Technology adoption fuels self-service banking demands

Chances are, you’ve heard again and again how important self service is to today’s — and tomorrow’s — consumers. Whether they’re using their mobile phones to call an “Uber” car service rather than hail a taxi on the street, or opting to download airline boarding passes and use kiosks to check bags, people are gravitating toward self- service in every aspect of their lives — including their financial lives.

According to a November 2013 Mercator Advisory Group Insight Report “Self-Service, ATM, and Other Channel Banking: Rising Use in a Mobile Era”, 46 percent of consumers said they visit a branch more than once a month, down from 51 percent in 2012. When it comes to making check deposits, a growing number of consumers prefer using an ATM, mobile device, or computer to deposit all checks, especially those for smaller amounts (such as $50). But even the number of consumers who prefer to deposit larger checks, say, for $1,000, is rising — from nine percent of those surveyed in 2012 to 12 percent of those surveyed in 2013, according to the report.

Many of the participating credit unions in CU24, a credit union-owned electronic funds network, still don’t have a strategy to deliver premium self-service offerings, especially easy-to-use mobile-banking applications.

We’re definitely moving in a direction where people are going to want and demand much more self service functionality from their financial institutions.  Service is going to hinge on smarter and smarter devices. Self-service needs to be structured to perform on a tablet or smartphone, or smarter standalone devices that perform even greater functionality, and the applications should be clear, simple, and user-friendly. If it’s not intuitive enough for users to follow through in an elementary way, they’ll get frustrated and they won’t use it, and they’ll go looking for a financial institution that does do it.”

If the data from multiple surveys conducted in the last two years is correct, the growing sophistication of smartphones and tablets is a catalyst for the growth of self-service.

In the Federal Reserve’s “Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2013” report, based on data from 2012, 28 percent of all mobile phone owners have used mobile banking in the past 12 months, up from 21 percent in December 2011. But even more smartphone owners — 48 percent, in fact — used mobile banking in the past 12 months, up from 42 percent in December 2011.

In figuring out their mobile strategy going forward, credit unions should take their cues not from what their direct competitors are doing, but from what other companies that serve consumers are doing.

For example, in my day-to-day life, I use a slew of self-service applications, such as my favorite hotel’s reservations app, which lets me do just about everything except retrieve a room key – and it will soon do that at a lobby kiosk. My favorite airline’s mobile app lets me purchase tickets, browse deals, and check in — all without spending hours waiting in lines, or I can change flights at an airport terminal without waiting in line for a check-in attendant.  Financial institutions leading the revolution are starting to roll out apps that allow for not only online bill payment, but also person-to-person money transfers through mobile phones, and mobile check capture, for example.

Some financial institutions’ self-service mobile applications don’t have all of the connectivity, and some credit unions are still trying to promote mobile apps that don’t have the full functionality. For example, you can see the transactions but you can’t scan a check. The easier the credit union can make financial transactions, the easier it makes our lives. If I can go on a Delta Airlines app and book a flight, why can’t I go on a credit union app and apply for a car loan?

I have no doubt, it’s coming.

Mansel Guerry

Mansel Guerry

Mansel Guerry is President and CEO of CU24, operator of the country’s largest credit union-owned POS and surcharge-free ATM networks, and also provides a range of other services to ... Web: Details