Like most of you, having grown up in Ireland, I’ve grown up with my local credit union, supporting me and my family through life’s key events. From savings to loans for holidays and cars, credit unions have always been there to make sure their communities have what they need when they need it.
Loyally servicing their members over decades has earned Irish credit unions a solid reputation for being the most trusted brand in the country. I was really impressed when they came first in the prestigious Ireland Reptrak® 2020 Awards, run by The Reputations Agency. So officially credit unions are the most trusted brand in Ireland, winning over many major multi-national brands.
With a score of 83.7, credit unions took the top spot overall for their role as a trusted cornerstone of local communities with over 3.6 million members nationwide. This represents a return to the top spot for credit unions who finished second in last year’s poll having come first in 2018.
Since they were founded in 1958, credit unions have been perfecting their ‘secret sauce’ – to know their members inside and out and to understand their circumstances and needs in more detail than any other business.
So, when the COVID-19 pandemic came along, there was no shortage of personalized services to make sure their members’ financial wellbeing was still being taken care of when branches had to close. Well before COVID-19 stripped down the queues in banks, shops and shopping malls, credit unions had devised methods to deal quickly with their army of loyal members.
Throughout the pandemic, they have been seen to pull out all the stops. For example, some credit unions contacted vulnerable members individually by telephone to offer reassurance that they were available to offer support. Extending this courtesy beyond those who have been advised to cocoon, to include any members with on-going physical and mental illness, financial difficulty, disability and addiction.
Some credit unions also offered a delivery service for members who have emergency financial needs but cannot leave their homes or are in lockdown, whilst others offered a ‘drive-through’ service. Additionally, in some cases member authorization enabled nominated individuals to access services on behalf of the vulnerable.
In the face of the new normal most of the credit unions are far ahead in providing a unique service and knowing their members. But what does the next step look like?
Do credit unions have the technology to support their services in the future?
Legacy systems have dictated what credit unions have been able to offer – but business strategy cannot be dictated by their software system. “The tail should never wag the dog!”
The key question for credit unions now is – what do they need to do for their members in the immediate future and what needs do they have to anticipate? If they want to keep providing award-winning member service, leaving existing legacy systems behind is a priority. But how can they afford to do without impacting their excellent member services?
They have to look to a software provider which will be as member-focused as they are and that have been in the market long enough to give them actionable insights into what they need to do next. Something few providers can help them with.
In essence what they have to do is:
- Look at new digital strategies
- Realize the benefits of cloud services
- Work with providers, like Temenos, that have a strong balance sheet and commitment to the market both in Ireland and around the world
- Work with a provider who is continually investing in their products and the market to meet new challenges and market changes
It is time to look for a system that can offer features and functionalities that credit union members require both now and into the future – product configuration capabilities, end to end online loan applications, digital services for mobile and internet banking, new payment methods, compliance around GDPR and PSD2, mortgages and small business lending.
That is the only way I believe credit unions can stay relevant in this new-normal world – by reinventing their member services for the increasingly digital world.