Credit Unions Must Elevate Mobile Aptitude

In the eyes of the customer, credit unions have always been perceived differently than large-scale banks. Despite offering all the services that customers have come to expect from their financial institutions, credit unions have been considered stymied by their traditional focus on small, regional communities.

I too have fallen victim to the perception that credit unions are limited by their regional focus. Though I conduct most of my transactions through my local credit union, I still feel the need to maintain accounts at larger banks for any financial needs while traveling (something I do a lot of in my job).

But why? In this day and age, anything I would need a physical location for can also be handled directly through my mobile device, essentially erasing the barriers previously established by geography. Mobile innovation has seeped into every facet of our lives, and banking shouldn’t be any different.

Although financial institutions seem stuck on the idea of maintaining physical locations, they too, have seen progress through mobile. The Pew Research Center noted that the number of bank-by-cellphone Americans has nearly doubled in the past two years – and this growth will only increase in time.

Big banks have been slow to adopt new mobile practices, which leaves the door wide open for the underdog credit unions to further their feature offering, and change current consumer perceptions. By implementing the following three features in their mobile offering, credit unions will be able to erase geographic limitations and elevate their small, regional presences to a national (or even global) level on par with industry powerhouses.

Remote Account Opening Opening a new account is often one of the only banking services where customers are still encouraged to visit an institution’s physical location. Sure, when opening a new account, we’re often dealing with sensitive information, but the level of security now available for online documents is incredible. If I can manage my stock portfolio or sign a legal document through my mobile device, I should be able to set up a new bank account.

I’ve often wondered why remote account opening is not a more widely offered banking service when it’s clear that it can completely revolutionize the way consumers interact with their financial institutions. Through this, there is nothing stopping someone from California setting up an account with a New York credit union because they found that institution’s personality and service offerings more compelling than the services offered in their home state.

Remote account opening truly allows banking to become a global institution, and gives smaller banks and credit unions a way to compete with established banking institutions, despite having a limited physical presence.

Instant Loans Often times, we can anticipate when we will need to take out a loan, as when buying a car or a house. But other times, the need for quick cash is more unexpected. Unfortunately for us, securing a loan is a time-consuming process that can require multiple visits to the financial institution or extensive background checks.

What if that wasn’t the case? What if credit unions could offer their members the ability to instantly take out a loan at the point of purchase, removing major customer pain points in the process? As a member, my credit union should already have my pertinent financial information on file and be able to pre-approve me for a loan before I ever have a need for it.

Biometrics as Authenticator With mobile making it possible to do your banking from anywhere, finding secure and reliable authentication methods will become increasingly important. One way to do this is through biometrics. There is nothing as unique an identifier as you, making your individual characteristics a secure form of account authentication.

Already, a variety of banks, including U.S. Bank, are testing the success of voice biometrics as a way to securely access card accounts. Voice is only the beginning. The fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s may allow for mobile account login via fingerprint scan, and wearable devices make possible the idea of authentication through biometrics. One example, the Nymi, is a wearable band that uses a wearer’s heartbeat as their unique identifier.

As with any new method of security, there will be challenges to overcome with biometrics, but finding a way to eliminate the hassle of logins and passwords is a surefire way to win over your customers, and gain new ones.

When it comes to innovating with mobile, the opportunity is there, but it’s up to individual financial institutions to embrace the change. Credit unions have a major opportunity, as they have the most to gain in the eyes of the public and place the strongest emphasis on maintaining a service that provides the most value to members and their needs.

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