This year has been unlike any other. Covid-19 took the world by storm, putting credit unions’ agility, resiliency and dedication to member service to the test. Many of the plans and projects businesses had at the top of their to-do lists were put on the backburner, as credit unions had to quickly adjust and shift priorities. They were challenged to provide their employees with the resources necessary to effectively work from home. Member service became more important than ever before, as consumers and businesses alike faced great economic uncertainty. Credit unions showed up in a major way this year, despite the numerous roadblocks in front of them.
As we look ahead to 2021, many of the shifts that occurred in 2020 are likely to linger. Credit union leaders should take a careful look at all that happened this year in order to make predictions and set priorities for 2021 and beyond. Areas to watch include digital transformation, a more in-depth focus on business continuity planning and the evolving role of the branch.
This year, digital methods of doing business became essential. With quarantine mandates in place across Canada, many branches were forced to close their doors. As a result, more members leveraged digital banking apps and services. In addition to being able to complete simple tasks like transferring money and depositing checks digitally, there was also a need to complete more complex aspects of the banking experience online. Previously manual and paper-based processes like new account opening and loan origination faced a new demand for digitization.
Consumer preferences are shifting as digital has become the preferred channel for many; including those who leveraged digital banking pre-pandemic and those who didn’t. To remain relevant and competitive, credit unions must prioritize delivering a digital banking experience that is personalized and seamless. Credit unions are known for their service and they need to provide an exceptional member experience that prioritizes personal connections online and offline. Those that can accomplish this will be well positioned for success next year and beyond.
Credit unions have had to stress-test their business continuity plans in a significant way this year. Institutions were challenged to swiftly equip their employees with the resources necessary to successfully work remotely, such as headsets, laptops and remote access to different systems. To make matters more complex, there has been an increase in pandemic-related cyber attacks, as hackers have preyed upon the vulnerabilities posed by employees working from home. These attacks have demonstrated the importance of keeping hardware up-to-date with robust encryptions, security software and standards.
Now that credit unions have experienced firsthand that anything can happen, there’s no doubt a more serious emphasis will be placed on disaster recovery and business continuity planning moving forward. The ability for credit unions to efficiently provide application support, steady software patching and new hardware to their staff as needed will be a priority in 2021.
The in-branch experience will remain important to many members. However, what will shift is the branch’s role and how credit unions leverage this important touch point. With the increased number of members relying on digital banking, many credit unions are shifting to appointment-only models. Such an approach allows employees to meet with their members face-to-face, take proper cleaning precautions between appointments and provides the assurance of less people in the branch at once.
Every credit union serves a unique member base, so credit unions must take their members preferences and needs into account when creating a branch strategy. This is where relying on a trusted technology or consulting partner could come in handy. Ultimately, digital and branch banking must complement one another to be effective.
Credit unions have demonstrated their dedication to members over the past 12 months. Next year, the institutions that adapt to the changing credit union landscape, such as by implementing new technology, evolving their operations and creating strong business continuity plans, will be the ones best positioned for success. Members will always remember and find comfort knowing that their credit union is there for them in both the good times and the bad.
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Celero is a leading provider of digital technology and integration solutions to credit unions and financial institutions across Canada. Clients trust Celero’s proven track record delivering innovative banking technologies, digital and payment solutions, cloud computing, outsourcing, IT and advisory services.
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