Credit unions say switch to digital is a priority – but how are they doing?

A study for Co-op Financial Services found a number of barriers in the sector which make digitisation a challenge

Digitisation remains a key test for credit unions, according to a recent study by Co-op Financial Services.

The paper from credit union service organisation is is based on research by David Rogers,  author of the Digital Transformation Playbook. He questioned 221 credit union leaders on five strategic areas: consumers, competition, data, innovation and value.

Around 88% of respondents classified digital transformation as “extremely” or “quite important”. Furthermore, 73% said their credit union was planning to increase budgets for digital initiatives in the next year.

In terms of gold standards for a good digital experience, respondents gave the example of companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple. They also identified some one the features members expected from a digital experience, such as ease, speed, convenience, access, simplicity, intuitiveness, reliability and security.

When comparing the experience offered by these brand with the one provided by their credit union, nearly half of respondents said the experience provided by their credit union was inferior or far inferior, while 44% rated the experience as “good, but not quite as good,” and 10% felt that their credit union was “meeting the high standard they set.”

Asked to highlight the main barriers to digital transformation, respondents mentioned the lack of budget and resources (59%), an inability to innovate quickly and effectively (52%), being tied to a legacy IT infrastructure (34%) and a lack of technology capabilities among staff and outside partners (39%).

Related: Social media expert tells credit union conference how to reach millennials

The credit union professionals also answered questions regarding the benefits of digital innovation and the business case for it. These include the ability to manage finances through self-service apps; rapid customer service for questions or concerns; more personalised messages and interactions; feeling more relevant to younger customers and having better privacy, fraud detection, and cyber-security.

Todd Clark warned of the need for good data

Todd Clark, president and chief executive of Co-op Financial Services, said: “Credit unions are facing increased competition from digital start-ups and they must transform their processes and infrastructure to meet the needs of digital natives. You can’t make good decisions without good data, so we are offering research studies, white papers and webinars on how today’s consumers are digitally engaging with their financial institutions.”

The study forms part of a series of research papers authored by Co-op Financial Services. An initial report titled Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap to Consumer-Centric Innovation looked at what members want from their credit unions. A third publication examining change management will be published in September.

Co-op Financial Services is also hosting a webinar on how to get started on digital transformation. The online workshop will provide participants with industry examples and guidance on how to start their digital transformation.

“CO-OP is going through its own digital transformation, so it is a journey in which we are joining as well as supporting our clients in the pursuit of making the customer experience seamless and secure,” added Mr Clark.

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