7 Great Ways to Support Digital Banking

July 2016: Vol 39 No 7
by Tim Daley

These strategies drive efficiency, while still pleasing members.

lightbulb with cogsNot a lot of credit unions appear to be asking, “What is the best way to support the digital banking platform through our internal operations?” And that’s a shame, because there are many best practices that operations groups can leverage to shorten task duration, save money, and improve member service. This is the credit union trifecta, right?

All seven of these digital banking best practices are focused on operations personnel and the indispensable member support they provide. Some of the changes are easily implemented. Others are more involved and require a review of strategy and the inclusion of multiple business line partners to execute. All will positively impact both the credit union and its membership.

1. Digital banking should be owned by the group that has accountability for sales and service.

CUs have long outpaced their bank peers in retail digital banking. This is largely because CUs typically have 20 percent fewer branches than similarly sized banks, according to data from the most recent Cornerstone Mid-Size Bank Performance Report and the Cornerstone Credit Union Performance Report (find both at www.crnrstone.com/publications). With the focus on remote transactions, digital banking has historically been owned by retail operations, marketing or information technology. Over the last two years, this has been shifting.

CUs are now increasingly recognizing that their digital banking platform is their single largest branch. Monetary transactions, bill payments, and transfers—both internal and external—are perfectly suited for digital banking. Digital banking platforms have not been as effective on the sales side, but their ability to support marketing and selling, and to integrate with account opening and loan origination systems, is maturing. Some vendors have integrated tightly enough that the look and feel of the origination platform is the same as the digital banking platform, minimizing friction between starting and submitting an application.

Assigning ownership of the digital banking platform to the group with accountability for both sales and service is the emerging best practice. CUs should start tracking digital banking profit and loss, just as they do for branches.

2. Assign a vendor management liaison for digital banking.

Digital banking functionality and the integrated vendors that support functionality have expanded greatly. Who at the CU knows for sure which vendor is used for the following services:

  • remote deposit capture,
  • account-to-account (external) transfers,
  • person-to-person payments,
  • bill-pay,
  • online account opening,
  • online loan origination, and
  • online mortgage origination?

Further, who knows when each of those contracts expires, and what the deadline is for notice of nonrenewal by vendor?

It is important that whoever owns digital banking also knows the contractual relationships that affect the digital banking platform. It is likely that one or more of these tangential systems was selected independently of the digital banking system and that dissatisfaction with the level of integration between third-party systems and the digital banking platform exists.

Knowing the contractual details gives the CU leverage and can protect it from inadvertently renewing when taking the functionality out to bid would be appropriate.

3. Empower all member-facing personnel to assist with digital banking support.

The ability to reset a password and to answer questions about digital banking helps staff meet members’ expectations for service. Calling the contact center for him does not meet the same standard. As the frequency and number of branch visits continues to decline, no opportunity to engage with a member should be squandered.

Why haven’t all CUs adopted this best practice? The most common reason cited is time. Second, non-Web-based digital banking administration consoles have to be installed on a computer or added to the virtual desktop. Lastly, staff must be trained to support the members using the administration console.

None of these reasons outweighs the benefit of an exceptional member experience, given that we see our members less and less frequently in the branches, where they still do the majority of their buying of financial services.

4. Leverage existing workflow capabilities to help operations personnel execute tasks.

Many CUs have, in their existing environment, a document management solution, either through their core or a third-party vendor. In the majority of these CUs, the document management solution—be it Nautilus, Synergy, OnBase, Bluepoint or other—is used for document storage only. CUs are only recently starting to leverage the power of these systems’ workflow capabilities.

These systems can create and manage work for users. Of more interest is the ability to spawn concurrent tasks, allowing more than one person to work on the same task, saving time.

Engage with your CU’s provider to explore capabilities that aren’t being leveraged. The outcomes we’ve seen in our client base have been positive and surprising.

5. Optimize the way a member sends an email to the credit union.

Emails should be forwarded to personnel who can do the work. It is surprising how many CUs have their platforms configured to send all communications to info@your-cu-name.org. Staff must sift through the emails, forwarding and answering them.

Emails sent either from digital banking or the CU’s website should be targeted to the appropriate group, based on predefined subjects the member chooses when submitting the email.

The goal and benefit are two-fold. To the member, response times are improved. For the CU, resources are more efficiently used to address email volume, and accuracy of responses is improved. Subject matter experts, rather than well-meaning but less knowledgeable generalists, answer all emails in their queues.

6. Enhance digital self-service capabilities.

As adoption and use of digital banking platforms continue to increase as a percentage of checking accounts, especially within mobile/tablet banking, CUs seek to increase the self-service capabilities offered to members through digital banking. This embraces the trend and recognizes that the platforms are becoming the primary access point for members to interact with the CU.

Examples of self-service capabilities that CUs are adding to their platforms include: card management (such as turning cards off and back on); a system through which members can notify the CU of plans to travel out of the country; member rewards tier data; and automated (and USPS-validated) address information updates.

Improving member service is one goal. The real benefit is driving service request volume to the internal resources equipped to handle it most efficiently.

The work to enhance digital self-service capabilities will include working with vendors. This could be developing forms with the vendor, which is not as easy as it sounds—especially if that form is to be integrated into a workflow management tool or engineered in a way that facilitates data entry automation.

Digital Banking Service          2012            2014   
Active online banking users as a %
of checking accounts
     70%      74%
Active mobile banking users as a %
of checking accounts
    6.86%      25%
Source: Cornerstone Credit Union Performance Report

7. Do not let lack of application integration get in the way of automating data entry.

Not all software applications play nicely together. This creates a situation in which an operations employee is tasked with manual data entry from one system to another. 

A loan application, for example, can take as long as seven minutes to move from the origination to the underwriting system. Address changes, stop-payment requests, and new account applications are examples of time spent moving data. Human intervention introduces the possibility of human error, the dreaded “fat fingering” on an address change or Social Security number. Faced with this colossal drain on time and efficiency, the operations team, with assistance from the IT team, must get creative. Two examples: work to automate the output from one system to input data into the next and look to scripting languages like PERL, or widely taught programming languages like Python, to solve data entry automation. In some credit unions the savings in staff time alone has been enough to cover the cost of development.

Think of these best practices like the summer work packet that children bring home at the end of the school year. That packet will help them stay current through their long vacation so they return to school ready to go in the fall. The seven best practices in this article have made proven differences in CUs’ overall digital banking performance and member satisfaction.

Tim Daley is a director with CUES Supplier member and strategic partner Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Ariz.