Credit Unions Say Personalization Gives Them Edge Over Bigger Bank Counterparts

Credit unions (CUs) have a bit of an image problem.

PSCU Managing Vice President of Digital and Data Jeremiah Lotz said that credit unions have been lagging a bit in embracing cutting-edge payments technologies and, by extension, serving their end members as fully as possible.

As he told PYMNTS in a recent interview, “so much has changed over the last couple of years with regards to consumer expectations.”
That’s shifted the ways and means by which CUs need to keep their connections to those consumers and how they forge the personal interactions that cement loyalty and trust.

Read also: Credit Unions Keep It Personal to Attract Younger Members

For the CUs, he said, “the biggest challenge has been prioritizing the right places to invest in technology — and to do it at scale.”

A Matter of Priorities

Credit union executives, he said, are placing tech investments higher on their lists of priorities. For example, PSCU has seen several hundred CUs signed up or signing up for contactless cards and has sent out more than 17 million of those cards to date.

As PSCU invests in tech on behalf of credit unions and partners with a range of third-party providers, he suggested some additional low-hanging fruit CUs can leverage to optimize member experience. Digital wallets are a key means of engaging with users as we continue to emerge from the pandemic and concerns over safety linger. Merchants also are finding it easier to integrate shopping and checkout into those digital wallets.

See also: PYMNTS Intelligence: How CUs Are Working to Meet Different Generations’ Digital Banking Expectations

At the same time, CUs need to amp up outreach and education.

After all, credit unions can have all the safety, security and personal service features that any consumer might desire.

“But none of it matters unless your consumers know what’s there,” said Lotz, “and that they are going to find value in what they use. Any hesitation or trepidation on the part of the consumer is a friction point.”

There’s at least some evidence of parallel education going on, he said, as members see other consumers using, for example, digital wallets or contactless payments at the point of checkout in a brick-and-mortar setting. That leaves open the opportunity for CUs to reach out to consumers and “piggyback” on the changing experiences in the marketplace, making them aware that physical cards can be provisioned into digital wallets.

See also: 66% of Credit Union Members Want More Payment Capabilities

“That’s a competitive advantage that is becoming table stakes,” he told PYMNTS.

Looking ahead, he said, consumers will maintain a high bar on what they expect from their financial institutions (FIs). They’ll want to know that their financial services providers will continue to invest in the features and functions that balance personalization, innovation and security. There’s enough data on hand to ensure that CUs are leveraging their digital channels optimally, crafting relevant offers and products in real time and in context.

“These efforts may not be easy,” he said, “but for credit unions they are worthwhile – and essential.”