CHROME previews credit union transformation at AFT Summit

Pennsylvania credit union undergoes significant rebranding, technology, branch changes

WASHINGTON, PA (April 20, 2015) — Washington (Penn.) Community Federal Credit Union is undergoing a complete metamorphosis as revealed by two of its leaders at the 2015 AFT Spring Summit at Bonita Springs, Fla. Christopher George, president and Amanda Lunger, vice president and chief brand officer, detailed how when it completely emerges from its cocoon in July the credit union will be a completely transformed financial institution in name – with Chrome – and technology – and digital channels.

Chrome FCU, the name changed in March, with 30 employees and two branches, is a $130 million institution located on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. George explained how when he arrived at the credit union almost five years ago, “The credit union had very limited IT resources, and a very outdated firewall, Web site and IT system.” In addition, it took about ten minutes to boot up the Windows XP computers.

The basic focus of the credit union was on credit card and shared draft accounts. However, the steel business, which was the source of origin of the credit union, dried up. The credit union location, in the back of a steel mill, was totally desolate and “it looked like something from Mad Max,” George admitted.

In 2010, the credit union put in fiber networks and new firewalls, updated all the PCs and the servers, and created an operations department.

Then the perfect storm occurred. They had plenty of resources; saw all the changes in the industry, and the smartphone emerged as a viable financial tool. “You have a bank in your pocket and I’ve got capital,” George recalled.

With analytics, the credit union figured that 8,000 out of 11,000 members did not come into the credit union, and 1,000 of its members had a $5 share – it cost the credit union $1 a month to maintain each of those 1,000 member accounts.

Lunger described how the credit union enlisted the help of a Pittsburgh brand design agency to produce a “challenger” brand and a Cleveland market research company to create four different target-market personas.

“We believe so much in this persona strategy [which represents different levels of financial expertise and involvement] that we gave them names, faces and personalities,” Lunger said. The credit union is also developing personas for small businesses.

They then decided to become the institution that is a little different, and “invest in a model that is in your pocket or online” with a “wow” user experience. “The digital experience for most banks and credit unions is just plain horrible,” George stated rather bluntly. “Just because it is a single sign on does not make it a good user experience.”

To design this wow user experience, they spent a year looking for partners willing to share their APIs and help custom build a solution so Chrome could provide simple banking.

Now as they get set for their unveiling, George believes the credit union has succeeded. Digital banking, online and mobile, with Chrome is a unique experience, George pointed out. The web and mobile banking sites are both expected to launch in July.

The website design presents a modern retail look and targets Chrome’s primary demographic. In the future it will also market to the Chrome small business brand. The responsive site will include account opening, loan application, store scheduling, and chat/help desk integration.

The mobile app, also set for a July launch, features real time core integration, remote deposit capture, bill pay, store appointment scheduling, a help desk and geolocation integration.

This would not be possible without an open API from different third party vendors and the core, George explained. Among the companies the credit union partnered with for this transformation are Banno, Geezeo, ProfitStars, Symitar and the Michelli Experience.

All of Chrome’s technology is outsourced, including a U.S. based call center. The credit union does not have an IT person; it hired good people to manage the partnerships.

Based on its research most Chrome members come to the store once a year. When they do they will notice a change there too.

The financial institution is hiring and training customer representatives to be universal Chrome associates with strong skills sets capable of taking loan applications, answering any app questions and helping with personal financial management. Because they are certified financial counselors, they are thoroughly trained in all aspects of the credit union’s products and services. This way the members need only one point of contact. “That’s where the larger banks and credit unions fail,” George said.

To stimulate conversations, the universal associates do not have offices. They have iPads, access to universal offices and a transaction bar, video wall and touchscreen. The credit union also partnered with Starbucks to install a commercial machine that provides coffee, tea and hot chocolate on demand.

The credit union believes that mobile will be the primary banking vehicle in the near future. Chrome will be ready.

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