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.


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.


Post-COVID Member Habits

 

It feels like no matter what, COVID-19 isn’t done with us. Schools, small businesses, healthcare providers, credit unions – we are all scrambling to find the best ways to keep our livelihoods intact and our families safe. And as such, this has affected how we do things, from day-to-day activities all the way up to prominent life events and important company decisions. And member habits are not immune to the pandemic, just like credit unions and leadership and innovation practices weren’t.

We’ve recently seen statistics and reports laying out post-COVID member habits look like. And most of these reports say the shift in habits is here to stay. Let’s talk about it.

Digital Trends Are Dominating

The gigantic shift from in-person to digital member services was due, in part, to the pandemic. While it’s true that each generation is more and more tech-savvy, older credit union member habits were rooted in just that – habits. While check fraud has been on the rise for decades, older members seemed to still place more inherent trust in their paper checks than in an online account. When many of the face-to-face member options were suspended, older members had to adjust their approach to include more digital options.

In 2020, international credit union membership grew by more than 14 million members. Digital banking solutions will continue to be the most important trend that affects your credit union’s future and should be the basis for continuity and growth planning.

According to Aux, 60% of 2021 survey respondents said they believe member usage of branches will never return to pre-COVID levels.

Women and Young Members Are Biggest Growth Opportunities

The World Council of Credit Unions released a 2020 Statistical Report that showed North America as having the oldest average age for members, at 53 years of age. Worldwide, credit union members are over the age of 45. There is a lot to be said about creating more Gen Z-centered marketing programs and modernizing your credit union’s digital presence.

This report also underscored the importance of creating more opportunities and campaigns to increase the number of women as members and in leadership roles. In Africa, Latin America, and North America, men hold more than 60% of leadership positions. This could hurt future expansion if your credit union hopes to attract more women to become members.

Financial Habits Are Shifting Towards Savings

A recent survey from Aux done from May to June of 2021 highlights areas of change and focus as it pertains to post-COVID member habits and feelings.

When participants were asked what areas they felt consumers will spend more on, the most popular answers were home improvement and travel. And many credit unions have noticed that lending is much less popular than saving right now, which means future loan campaigns and marketing efforts will be successful when they focus on these popular spending categories.

Elevate Your Credit Union to Match Member Habits Post-COVID

When Aux respondents were asked, “how they felt their members’ needs and values have changed…common themes were faster access to money and more digital tools.”

Digital transformation isn’t an abstract idea, it’s a global movement, and your members are depending on you and your credit union to offer the best online solutions to help them navigate this new normal with less friction and wasted time. Online account opening, Skip a Pay, and web loan applications are some of IMS Integration’s greatest assets that help credit unions meet and exceed their members’ expectations.

Check out our website for more information, or contact us today.