhere, at any time, is a feature that the younger, more experience-oriented members require. IMSI works with Credit Unions specifically, bringing together the best in web development, industry expertise, and superior customer service, so please let us know how we can help you!

Community Outreach

Community outreach has always been an essential component of financial marketing. Credit Unions have an advantage in this area, as most are community-based, and known by the community members they serve. Working in tandem with local schools, you can teach children about saving and the benefits of a credit union. Holding informational sessions for first-time homebuyers and discussing different types of loans and mortgages, or partnering with local colleges to educate incoming students about different types of student loans, are just a few of the ways that you can work with community members while educating and encouraging them to become members!

IMSI can help your credit union “go digital” while ensuring the safety and protection of your members and your institution. Contact us today, and see how we can help you grow!

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