Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dancing with the Dinosaur

I was reading an article authored by Marc Rapport, senior writer at Callahan & Associates, called “All For One or One For All?” comparing the different technology strategies of two credit unions in close proximity to each other and both relying on select employer based growth. The two Midwest credit unions are BCU (formerly Baxter Credit Union) and Four Points Federal Credit Union.

What struck me was how different these two credit unions view their technology strategy and how one of the two credit unions is completely comfortable allowing their future to be dictated by a company that may or may not have their best interests at heart.

According to the article, the reason Four Points Federal Credit Union is willing to allow this level of control to a third party core data processing vendor is “trust” and “we could have gotten different components from different companies and then have them dicker with one another all the time, but I don’t have time for that”. The credit union CEO goes on to say, “Regarding its new provider, the agreement stipulates that the credit union will not face any rate increases throughout the life of its contract. In addition, the credit union’s staff will also likely benefit from the new system’s enhanced core accounting functions. The member service pieces are intuitive and seem easy to learn and use.”  He further goes on to say, This whole idea of putting all your eggs in one basket can be an issue,” he says. “But I’ll take that over the alternative of integrating everything and managing different vendors.”

WOW is all I can say. Let go through this point by point.

We could have gotten different components from different companies and then have them dicker with one another all the time, but I don’t have time for that”.  The credit union does not have time to effectively manage one of the most important and most capital intensive areas of their business. Gone are the days you open and staff a branch, and rely on members to come flocking through the door. The retail financial services sector is under attack on many fronts. Members/customers expect more. They expect 24/7 365 access to all banking products, services and transactions. What can be more important than developing and managing strategy to meet those expectations in a timely manner? Do not have time for it?

Regarding its new provider, the agreement stipulates that the credit union will not face any rate increases throughout the life of its contract. In addition, the credit union’s staff will also likely benefit from the new system’s enhanced core accounting functions – WOW no price increase until the credit union realizes it needs a new solution that they currently do not offer. Then what is the credit union’s choice, go back to the core vendor and hope they have the solution and will be fair in the price they charge (remember they need to make up that price guarantee somewhere) or …… oh I forgot, they do not want to dicker around with other solution providers. Price may be important, but can’t be the overriding reason a technology decision is made. I also love, “the staff will also “likely” benefit from the new accounting system.” At least a couple of back-office people will be happy.

It is the last statement that kills me.  “This whole idea of putting all your eggs in one basket can be an issue,” he says. “But I’ll take that over the alternative of integrating everything and managing different vendors.” – So expediency and lack of desire to manage vendors and relationship trumps or limits the credit union’s ability to define and deliver a comprehensive digital strategy.

The coup de grĂ¢ce is “the go-live date for the new system is April 30, 2015, but that timeframe depends on the exit negotiations with Fiserv.” How familiar does that sound from the big-box core data processors, as they jump from one to another?

Unlike Ron Shevlin, (if you do not already, you should read his blogs, they are very entertaining) who loves skewer unsuspecting bloggers and article contributors, I bring this article to the forefront not because I want to attack the credit union CEO. I bring it forth as an example, because what was said by the  Four Points Federal Credit Union CEO is so typical of so many credit union and bank CEOs and executives.

I am not suggesting that all credit unions need to be as aggressive as BCU in managing its technology strategy, but I will say that they need to be on that side of the ledger. If you don’t control how your credit union digitally delivers its products, services and transactions, then you have little hope of formulating and executing a digital banking strategy that will satisfy your members/customers and allow you to compete/remain viable.    

Dinosaurs were once dominate creatures, but where are they now? Credit unions and banks that don’t face the rapidly changing realities of the retail financial services market face the same outcome.

Let’s look a little more closely at the performance these two credit unions as of June 2014.


BCU – Peer Group 1B+
Four Points – Peer Group 100MM to 200MM
Member Growth
8.59%
-5.65%
Peer Group Member Growth
6.2%
-1.58%

Membership growth is generally seen as an indication of a credit union’s membership satisfaction and/or the credit union’s ability to meet the needs of their membership. Is BCU’s technology strategy, which is polar opposite of Four Points’ technology strategy, the reason BCU is exceeding their peer group in membership growth and Four Points is under performing compared to their peer group? I don’t know the answer, but it is a good question that deserves an answer.

Credit unions and banks must become more invested in their technology strategy and its execution. The CIO of today needs to be a savvy business leader that is actively involved in shaping the direction of the credit union, then putting in-place the solutions necessary to achieve the corporate goals.  The CIO of today needs to be like the orchestra conductor, pulling all the pieces together to create symphonic harmony. If you are lucky enough to have a CIO like Jeff Johnson at BCU consider yourself fortunate. They are hard to find and just may just hold the future success of your credit union in their hands.    




Monday, December 1, 2014

Bi-Direction Channel Banking, the Next Step in the Customer Experience

Omni-channel banking correctly places customers or members at the center of the banking experience. Allowing customers the ability to access multiple banking channels while providing the customer the ability to begin a transaction on one channel and complete the process where they left off on another banking channel is integral to the successful implementation of an omni-channel strategy. Bank and credit union customers are beginning to expect to be able to move between banking channels using a simple, intuitive, consistent and interactive user interface.

Successful implementing of an omni-channel banking experience may seem like the epitome of customer service success. It is not, it is only halfway there. The best customer experience can only occur if both the customer and the bank/credit union customer facing teams are on the same page, accessing the same information in real-time, without having to migrate through and between multiple banking systems. Financial products and services are often complex and numerous, resulting in many desperate banking systems that may or may not effectively communicate with each other. Middleware and a front-end UX system that can interface with these different systems and display the information in a user friendly, coherent manner is required for a bank or credit union to be able to deliver a successful customer or member omni-channel banking experience. 

Omni-channel banking is providing the customer or member with access to all banking channels in a seamless and unified manner. Providing BOTH customers and bank/credit union employees with access to all banking channels in a seamless and unified manner closes the service/user experience loop, which I call “bi-direction channel banking”.  

Bi-direction channel banking is the ultimate bank customer or credit union member user experience.  To create a truly great customer experience both the customer and the customer facing support team must have real-time access to a single user interface that allow them both to access the same data and information. Despite bank’s and credit union’s desire to create easy to use self-service products, transactions and services, invariably bank and credit union personnel have to interact with the customer to either resolve a problem, answers a question, provide advice or counsel, or assist with the process. Unlike online retail stores, financial products are often complex, require multiple decisions and product knowledge expertise.

Multiple banking systems are a fact of life for credit unions and banks. The complexity, processes, external transaction networks and regulation involved in banking makes having a single banking system impractical. Instead of focusing on a single system, embrace what each of these individual banking systems do, …. process and manage transactions. The vast majority of banking systems were developed for internal back-end use by bank or credit union staff. As the transition from brick and mortar banking to digital banking has evolved, those legacy banking system have not evolved with the change. As a result, credit unions and banks are trying to deploy customer/member facing banking systems that were designed to be back-end employee facing systems.

By focusing on the presentation layer and integration middleware layer, banks and credit unions have an opportunity to maximize their investment in existing banking systems, while being able to deploy bi-direction channel banking using customizable user experience (UX) presentation/middleware platform.  In order to deliver a seamless customer experience credit unions and banks need to deploy technology, re-organization, processes and training that are externally focused while closing the loop so employees and customers are working from the same playbook. The future of banking is bi-direction channel banking, the next step beyond omni-channel banking.   

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Flaw in Omni-Channel Banking, Why Bi-Direction Channel Banking is Next

Just when you thought you had the evolution of banking channels figured out I am here to explain the flaw in the latest evolution of banking channels; omni-channel banking.

The progression of banking channels has evolved from credit union and bank focused to being about the member or customer experience. From a single banking channel (inside out), which involved an in-person visit to the credit union or bank to omni-channel (outside in) which is designed to allow the member or customer to access banking services and products using multiple channels, in a seamless and consistent manner.


Here is the problem. Successful implementation of omni-channel offers a member or customer access to banking products and services across and between multiple interactive channels in a customer focused seamless manner; but what happens when they encounter a problem? As much as self-service, automated processes, intelligent workflow and automated decisioning are designed to simplify and expedite a transaction, invariably problems occur that require communication or assistance from bank or credit union personnel.

You know the drill. You have a service problem and you know what happens next. You call your credit union or bank and get that annoying automated call tree. Once you finally get someone live you explain the problem and they say, “Just one minute, I will transfer you to Jane in the XYZ department”. Your call is transferred and you get a message saying, “All personnel are on the phone please hold”. After waiting on hold for 5 minutes listening to promotions you have no interest in hearing, someone answers the call and you again carefully explain the problem. After hearing your problem explanation the person says, “Sorry, but that is another department”, and promptly transfers your call. This time your call is immediately answered. For the third time you try to patiently explain the problem. The employee says, “So what are you trying to do on our website”? You respond, “I am trying to apply for a loan and a credit card”. “OK, I can help you, but I have to access two systems. Our loan system and our credit card system”. The conversation goes on-and-on and it is like the “customer is from Mars and the employee is from Venus”. There is a total disconnect.

Why? Because you and the employee are accessing different systems, seeing different information and even worse, the customer is accessing the customer facing interface while the employee is accessing the administration module.  It happens every day in retailing, banking, cable, phone, and most service industries, but it is changing, led by companies like Amazon and FedEx.

For a true low friction member or customer experience the customer/member support team must be able to access and view in real-time the path the customer has taken and have access to support data, regardless of the problem trying to be solved.  To accomplish that goal silos must be broken down, training provided, the user experience (UX) of banking systems must be consolidated, and what application architects and business analysts call the “non-happy path” must be incorporated into the system. When something goes wrong the best opportunity to solve the problem is if both parties are accessing the same system with the same data and error messages, not front-end and back-end systems.

Omni-channel banking is an important initiative, but it must move to what I call “bi-direction channel banking”. Omni-channel focuses on the member or customer experience, which is 50% of the solution. Bi-direction channel banking brings customers and the employees together on single user experience (UX) platform and completes the circle.


We know banking is complex and is driven by multiple banking applications. There is the core data processing system, payment systems, general ledgers, cash management, credit origination systems, credit servicing systems, online and mobile banking systems, account opening and the list goes on. How can a bank or credit deliver a single system view to both its customers and employees with all these different banking systems and applications?

Through a user experience platform (UX presentation layer) that uses an enterprise services bus middleware as an integration layer, connecting to the bank’s or credit union’s multiple banking systems.

Simple…… no but achievable, and replacing all those legacy banking systems is not an option for most banks or credit unions.  Instead of replacing core data processing systems and other critical banking systems, embrace them for what they do, process and manage transactions.

Using a UX presentation layer provides credit unions and banks a customizable solution displaying what and to whom information is displayed.  Within the presentation layer customized automated processes, intelligent workflow, business rules and automated decisioning can be incorporated, which allows each credit union or bank, regardless of their existing legacy systems to be able to develop their own solutions that fit their banking model.



In one of my blogs, “Do We Need Better System Integration or Fewer Systems to Integrate?” I argue Gonzo Banker’s position that rewriting all the bank’s systems into a single system is the right way to go. For all but the largest national and super regional banks, rewriting multiple systems into a single application is not viable.  

Multiple banking systems are a fact of life for credit unions and banks. The complexity, processes, external transaction networks and regulation involved in banking makes having a single banking system impractical. Instead of focusing on a single system, embrace what each of these individual banking systems do, …. process and manage transactions. The vast majority of banking systems were developed for internal back-end use by bank or credit union staff. As the transition from brick and mortar banking to digital banking has evolved, those legacy banking system have not evolved with the change. As a result, credit unions and banks are trying to deploy customer/member facing banking systems that were designed to be back-end employee facing systems.

By focusing on the presentation layer and integration middleware layer, banks and credit unions have an opportunity to maximize their investment in existing banking systems, while being able to deploy bi-direction channel banking using customizable user experience (UX) presentation/middleware platform.
  In order to deliver a seamless customer experience credit unions and banks need to deploy technology, re-organization, processes and training that are externally focused while closing the loop so employees and customers are working from the same playbook. The future of banking is bi-direction channel banking, the next step beyond omni-channel banking.   


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why the Status Quo Must Change - What Banks Can Learn from Credit Unions


Credit union membership declined from June 30th 2013 to June 30th 2014 at 54% of all credit unions, according to NCUA data.  Median credit union membership was also down
0.4%. for the same period. Overall credit union membership grew 3.7%. Also, during the same period the NCUA approved 234 credit union mergers and 20 were closed by NCUA supervisory action. The number of credit unions is reducing by about three to three and a half percent a year.

The primary reason cited for credit union mergers according to the NCUA is to offer expanded member services.  U.S. financial institutions under a half billion dollars in assets have a difficult expense and income challenge, due in most part by non-existent economies of scale. As margins shrink, the mega banks get more efficient and technology demands and expenses increase, this challenge is going to become even more difficult to manage.


A look inside these numbers reveal what most industry analysis have been saying, the large get larger and the small are getting smaller.

Membership in credit unions with assets:
  • Over one billion dollars grew 6.2% 
  • Between half billion and one billion grew 4.3%
  • Between 250 million and 500 million grew 1.5%
  • Between 100 million and 250 million grew 1.4%
  • Less than 100 million shrank by half percent.  

Only 7% of all credit unions, 456 out of 6,558 exceed a half billion dollars in assets. Long-term, even the best credit union executive management teams will be extremely challenged to operate viable credit unions under half billion dollars in assets unless they identify and serve a special niche and recognize that their ability to compete in the digital banking space will become more and more difficult. Credit unions must find a way to achieve greater economies of scale to reduce operational and technology costs. 

The chart below shows the inefficiency of credit unions as their size decreases.


What is an acceptable efficiency ratio target? There are several high‐performing credit unions nationwide that have set long‐term targets to move toward a 50% efficiency ratio. Cornerstone Advisors, Inc. recommends that all credit unions target at least a ratio below 70% and more optimally somewhere between 60 – 65%.

For comparative purposes, the operating efficiency ratio for all banks average 65%. Community Banks’s average efficiency ratio is 73%



Banks under a half billion dollars in assets face the same challenge as their similarly sized
credit union peers, the inability to achieve economies of scale to move their operational
efficiency to the level believed necessary to be able to compete long-term in the retail financial services space. Where banks have an advantage over credit unions is that 19% of banks (1,090) are over a half billion dollars in assets compared to only 7% of credit unions (456).  As of June 30th, 2014, there are 12,315 credit unions and commercial banks. Both are shrinking at 3% to 4% a year. Of the 12,315 financial institutions, only 12.5% exceed a half billion dollars in assets. 10,769 banks and credit unions have an asset based of less than half billion dollars. How do they continue to compete? Through cooperation and collaboration!


The most effective way to for banks and credit unions under a half billion dollars in assets to achieve economies is through a cooperative effort that provides technology solutions and combines back-office operations for multiple banks or credit unions. Credit unions have used with mixed results “credit union service organizations” (CUSOs) designed to provide either operational or technological economies of scale. CUSOs are generally non-profit entities that are owned in-part or wholly by the credit unions that use the CUSO’s services.


As a former executive of a core data processing CUSO I have seen the strengths and weaknesses of the CUSO models. Generally the most successful CUSO’s focus their services around transaction processing and transactional services, where economies of scale can be achieved. The less successful CUSO’s tend to focus on the development and deployment of their own proprietary technology solutions. 

Why are technology/software development CUSOs less successful? Software development, technology hosting, support, installation, data conversion and distribution is expensive and capital intensive, and generally cannot be spread over a large and diverse base of customers. A CUSO by its nature serves a limited number of credit unions. The limited number of credit unions is a catch 22. The capital required to fund a technology CUSO is too high for the limited number of credit unions and the CUSO needs capital to grow.

I believe the successfully CUSO model must adjust from being transaction orientated to being both transaction/back-end oriented and a technology aggregator. By combining transaction processing with non-proprietary technology solutions, CUSOs have an opportunity to deliver:

  1. Lower back-office/back-end operational costs
  2. Favorable technology pricing through aggregation and distribution

There is a CUSO network that has successfully moved towards a hybrid of this model, 
Michigan based CU Answers, Xtend and eDOC, who are all part of the cuasterisk.com brand, a network of credit union owned CUSOs. These three entities are headed in the right direction, although they rely on the development of their own technology solutions. Their primary market is smaller credit unions, however, the true value of this solution must be recognized by credit unions of all sizes. 

For this CUSO model to work, the CUSO must have strong and focused management with a clear mandate and vision. Too often CUSO boards consisting in-part or in-whole of credit union CEOs that own the CUSO, but have little knowledge about the business the CUSO undertakes. The result is they fail to establish a clear vision, set a clear mandate and metrics and fail to see the big picture, instead focusing CUSO management on their individual credit union requirements/expectations. My best recommendation to CUSO owners, hire qualified management team, hold them accountable and then get out of the way. 

Bankers and larger credit unions executives ask, “Why would I want to partner with a competitor”? Good question, and the answer are simple, “Survival”. The end isn’t coming today or tomorrow, but what about five or ten years from now? The consolidation numbers are real and are not going to slow down. In fact, I expect consolidation, mergers and acquisition to start growing at a faster pace. 

The time is quickly approaching when bankers and credit union executives must begin to consider alternative business models in order to remain sustainable. Back-office/back-end processing is a transaction commodity process that does not offer a sustainable competitive advantage. The right technology vision and solution mandate will allow common back-office processing, achieving transactional and back-office economies of scale while offering a customizable user and staff interface, workflow, business rules and data analytics  that can be customized by each credit union or bank without adversely affecting the technology platform and follow-on upgrades. Think of Salesforce and similar SaaS platforms that are customizable and unique to each company, but still run on a common platform in a cloud environment.

Survival of banks and credit union under a half billion dollars in assets may be dependent upon them competing on the front-end and cooperating on the back-end.  

What is the triggering event that will cause banks and credit unions to examine and take action on this idea, or is the inertia so great that it is like a frog placed in cold water that is slowly heated a boil? 

What is the water temperature at your credit union or bank?   



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why Omnichannel and Digital Banking will Not Succeed at Your Credit Union or Bank

Omnichannel and digital banking is such a massive initiative, how do credit union and bank executives get their head around it? There are so many parts, where do you start? Have you ever sat down to create a list of solutions today’s members/customers expect, or will soon expect from their credit union or bank?

Here is my list in no particular order. What have I missed?
1.    Data and ID security
2.    Easy but secure authentication
3.    Continuity of transactions, applications and services across all channels
4.    Online banking
5.    Mobile banking
6.    Personal financial management (PFM)
a.    Spending learning and predictions
b.    Expense tracking, tagging and management
c.    Retirement
d.    Budgeting
e.    Investment
f.     Education
7.    Online forms that adapt to the device accessing the form
8.    Process workflow
9.    Management defined business rules
10.  Automated decisioning - credit and accounts
11.  Electronic document management and signature
12.  Data aggregation and analytics
13.  Voice command recognition
14.  Digital assistant - predictive
15.  Digital credit origination - instant approval, access and funding
16.  Credit servicing (payments, balances, due dates, payoff balances, and remaining term)
17.  Digital account opening - instant approval, access and funding
18.  Account funding (ACH, debit card, credit card, PayPal)
19.  Digital account management
a.    Digital account-change records
b.    Digital account switching
c.    Digital account lockdown service to freeze access that freezes the account until a passcode and/or shared secret is provided
e.    Antivirus and spyware protection
f.     Onboarding program with quick-start guide
20.  Video - Skype, FaceTime, Online (PC, mobile and tablet)
21.  Call center
22.  Smart ATM
23.  24/7 message chat, email, text support, voice message
24.  Social media monitoring and contribution
25.  Abandoned application management
26.  Web, ATM, phone and branch reloadable pre-paid cards
27.  Prepaid ATM/debit cards with web, branch, phone and ATM reloading
28.  Real-time core data processing system (no end of day batch)
29.  Behavioral predictive analytics
30.  Real-time credit manager (regular preapproved credit offers and notification with instant approval and access)
31.  Push text notifications and verification
32.  Balance and event trigger notification
33.  Email and text rate updates/alerts
34.  Real-time money movement
a.    Send, receive, spend, save, mobile deposit, bill pay, photo bill pay, P2P, PayPal, wire transfer, app
35.  Personal banking portal
36.  Digital document vault
37.  Blogs and custom web content, personal finance microsites with information and tools for key segments such as
a.    College students/new graduates
b.    Empty-nesters
c.    Families with younger children
d.    High school students
e.    Middle school students
f.    Movers
g.    New homeowners
h.    Newlyweds
i.     Primary/elementary students
j.     Retirees
k.    Retirement planning
l.     Singles
38.  Account aggregation
39.  P2P lending
40.  E-statements
41.  E-Receipts
42.  Loyalty program and sweepstakes
43.  YouTube/Vimeo video - educational and product/service demo
44.  Teen/tween banking with parents
45.  Mobile app with youth UI
46.  Credit score and credit score enhancement
47.  Credit and ID theft monitoring and alerts
48.  No fee overdraft protection
49.  Customer relationship management (CRM) system
50.  Just in-time one off marketing/offer
51.  Secure charitable fund raising
52.  Exception management system
53.  Digital appointment tool for scheduling banker meetings
54.  Digital newsletter and newsletter archives
55.  iBeacon and digital fence
56.  Relationship pricing
57.  Relationship product packaging
58.  Investment club support
59.  A user interface that is shared by the member/customer and staff
60.  Online help functions
a.    Auto-response to all queries
b.    Form-based queries
c.    Departmental email addresses/phone numbers
d.    A forum where the community can help each other
e.    Site-search with filters
f.     Executive email addresses
g.    Video information/tutorials
h.    Context-sensitive HELP
i.     Demos (online and mobile)
j.     Virtual suggestion box

Head spinning? How can a credit union or non-national or non-super regional bank compete? How can they afford all these solutions? How can they evaluate all these solutions? How can they implement all these solutions while also knowing innovation and the resulting list grows daily? How do you plan for the next solution that you do not know is coming? Credit unions and most banks simply do not have the resources, expertise and capital to continue in what is amounting to the old arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States. 

So what can credit unions and banks that do not want to be merger candidates and want to survive do? The technology race to the top is not a winnable solution for most banks and credit unions. Out branching is not a winnable solution. That leaves a couple of choices:
  1. Develop a niche that is not reliant or expecting the latest technology solutions - You may not be their primary financial institution, but your niche is profitable and long-term sustainable enough to remain strong. A credit union or community bank in a small rural town is not a sustainable long-term niche. Walmart loves your market and demographic.
  2. Partner with other credit unions or banks to develop a technology strategy, roadmap, funding, R&D, hosting, implementation and support plan that serves each of the participating credit unions or banks.
Partnering with your competitors or with credit unions and banks outside your service area may seem like a scary and radical proposition. It is, but what is the alternative? Can your credit union and bank really stay on top of and fund the technology solutions members and customers expect? 

I have used this data in several of my blogs because it speaks to exactly what is transpiring today. The data is clear and the members/customers have spoken by their actions. According to the millennial disruption index study, Chase, Citi, BofA and Wells Fargo are among the ten least loved brands by Millennials. According to FICO's Forging Lasting Banking Relationships with Millennials, 68% of Millennials use Chase, Citi, BofA or Wells Fargo as their primary bank. Only 15% use a credit union and only 9% have a regional bank as a primary bank. More Millennials bank at national banks than any other generational group (55% for Gen X and 43% for Boomers). Why, because the big national banks have a digital strategy and are leading the market with the implementation of their strategy.

Credit unions and banks are losing the battle for the next profitable generation of customers, the Millennials. Millennials, 18 to 35 age bracket now make-up the largest age segment of our population, passing the baby boomers. If you don’t have a plan to meet their banking needs, then your credit union’s or the bank's future looks bleak because there are plenty of traditional and emerging non-traditional financial service providers that will. 

Are you ready to partner with other banks or credit unions? In addition to achieving technological economies of scale, another part of the plan can be to achieve economies of scale in back-office processing. Why do you want to own the technology and back-office processing? Because you always have? Instead, why not focus on marketing, front-end operations, brand, and differentiation through the service and support you provide. Just because technology and back-office operations are shared does not mean that the credit unions and banks that are part of the shared technology and back-office support team need to look, operate or execute the same as the other participants.

Lead with creativity, marketing and service and you will have happy members/customers and you will not have the burden of technology and back-office operations. 

Is there any doubt credit union and bank consolidation is real? Is there any doubt the NCUA and FDIC are encouraging through regulation consolidation of banks and credit unions. Industry experts forecast that in 15 years the number of remaining banks and credit union could be reduced by as much as 50%. What is your credit union's or bank's plan to be one of those remaining credit unions or banks? 

"United we stand, divided we fall", Aesop. "Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way", Tom Freston. Wise words or blasphemy?

Agree or disagree with this proposition? Why? Is it workable? What are the problems? What would stop its implementation? Pipe dream or viable solution of the future?    
   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Do We Need Better System Integration or Fewer Systems to Integrate? (Gonzo Banker)

I read an article ”Do We Need Better System Integration or Fewer Systems to Integrate?” by Terence Roche, co-founder of Cornerstone Advisors and contributor to Gonzo Banker. In the article he says, “If I were to go to most bankers today and ask them what one thing they would do to improve their systems environment, a large number would say better integration of the systems they are using. Ten years ago, if I had asked them that same question, the majority probably would have said - hang on to your hats here - better systems integration. Despite a lot of focus on middleware, application programming interfaces (APIs) and other tools, this issue has never stopped being top of mind with system users.”

He goes on to suggest that the solution is not better system integration, but rewriting systems following the design principle of other industries - customers and employees use a common system and the front-end experience is the start point? He cites Amazon, Uber and FedEx as examples of other industries to follow. 

I accept the author’s premise that banking systems need to be built around the front-end member/customer experience first and then the back-end that credit union and bank employees access and use to support the member/customer. From that point forward I will argue the opposite as it relates to the solution he proposes, rewriting the many banking technology solutions into a single platform. 

He rightly points out that back-end banking systems (their core processing systems) were written 20 to 40 years ago and are based on antiquated technology. They were designed before self-service or member/customer facing solutions were even a twinkle in the eyes of the developers. They were batch systems designed to process transactions. 

Unlike Amazon, Uber or FedEx, the level of innovative solutions (third party and homegrown), complexity, high level of expertise required to create and deliver these solutions and the ongoing regulation that must be overcome is limited, compared to what banks and credit unions face.

To expect a company with a single banking technology platform to develop, deliver and support all the technology solutions to meet the needs of their customers, regulators and employees is not practical. There are several core data processing companies that have gone down that road with very limited success. 

Why not build a single member/customer and employee user interface (UX) platform that accesses all these diverse systems and databases and let the diverse systems and databases do what they do best, process transactions? The result is a single member/customer and employee UX with integration to all of the credit union’s/bank’s front-end, back-end systems and supporting services. How data is input, retrieved and used would be dependent upon how the credit union or bank design their user interface (UX). Designed around business rules, workflows, and decision matrixes, this UX using today’s technology can be built around drag and drop and customization menus. Work that can be done not by credit union/bank IT programmers, but by the new banking team of the future:
  1. Data analyst - Google has even created a new name for this position, Data Scientists
  2. User experience designer - Must be able to tell your story in a simple and in an intuitive way
  3. Algorithmic risk specialist - Identifies risk through multiple data sets without requiring input from the users
  4. Predictive analytics - Provides services, solutions and expected responses at just the right time, "the magic second" of opportunity.
  5. Behavioral psychologist - Must understand your members or customers, their desires, buying and behavioral patterns. The future of bank marketing is behavioral patterns not demographic profiles
  6. Social media expert - The person that develops the message and engages your members and customers
The sheer complexity, services integrations and number of technology front-end and back-end banking systems make a single rewritten system with the required specialization and ongoing regulatory compliance almost impossible. A single system is a utopia that will not happen.

Credit Unions to their credit are actively designing a standard interface protocol “Credit Union Financial Exchange” (CUFX) led by the CUNA Technology Council that will help facilitate integration between technology solutions. A UX platform integrated with the credit union’s or the bank’s front-end, back-end and outside services have a much higher probability of success and is a realistic goal to achieve omnichannel implementation than a rewritten single technology platform.

For your enjoyment, a fun cartoon about and OmniChannel Banking. It hits the mark. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Putting the Digital Banking Puzzle Together

Digital banking is a relatively new term that encompasses ATMs, mobile banking, online banking and has expanded to include essentially all banking channels except for the branch. Like most iterations, digital banking started as a single solution, ATMs, but really gained traction as a term when online banking and mobile banking were introduced.

The result of this iterative process has been the implementation of a "collection" of technology solutions that are intended to allow credit union members and bank customers to digitally interact conveniently and effectively with their financial institution. Let's call this Digital Banking 1.0

Problems with Digital 1.0 are abound. The first problem is a lack of strategic planning and thinking as the new technology solutions and channels were introduced. The agenda and digital innovation are being driven by the major national banks that either have the resources to develop the technology or have acquired the technology. Everybody else is following, trying to keep up. As a result, there is no digital strategy, it is all reactionary, and digital implementation is a hodgepodge of disconnected solutions.


I was having lunch yesterday with a couple of friends and a discussion about banking began. How exciting I must be as a lunch companion. A question was asked, "Who has an account at a credit union or small bank?" They are both in the millennial generation and confirmed that they both have an account with either a credit union or small bank. I asked, “do you also have an account with a major national bank?" Again they both said they do. I then asked, “who do you prefer to do business with?" They both expressed a preference to for their credit union or community bank; however, both of them almost exclusively use the major national bank. I asked why? They both said, "Because they make it easy to do business with them." 

The credit union and community bank were their preferred financial institution because they provided better loan and deposit rates, better in-branch personal service, and they knew their names, but at the end of the day that is not enough to win their business. Why, because it is not easy enough to do business with the credit union or community bank. Both are relatively new to the Atlanta area. When they moved, their big national bank made the transition easy. To this day, neither one of them have set foot in their new branch locations. The lack of a comprehensive digital strategy sent these two high value customers to a large national bank.

This was a chance discussion, ............how often do you think this happens every day? The data is clear, according to the millennial disruption index study, Chase, Citi, BofA and Wells Fargo are among the ten least loved brands by Millennials. According to FICO's Forging Lasting Banking Relationships with Millennials, 68% of Millennials use Chase, Citi, BofA or Wells Fargo as their primary bank. Only 15% use a credit union and only 9% have a regional bank as a primary bank. More Millennials bank at national banks than any other generational group (55% for Gen X and 43% for Boomers). Why, because the big national banks have a digital strategy and are leading the market with the implementation of their strategy. 

It is past time for credit unions and banks to move into Digital Banking 2.0. You have lost
tremendous ground to the big national banks when it comes to the next generation of most profitable banking members/customers. It is not too late, remember they want to do business with credit unions and smaller banks; you just have to win their business by making it easy and convenient to do business with you.

How do you make it easy and convenient to do business with you?
  1. By making digital banking a highest priority
  2. By developing a digital banking strategy
  3. By allocating the resources necessary to implement your digital strategy
  4. By mastering social media communication
  5. By treating digital banking as its own P&L channel, and not a channel to drive members/customers to the branch or call center
  6. By quite asking the question was is the ROI. That is simply a question to stop moving forward. By the way, Forrester analysts have developed a concrete ROI for mobile banking of 15.7%, if that information helps you feel better
The first step is to assign or hire a digital banking executive to lead your credit union or bank into Digital Banking 2.0