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Changing Seasons | Why is it still called a "checking account"?

By Kris Frantzen 15 Sep 2016

At a recent Back to School night at my daughters' elementary school, there was a packet of papers each parent needed to bring home. In that packet was an order form for shirts to be worn by kids in the School Chorus - with an envelope attached to include a check for payment. Once I finally located my checkbook and wrote a check, I felt compelled to look back in my finances to determine how many checks I'd written since placing the same chorus shirt order last year. The answer was 4. Four checks in a year - none of which, by the way, I would have written had there been an alternative. 

So, I have an account that my bank - and every other credit union and bank - labels as a “Checking Account”. But, save for a few rare instances, I don't need the 'checking' part. I imagine that by the time my daughters are old enough to need a checking account, the concept of the check will be altogether obsolete. What will we call those accounts then? 

The more important question financial institutions and technology providers face is how to re-shape and re-define products and solutions to meet consumer expectations in a market that changes faster than the seasons. The extinction of the check is just one example of how consumer interaction with financial services is evolving. 

I notice a ton of credit card commercials that tout rewards programs and cash-back bonuses. I have credit cards with such benefits. However, when I recently went to order the next book in the Harry Potter series for my daughter, any rewards points I might accrue took a back seat to the convenience of 'one click' ordering. "What's in my wallet?" I don't know - it's sitting over on the counter while I make these easy digital purchases.

Just as quickly as the seasons change and my girls grow up - and will soon be at that age of requiring financial services - I know we can just as quickly reach the financial solutions we may only imagine today. The challenge for banks and credit unions will be to recognize that, first and foremost, they will be in the technology and account holder experience business. That is certainly a challenge - shifting the entire culture of an organization. However, it's also an exciting opportunity.

Our need for banking solutions won't go away, but how we utilize and access them will be entirely different. I want to be able to walk onto the lot of a car dealership, take a picture of a VIN and receive instant approval. I'd like to scan a QR code on a For Sale sign outside a house I’m interested in and get an instant pre-approval.

The solutions we'll need to get to possibilities like the above are largely available today - it will just take some imagination and creativity to put them together. Technology such as OCR, coupled with a plethora of third-party data sources, will allow for automated collections and analysis of data. Automated workflow and decisioning can streamline processes that have taken hours (or days) down to seconds. And, electronic verification and secure e-signature are quickly moving to become more secure than face-to-face interaction (and certainly more secure than paper-based processes).

This fall, as we all evaluate budgets for 2017 and beyond, we need to ask ourselves if we have the initiatives in our plans that will allow for the transformation of our solutions and products to meet the transformation of the market. How will our offerings fit conveniently into the lives of consumers? And how can I avoid having to dig out that checkbook again?

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