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The future of finance

4 ways to make online tools and apps accessible

Mobile banking apps, spending trackers, and smartwatches — technology is on the fast-track, disrupting financial services and enticing us with promises of seamless banking.

But rein in your enthusiasm and take a long, hard look at all those innovations you’re marketing. They may be sexy, but are your members actually using them? And, if not, is it because you haven’t explained them well enough?

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“We’re in a transitory time,” explains Bryan Mavrow, senior VP of Marketing and Communications, First West Credit Union (240,000 members, $10 billion in assets), based in Langley, British Columbia.

While most members still visit branches for almost everything, he says there is also a rapidly emerging segment that consider themselves to be “self-serve,” doing all their banking online and only visiting a branch once or twice a year for a specific transaction such as a mortgage.

The key, as innovations take hold, is to ensure all types of members understand how to access the new services they choose. Mavrow shares four tips.

1. Take it to the branches

“The “self servers” are going to take up each innovation as it emerges, so the real challenge is to engage the branch-visiting members. Do this on their own turf. “You don’t want to bombard members each time they visit,” says Mavrow. “But you can get staff to introduce key technologies in person, when they have time to engage.”

With that in mind, First West organizes periodic IT road shows, setting up coffee meetings and demonstration days to ensure branch staff have the technical knowledge they need when engaging with members. “The irony is that staff at the branches aren’t necessarily up on all the online banking because they’re at the branch all day so they never have to use it!” Marvow points to a recent road show where an IT team made the rounds explaining and publicizing Deposit Anywhere™, the remote deposit cheque app.

2. Immerse yourself

When First West decided to roll out new personal financial management (PFM) tools in spring 2016 as part of its online offerings, it mapped out a plan to have staff sign on a few months early to try everything out. “By walking our staff through the exact experience our members will have, we can get their feedback and know that they will better understand any questions that may come up,” says Mavrow. As staff navigate the new PFM tools, they’re recording their impressions and any difficulties they’re having. That gives First West time to flag any issues so the tools are as user-friendly as possible well before the launch date.

“By walking our staff through the exact experience our members will have, we can get their feedback and know that they will better understand any questions that may come up”
—Brian Mavrow

3. Embrace the tried and true

“Good old email continues to be the best way to keep in touch with members,” says Mavrow, adding that First West is always looking at ways to better target its newsletters. As he explains it, you don’t often get up in the morning thinking you’d like to go to your credit union’s website to learn more about personal financial management tools, but a well-crafted newsletter could nudge you to take the time. He recommends devoting at least one newsletter a year to technology, allowing you to tease to app features, security elements, and online banking news.

4. Keep an open mind

For all the hype surrounding online banking alerts, Mavrow says that, so far, less than one per cent of First West’s members currently use them. And though wearable technology is hugely popular in some European countries, it has yet to permeate Canada’s marketplace. Tech adopters may be hyped on every advance, but it is up to each credit union to study each advancement and see if it’s actually useful to most members. “Members do have an appetite to learn about the new tools, but it has to be on their terms and when it’s relevant to them.” ◊