Leading your credit union through a technical revolution

When was the last time you heard about a credit union innovation on the national news?  Now, when did you last hear about a technology company offering innovative financial services, through the same national media?  Likely, the answers are, respectively, “I don’t know” and “about five minutes ago.” While media coverage is not indicative of an imminent threat, the increased rate of consumer adoption of these new programs should be a wake-up call that these non-traditional programs could affect relationships between credit unions and their members. We will have two follow-up articles in which we will provide a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses that exist between traditional financial institutions and these companies that are delivering similar services through consumer tech initiatives, and specific management techniques that can be deployed within your organization that are used to help maintain agility in tech companies.

Follow the Money Trail

First, let’s explore the simple figure of dollars invested as an indication of the magnitude of what’s happening in the market. In 2015, global investments in Fintech are anticipated to double from 2014’s $12 billion, which had already tripled from 2013’s $4 billion. Stunning figures for sure; however, what should be more concerning is the consumer’s receptiveness to using technology to perform services which were historically trusted only to traditional financial institutions. Apparently, venture capitalists and angel investors see this consumer trend with 20/20 vision, explaining their influx of cash to eager FinTech startups. By 2020, this figure is expected to top $46 billion globally.

So, do these trends mean that credit unions should go out and collaborate with other credit unions to build the best technology available? Perhaps. Or, does it mean that huge investments should be made on the latest desktop, mobile, tablet, watch, and augmented reality-based technologies? Maybe. However, since these companies can be so disruptive to tried and true business models, it is clear that credit unions cannot get away with not being laser-focused on the consumer’s needs since the user is generally the sole focus of most technology companies. For example, Netflix and Redbox® essentially killed the video store, and are now doing their best to take business away from movie theaters. Uber, with all of its controversy, is crushing taxi services with their simple car ordering, user-rated drivers, and hassle-free payment methods.

Meanwhile, financial services are not immune to competition from non-traditional providers. Paypal, Venmo, LendingClub, and the myriad array of crowdfunding sources are directly competing with financial service providers by offering consumers alternative ways to make payments, conduct peer-to-peer transactions, and get small business lending and funding.

The Threat is Real, But What Is It?

I believe that startup and tech companies are threatening traditional financial business methods in such a significant way that it is eroding at financial transactions that consumers have typically only associated with their financial institution. While tech companies still have a large hurdle in gaining trust and security, they are gaining more and more trust with consumers in handling previously bank-only transactions. In addition, tech companies are more competitive when it comes to their capabilities and speed to market. They can adjust much faster than the large human capital investments and slower/risk adverse management often found in financial institutions.

The idea of a revolution, by nature, sounds unnerving and can elicit nervousness. After all, the status quo can be so much more “comfortable.” However, as the industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that all businesses, credit unions included, will have to adapt to customer needs in order to stay competitive.

Stay tuned for our next article where we will continue to explore this topic. Additionally, we’ll be hosting a free webinar on August 26, 2015 where we’ll delve further into industry trends, and provide you with a powerful set of tools to help you leverage your benefits as a financial institution and protect you from the hindrances that could potentially impact your credit union. Click here to register for the webinar.

Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

As Director of Technology Strategies for SWBC’s Financial Institution Group, Jason is responsible for developing and launching new products and services that address financial institution needs and provide a ... Web: www.swbc.com Details