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Human + digital: strategies for credit unions to compete in the platform era

Find out how your credit union can give your members the human touch across both digital and physical channels.

by Robert Soetens

Woman using tablet

Let’s get the bad news out of the way: although the credit union movement has some of the highest satisfaction ratings in financial services, member satisfaction has been declining for years.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, member satisfaction stands at 77, down from 87 in 2011. While that may not seem like the most dramatic change, it signals that digital banks are eating your market share away – and they’re not going to stop. These challengers are winning your members’ hearts in part because they are unencumbered by legacy tech, which allows them to create superior digital experiences.

But these banks wouldn’t be able to poach your members if they were truly satisfied with your services. Unfortunately, poor experiences are eroding members’ preference for credit unions, and for every point of friction, their opinion worsens. That’s why over half of credit union members turn to competitors when it comes to buying additional products, while others jump ship entirely. You, of course, have the best intentions, but maintaining outdated infrastructure, cobbled together from point solutions, takes a toll on your budget, as well as your ability to deliver real value to members.

That’s quite a gloomy way to start things, but it’s where we are. Here’s the good news – you already have everything you need to turn the tide. It just takes a new approach to digital transformation to bring out your strengths and leave your shortcomings behind.

Giving the “human + digital” experience

Like many credit unions, you’ve probably been racing to keep up with members’ expectations while simultaneously feeling like your tech stack holds you back. The rush to digitize your services has been a double-edged sword, bringing your members 21st-century experiences, but ones that are all too often powered by manual, and even paper-based processes. And just because these experiences are now digital does not mean they’re ideal.

It’s true that consumers demand digital services, but research shows they also prefer a human touch, whether it’s at a branch or online.

That’s not a contradiction – it just means they want the speed, convenience, and flexibility of digital experiences, but combined with the warmth, support, and personal nature of physical interactions. We call it “human + digital,” and it’s the future of the banking industry. If you can deliver an exceptional experience across all channels, your credit union will be perfectly placed to not only retain members, but actively recruit newcomers to be loyal, life-long advocates.

At Backbase ENGAGE 2022, I spoke with Judith Henderson, VP Information Technology at WSECU, one of digital leaders in the credit union movement. Let’s look at the lessons she’s learned during WSECU’s digital transformation journey and how they’re delivering “human + digital” experiences.

How WSECU went from channel-focused to member-focused

WSECU is a member-powered credit union known for their exceptional level of service. But once they realized their legacy systems were holding them back, they took action to ensure they could deliver the gold-standard experiences their members deserve.

By 2017, it had become clear that WSECU’s members weren’t pleased with the overall digital experience. At that time, they had two separate providers for web and mobile, as well as limited ability to customize. This system was mostly functional, but workflows between online and mobile banking differed, as did certain capabilities, and new features were tied to a vendor timeline.

WSECU set out to solve this challenge by teaming up with Backbase, enabling the credit union to lay the foundation for best-in-class banking solutions while staying in control of their tech stack.

By working with us, they were able to create a single, unified retail banking platform. This improved the consistency of the member experience across all channels, transformed their ways of working, and enabled fast, confident innovation. WSECU’s platform is now flexible and more than capable of providing consistent, secure, enjoyable journeys for all of its members and employees.

We are not here to build a banking platform, we are here to serve our members. Our product is empathy, so we are dependent on Backbase to do their product so we can do ours

Judith Henderson,
VP Information Technology, WSECU

Re-architecting banking around your members

Unfortunately, WSECU’s original pain points are not unique in the market. Many credit unions are currently struggling with similar issues, which prevent them from delivering top-notch journeys. Their operating systems simply won’t allow it. But by leveraging the power of a single unified platform, credit unions of all sizes will be able to modernize their dated infrastructures and truly re-architect around their members.

The Backbase Engagement Banking Platform empowers you to quickly move to unified, digitized journeys and then innovate at your own pace. That’s a game-changer for credit unions that might not have the budget to update everything at all at once. You’ll also get the freedom to customize your members’ experience by using our ready-to-configure journeys for a fast time to market and a superior member experience.

By making the strategic shift to a platform model – and putting your members at the center of it – you’ll be able to offer seamless journeys. And in a crowded market where members vote with their feet, this is essential. You’ll also drive increased loyalty, retention, and satisfaction. But most importantly, you’ll maximize member value, provide financial wellness, and truly go beyond the typical banking experience.

Backbase ENGAGE 2022 brought together hundreds of industry leaders and technical experts to learn and share progress on their respective journeys into the platform era. This is a part of a series of recaps drawn from those sessions. Click here to learn more about what happens at ENGAGE.