The question I get from credit unions most frequently now that the world is starting to return to “normal” is, “what does my credit union need to be doing now?” As I’ve reflected on this question over the last months, the answers in many ways have nothing to do with COVID and some have everything to do with it.
Before I get into those with you, I wanted to share some sobering statistics with you as we use this time to benchmark our future success as individual credit unions and collectively as an industry:
In a study from Thriving Wallet:
- 90% of Americans said that money was having an impact on their stress level
- 65% felt like their financial difficulties were piling up so much they couldn’t overcome them
Moreover, the CFPB stated that 40% of Americans admitted to having difficulties paying a bill or expense in the previous year.
THAT WAS BEFORE COVID HAPPENED!
A 2020 poll by Gallup found that:
- 75% of credit union members said they experienced a fair amount of disruption
- Those same members are least likely to say their credit union is looking out for their well-being
The scariest stat?
45% of US Consumer households named one of the nation’s three largest banks (Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) as their primary financial institution. Why?
- “Perception of superior mobile banking”
- These institutions “provided stronger customer service during the pandemic than smaller financial institutions”
What does it look like to thrive in the future now that COVID and everything that has happened since 2020 has forever changed the way consumers bank and view brands? Here’s your survival guide:
- Member information security education. Let members know about how to stay safe from current scams, share how your credit union keeps member information safe, and how the products you provide are safe.
- Relationship building. Now that consumer behaviors have changed forever, members will be less likely to come into the branch for many things. Develop a plan for how your credit union is going to reach out to those members and continue to deepen relationships even though you see members less often.
- Look at your digital presence. If you didn’t offer these services before the pandemic, make sure to add the adoption of them to your strategic plan now:
- Contactless payments like Apple, Google, and Samsung pay
- Mobile banking with remote deposit capture
- Online loan application to allow members and potential members a way to easily apply for a loan without having to come in or fill out a paper application
- Online appointment setting and “virtual banking/lending”
- Digital car shopping and buying services
- Loan e-signature and e-closing services
- Evaluate your policies. More of your members are location-independent and work from home because of the pandemic, and a growing number are part of the “gig economy.” Do your loan and other policies keep in mind that members’ lifestyles have changed and still make credit and financial services accessible to them?
- Lead with purpose. 73% of US consumers believe that brands should take a stand on issues that reflect their core values. By doing so, “you’re more likely to strengthen customer loyalty and deepen brand trust.” You must know your members, who they are, and what they value. This was a trend before 2020, but it is a requirement for brands going forward.
- Redefine your brand experience. Continue to look for ways to exceed members’ expectations by providing added delights, saving them time, and allowing them to continue to socially distance and interact with your institution on their terms with their comfort in mind.
- Make being kind a part of your strategic plan. From your brand values and your brand experience, make it consistent in each touchpoint. Go above and beyond to be kind to your members, your field of membership, and your community.
- Change the way you market, just like consumers have changed how they engage with brands. Get to know your members and potential members and adjust messaging and your marketing dollars to truly connect with them.
- Rethink your branch experience. As technology continues to evolve and impact the way members use the branch, members coming into branches will be seeking different help than in the past. Financial institution “brick and mortar” will always be important, but the purpose of your branch locations will need to center around financial education, answering questions, and counseling around life events like buying homes, etc.