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.


2020 In Review for Credit Unions

 

The pandemic and other disasters caused a lot of uncertainty for your members and employees this year. As 2020 comes to a close, it’s important for leaders to review what they’ve learned so they can prepare for 2021. 

Here are the top insights credit unions have learned this year:

Members Need Digital Experiences

When the world locked down and started working remotely, members flocked to your credit union’s digital services. What was once seen as conveniences became needs, but your members still craved customization and personalization through your digital services and remote communication styles. They demanded improved digital experiences

In addition to increased phone volume and, potentially, the unveiling of video chatting at your credit union, your members increased the use of your website and mobile app. Website accessibility became even more valuable to serve more of your members.

As we’ve said before, “The digital member experience needs to be as close as possible to an all-encompassing, no limits, one-on-one discussion about the many products and programs your credit union offers.”

You may have seen a need to improve your software and digital infrastructure throughout this season. But those improvements don’t end with 2020. It’s imperative that credit unions continue to optimize the digital experience for their members on an ongoing basis. 

Related resources from our sister company, Information Management Solutions:

Cybersecurity is Increasingly Important

Credit unions across the nation, among other businesses, are finding that cybersecurity is critical for the well-being of their business and to keep their members’ data secure. 

We’ve known for a while that cybercriminals don’t discriminate who they attack and that not all cyber threats have malicious intent, but this year has made it even harder for smaller credit unions to keep up with the security demands placed on them, especially when transitioning to WFH environments. 

We previously summed this up as “Cybersecurity in 2020 is even more important than it was in past years because financial institutions can’t afford to be breached or hacked during these uncertain times.”

At the end of this year, one thing is clear: if your credit union hasn’t already, it’s time to strengthen your cybersecurity initiatives. 

Related resources from our sister company, Information Management Solutions:

Members Require a Better Experience

Your members want more. Their needs are always changing. As younger generations join credit unions and as time moves forward, member expectations change. This is especially true for 2020 as members’ needs changed practically overnight.

This year, credit unions helped their members use self-service options and embrace digital services. Your employees quickly felt the loss of that in-person community that is created within a normal credit union environment – and everyone on your team knew that many members felt the same loss.  

Customer service became less about benefits and more about personalizing the customer experience, even while working remotely. As we prepare for and head into 2021, it’s important to continue improving the member experience across the board. 

Related resources from our sister company, Information Management Solutions: 

Prepare for 2021

At the end of the day, your credit union is constantly working on ways to better serve your members. Members continue to be the most important focus for a credit union’s efforts, from the leadership team to each member service representative. For this reason, all of these insights that credit union leaders have learned over the year are important to take into 2021. 

Like you serve your members, our team at IMS Integration is here to serve you. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your credit union.


How to Improve Your Credit Union’s Employee Experience

 

As a credit union leader, you spend a lot of time working on ways to improve the member experience. But what about the employee experience? 

Your employees have taken on the brunt of the chaos of 2020 alongside you and your leadership team in an effort to support your members through the challenges of the year. As we prepare for 2021, it’s time to reevaluate how we create the employee experience. 

Build the Company Culture

The best way to improve the employee experience is to build the company culture. 

According to Built In, “Company culture can be defined as a set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterize an organization.” 

By definition, a company’s culture is not something you can change overnight because it occurs naturally, whether you are part of that culture. This means that to build the company culture, you must first understand the company culture. Your employees are creating a culture around you, so it’s important that you are part of that culture. 

If your company culture does not align with your company’s core values, then you and the rest of the leadership team have work to do. Change comes from the top, so if your culture does not align with your values, change starts with you. 

The key to building a company culture starts with living out your company’s core values. When your employees see these values in action and they agree with these values, your culture will improve and become healthier. 

Focus on Employee Development

Another way to build your company culture is to provide managerial support and flexibility to your employees. Navy Federal Credit Union does this by prioritizing employee development. This often looks like encouraging employees to pursue their goals and dreams within your credit union, which may include transitioning to different departments and positions, and providing them with the opportunities and training to do so. 

This internal mobility is critical to maintaining employee retention and satisfaction. Employees feel more valued and passionate about their roles with a company when they know that they are not stagnant in their current position. Managers need to encourage employees to dream and make goals – and leadership needs to enable these opportunities. 

Get Personal

Another way you can improve the employee experience is to focus on the little things, such as learning the names of all of your employees and listening to details about their lives. Short conversations can improve the employee experience because when employees feel heard, even if you cannot change a situation for them professionally or personally, they feel valued in both respects. 

Another way you can get personal with your employees is to share stories with them. Humanize yourself with your staff by sharing anecdotes about your professional and personal life – the opportunities are only limited by your comfort zone. But these conversations, in groups or in private, can help you connect with your employees, which can make them feel like they are more of a part of the company.

Depending on your role and your credit union, this may be very challenging if there are silos in your organization. It is up to the leadership team to break down those silos in order to improve the company and employee experience. 

Encourage Feedback

If you’re unsure where you stand with your employees or are unsure where to begin to improve the company culture, start with gathering feedback. This can look like anonymous employee surveys, informal group discussions, or personal conversations between yourself and employees or between managers and employees. 

Encouraging and gathering feedback on a consistent basis is critical to improving the employee experience because oftentimes, employees don’t want to be a “squeaky wheel.” So if your credit union is heavily siloed, start searching for feedback indirectly. Watch for signs of a poor employee experience, including:

  • Employees showing signs of burnout
  • Low retention rates
  • High rates of sick days
  • Poor work quality
  • Regular tardiness
  • High customer complaints

Identify Biases

Improving the employee experience starts before the hiring process. Leaders must identify their own personal and professional biases, scrap them, and implement changes to the hiring process. This not only helps focus the hiring process on adding value to the culture rather than finding applicants that already fit into the culture, but it also benefits diversity and inclusion efforts. 

According to CUInsight, “By fostering an inclusive culture, we begin to breakdown these biases. Too often we hear about organizations that look to increased diversity as the answer, by hiring diverse talent, without ensuring there is a culture of support and inclusion in place. This sets organizations up for failure in this critical area.”

This ongoing process is very intentional. To improve the employee experience for everyone, leaders must hire people who are different than themselves in order to add value to the company as a whole. To only hire applicants that share your personal values is to pigeonhole the credit union and limit its connectivity to the community as a whole. 

Upgrade Your Technology

Another way to improve the employee experience is to upgrade the technology they use to do their jobs. Using the right technology tools and platforms can provide these benefits:

  • Improve employee collaboration
  • Save employees time
  • Improve employee productivity
  • Optimize the member experience
  • Improve employee engagement

If you use KeyStone by Corelation in your credit union, then upgrade your technology and streamline the employee experience with our KeyStone Solutions


Leading During the COVID-19 Crisis

 

Credit unions are playing a critical role in supporting its members and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, credit unions are financial first responders for workers, businesses, families and communities to help weather the crisis. Although COVID-19 presents new challenges to how we operate, the same principles of leadership during a crisis remain the same. Your members and employees are looking to you for information, support and guidance during this time.

While we are still trying to determine what the long-term implications of where the pandemic will leave us, we know that every crisis has a beginning, middle and end. The future will leave us in a different state. It’s important to remember that the actions you take now can lead your organization to remaining resilient or on a path of chaos. 

With new information and regulations changing weekly, and even daily, it can be hard to sort through all the facts. However, there are steps you can take to improve the situation for your credit union.

Lead with communications

If you haven’t done so already, create a dedicated crisis management team. This is where you implement any emergency or disaster planning, preparation and testing to ensure operations run smoothly. A dedicated team will also be responsible for developing a protocol to monitor and report newly released information or regulations from all levels of governments. Knowing what’s happening in real time helps credit unions determine how to share updates with all employees and members. 

Members of the team should also be trained on executing the plan. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around, and your team should be helpful in sharing reliable information. Not only will this help your staff understand what’s happening, it will also ensure you’re providing the best service to members. Remember, always be transparent about what you know and don’t know. 

Collaborate with your team

Due to social distancing requirements, many of us are working from home – posing a different challenge trying to navigate remote working solutions. With teams split across various home offices for the foreseeable future, communication and collaboration can become strained. 

Whether it’s branch managers, human resources, IT or your legal team, COVID-19 will impact how work gets done. Additionally, credit unions are working across virtual environments to serve members. It’s essential to communicate more than you did before. Send more emails, establish regular meetings internally and with external partners so business runs smoothly. It may seem annoying at first, but having a clear flow of information keeps everyone on the same page.

Things are changing rapidly, so staff should know what’s coming down the pipeline and why decisions are made to avoid conflict. Selecting members from core operational teams for the dedicated COVID-19 team is another way for departments to make decisions and work together for a more effective response.

Plan for the unexpected

In one month, the financial world has experienced a level of disruption that will change the way we do business moving forward. The way we work and how members manage their money has changed. And the reality is we really don’t know how long it will take to recover from the pandemic. It’s best to prepare for the unexpected. 

Credit unions have to be more flexible and adapt to the times to support the needs of its members and take care of staff. Look for opportunities to reinvent how you use data and human resources, deliver digital solutions and engage with members. 

It’s clear the pandemic will create a new way of doing business. Let’s talk about tools that are available to strengthen and grow your credit union.