‘An irresistible force’: credit unions encouraged to embrace mobile technologies, social media

The need for credit unions to use mobile technologies and social media is one of the themes running through the World Credit Union Conference in Ottawa. 

The need for credit unions to use mobile technologies and social media is one of the themes running through the World Credit Union Conference in Ottawa.

Credit unions around the world need to take advantage of the opportunities provided by social media and mobile technologies or lose their ability to generate business and engage members.

It’s a message that has permeated the World Credit Union Conference, which is taking place in Ottawa, Canada until July 17.  From exhibitors promoting digital solutions to a steady parade of speakers and panelists, to the head of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), technology is one of the most popular topics on the conference agenda.

“Credit unions are about relationships – we were one of the original social networks,” says WOCCU president and CEO Brian Branch. “If we want to enhance those relationships, credit unions have to be in that space.”

Mobile technologies, which allow credit union members to interact with their financial institution remotely, are equally important.

“People are looking for convenience and access,” Branch said in an interview today. “The fastest-growing credit unions have found ways to use these channels to provide people with that access.”

His message was echoed by mobile technology expert Ian Shelley, who was the keynote speaker at Monday morning’s session. 

“As technology advances, the range of products in the market will consolidate over time,” Shelley told a packed room of attendees.  “To keep up, credit unions must find their niche and identify the partners who can help them offer mobile channels and products that increase convenience, consolidate activities and integrate with other aspects of members’ daily lives.”

Social media was the topic of the day at Tuesday morning’s session, which featured a dynamic presentation by Charlene Li, a best-selling author and founder of Altimeter Group, a consulting firm that helps business navigate the social media waters. She suggested that credit unions start with defining their goals and developing social media strategies, then decide what platforms and technologies they will use.

“Choose tools and technologies last; technologies change, but your strategy has to stand the test of time.”

The key, she suggested, is determining how to use the relationships developed through social media to create business value – not always an easy task in a world where “we tend to overvalue the thing we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot".

While some conference delegates expressed concern about exposing themselves to negative comments on social media networks, most were paying close attention to Li’s message. Shortly after Li’s presentation, a  breakout session on building credit union branding using social media attracted a standing room only crowd.

Still, some credit union executives remain wary of social media. And while WOCCU itself has had a Facebook page since 2009, it has had a Twitter account for less than a year.

A veteran blogger who was appointed to his position in June 2011, Branch is hoping to continue to increase his organization’s social media footprint

“It’s an irresistible force – we want to ride with it, not try to hold it back.”

• You can follow conference activities, including daily event photos, on the World Council's Facebook and Twitter pages at www.facebook.com/WOCCU and www.twitter.com/WOCCU using #WCUC2013. 
 

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