This past September, First West Credit Union (250,000 members, $10 billion in assets) in British Columbia announced a new enhanced digital banking experience that embraces a new mobile app, an online banking platform and a public website. Designed in collaboration with Central 1 Credit Union, the enhanced digital banking experience offers the identical streamlined experience, functionality and consistency for smart phone use as it does for computers. The new platform first launched for retail banking members with the Envision Financial division this past fall and has since been released in the remaining divisions as well, including Valley First, Enderby & District Financial and Island Savings.
What makes this new online banking experience so unique from other banking platforms is its innovative design. “First West is the first credit union in Canada to release all three channels of the Forge Digital Banking Platform into market,” says Cheryl Shaw, manager, Public Relations & Communications at the Langley, BC-based credit union. “We’re always looking for ways to deliver remarkable banking experiences to our members and we’re focused on leading the way in offering innovative technology and elevating the banking experience — making it simpler and more efficient for our members to interact with us,” Shaw says.
The Forge Digital Banking Platform focuses on three key areas to help distinguish itself from the rest of the online banking market: speed and functionality, a seamless experience and an open platform feature. The new platform allows for quicker updates and changes to better keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. “From months and years to a matter of weeks and days, we’re now able to accelerate the time to market for new functionalities and capabilities,” says Shaw. The seamless experience is possible thanks to a cohesive design that enables backend users to manage all three aspects of the platform — mobile app, online banking and the public website — in one central place. Lastly, the open platform feature allows First West to partner with like-minded credit unions, vendors, or fintechs, should they wish to add new capabilities and features in the future. “We will not be reliant on a single vendor but instead can partner and collaborate with multiple parties to build future capabilities, giving our organization more options to grow,” says Shaw. The new online platform also serves a great selling feature from a marketing standpoint. As Shaw notes, it helps elevate credit unions’ status in the eyes of the public, showing their agility and adeptness with cutting-edge financial technology. This is especially true with respects to the mobile app, particularly for the younger generations, who rely on their cellphones for everyday tasks. “Overall, we’re seeing a much higher digital banking penetration among our younger demographic than any other member demographic group,” Shaw says. “The experience they have with us on our platforms are likely being compared to all the other digital touchpoints they have in their day-to-day lives and we want to ensure our online and mobile experiences are on par with what many people use daily. They have to be seamless, intuitive and accessible anytime, anywhere.”
Regardless of the increased marketing potential, the online banking experience was always designed with its current members’ needs in mind. “Looking ahead, we’re focused on making the member experience even better,” says Shaw. “We know every member has different financial goals and priorities and we want to tailor and personalize the banking experience to suit their needs. We purposefully redesigned our digital banking platforms so that our members can enjoy a more streamlined experience when interacting with us. Giving our members the tools and ability to do their day-to-day banking anytime, anywhere was a key priority and a necessary next step in elevating the member experience.” ◊