New Javelin Research: Mobile Banking Rules – and Where You Still Stumble


By Robert McGarvey


For CU 2.0


New research out of Javelin, sponsored by identity specialist Jumio, makes plain multiple facts and the central one is that digital banking rules and it does so across generations.  It’s not just a Millennial thing anymore.

Another key takeaway: most financial institutions – eyes on you – stumble in many key places, particularly in deploying mobile banking. This is eroding member loyalty: they will sometimes simply flee to another institution.

And security concerns continue to be a bother for many users, according to the Javelin research. Despite the fact that generally a mobile banking session over a cellular network is much more secure than one over an online network.  No matter. A lot of users remain very worried about safety and digital banking and the smart institutions are addressing these fears.

What all this means is that mobile banking – increasingly the channel that matters in banking – is where credit unions have to double down on efforts to compete with the money center banks and the fintechs that continue to nibble at the user base of smaller, legacy institutions (talking about you, Amazon).  

Al Pascual, SVP, Research Director and Head of Fraud & Security at Javelin Research elaborated: “To capitalize on the growing demand for mobile banking as millennials grow in spending power, financial institutions must simplify user experience and address ongoing concerns around security and fraud.”

Dive deeper into the report and the results can surprise.  For instance, although 76% of Millennials now regularly use digital banking, 77% of Boomers do – and, yep, that says Boomers have greater acceptance of the channel.

But Millennials are way ahead with mobile banking. 62% use it monthly, compared to 34% of Boomers.  Also, claimed Jumio, “Millennials report stronger satisfaction with nearly all aspects of mobile banking, compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers.”

Millennials definitely have fewer gripes about mobile banking.  25% of them express concerns with the channel, compared to 33% of Gen X and 35% of Boomers. What kinds of concerns? 28% grumble about “hidden fees,” while 53% complain about ease of use.

The study uncovered valuable findings when it focused on abandonment issues – why do we just close out when midway into a task in a digital banking session?  36% said they did so because “the process [was] taking too long.” 20% complained about authentication “being too time consuming.”

Waste a consumer’s time – and the consumer is the judge of this, not a cautious credit union manager – and they will blow you off.  Just that fast.

Here’s the kick in the head: “One-third of consumers respond negatively to their FI after abandoning a mobile banking activity,” reported Jumio. Understand: 7% decided to open an account at another financial institution.  And 13% shared their grumble about the experience with family and friends.

That’s word of mouth you don’t need.

In this regard, the Javelin research shows that account opening tools must cater to Millennials, mainly because they are the leading cohort when it comes to adding new accounts and services. Their chief complaint: it takes too long.  The antidote: speed it up.

And make it easy to complete the tasks on a mobile device. That is becoming a crucial battleground.

When it comes to authentication, Millennials in particular prefer biometrics, especially eye scans and facial recognition, according to the Javelin data.  Farther down the list are legacy modes such as QR codes. Very probably institutions that want to stay on the cutting edge of Millennial acceptance need to roll out multiple biometric modalities.

Another, key piece of advice from the research is: “Put security first (and make sure your customers know it).”  

“But… weave security into the customer experience in smooth, fast, intuitive ways.”

Don’t make security into hurdles members have to jump – how many routinely forget passwords? – but do let members know that security protocols are always there, always protecting them. They want that reassurance even if they don’t want the hassles of dealing with in your face security challenges (what street did your father live on at age 6?).  

Sift through the Javelin findings and there is much to cheer credit union leaders. There is no way they can compete with money center banks in terms of branches – but they don’t need to.  What a credit union needs is top grade digital experiences, online and mobile, that include easy account opening and build in seamless security that will protect members.

None of that is easy.

But it all is doable at credit unions that embrace the digital mandate.

Is The Enemy Us? A Credit Union Wakeup Call


By Robert McGarvey

For Credit Union 2.0


Rob Taylor, CEO of Idaho State Credit Union in Pocatello, Idaho, wants you to know his enemies aren’t big banks – it’s other credit unions.

That’s the provocative point of an op-ed he recently penned for American Banker.

I doubt Taylor will soon get a congratulation bouquet from CUNA, but he just may have a point that many of us ignore the reality that credit unions today are arch competitors with each other.

Wrote Taylor: “The problem with our movement is most of us have been indoctrinated to believe our common enemy are bankers… when in fact the real threat to our future lies within our own industry.”

Believe this: Chase does not care if you thrive.  No big bank does.  In fact big banks are glad credit unions exist because it lets them say that they welcome small, local institutions. When credit unions move into underserved neighborhoods, probably big banks break out the private reserve brandy to toast their bravery because those banks do not want to be pressured to move back into urban and rural communities they have abandoned. If credit unions are serving those people, hoorah! And pass the brandy.

Sure, community banks – in many cases – actively dislike credit unions and vice versa but they are both squabbling over table scraps that have fallen to the floor.

While the big banks get bigger.

Back up a step. What’s the most competitive vertical in the credit union business? The clear winner are the military themed credit unions and in that sector there are two of the nation’s very biggest credit unions. I count four in the top 20.  But a few years ago I tried, and failed, to get on the record sources to talk about competition amongst military credit unions for a proposed story for Credit Union Times. The official line is that they don’t compete.


Maybe they even believe it. But myth it is.

Wrote Taylor: “[S]ince HR 1151 was signed into law by President Clinton in 1998, large, multiple common bond credit unions have continued to get larger by expanding their fields of membership, sometimes overlapping in predatory ways to the detriment to smaller credit unions that have stayed true to their original fields of membership.”

Years ago, FOMs were well defined and narrow. A credit union served only New York Times employees, or maybe only employees of AT&T.  I personally belong to that former AT&T credit union – Affinity Federal – and its field of membership is far broader than it once was. Indeed, Affinity on its website headlines: “Almost anyone can join.” That’s because dozens of organizations are in its FOM and if that’s not good enough, Affinity notes: “Don’t see your organization? No worries! You can become a member of the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education by making a $5 donation when you fill out your online application.”

I’m not dissing Affinity. I’m a happy member. But the broadening of FOMs leads – pretty much instantly – to competition among credit unions for those among us who are fans of the credit union model.  

In Arizona, where I now live, Desert Financial – nee Desert Schools proclaims that anyone who lives, works, worships, or goes to school in Maricopa, Gila, or Pinal counties can join. Maricopa – Phoenix – has around 4 million people, more than half the state’s total population. That credit union is in sharp competition with every other credit union in Phoenix and that is fact.  

Back to Taylor.  He wrote that his institution just does not compete with Idaho’s biggest banks. As far as competition with credit unions, it’s a different story. Taylor elaborated: “The largest bank headquartered in… Idaho holds $1.3 billion in assets, which is less than half the size of the largest credit union based here. This bank has never been in direct competition with my credit union for consumer loans or deposits, even though we have branches in the same cities.”

He went on: “However, every day we compete vigorously with the aforementioned credit union for consumer deposits and loans from overlapping members.”

Then Taylor tossed out his spitball: “Now, here is where it’s going to get ugly for me and where I lose friends. I agree with Sen. Hatch that many larger credit unions operate in the same manner as taxable banks, and I believe it’s time for them to convert to bank charters and be taxed like the ‘big boys,’ because the credit union movement doesn’t need them. We stopped being a movement and became an industry when HR 1151 was signed into law. “


Agree with Taylor or not, he deserves a round of applause. He has put on the table the topic nobody wants to discuss. Do credit unions compete with each other? Of course they do. Is this hurting small credit unions? Of course it does.

Discussing just these topics needs to happen and soon. Because just maybe we have seen the enemy and he is us.

Consumers Say Boo To Your Digital Banking Products – Now What Do You Do?


By Robert McGarvey

For Credit Union 2.0


The press release headline had me at go: “D3 Banking Technology Survey Finds More than Two-Thirds of American Digital Banking Users are Frust.”

Nah, I didn’t know what “frust” means either.  The Internet tells me a secondary slang meaning is frustrated.  

And, you bet, I too am frustrated with credit union mobile and online banking – and I’m not alone, per D3, and that should definitely worry credit union execs.

I have accounts at two credit unions. Digital products at both are inferior to Chase, where I also have an account.  If I could have only one account – and if I weren’t a big believer in the credit union movement – it would be with Chase.  I hate to say that. But it’s true and, thankfully, I am not limited to just one account.

Chase is forever improving its digital products. My credit unions aren’t (and, yes, I know they are locked into their vendors’ upgrade cycles – but why accept that?).  

Five years ago just having mobile banking was good enough.  20 years ago just having online banking, however feeble, was cause for a celebratory press release. In 2018 that definitely is not enough.

Not even close.

D3 proves that with its Harris poll that surveyed 1600 digital banking users (who had used it in the past 12 months) and they were quick to vent. Two in three – 68% – expressed frustration with their digital banking experience.

Count me among them. Yesterday I logged in to change the PIN of my debit card.  No can do in my credit union’s mobile banking app.  I eventually called an automated line and accomplished the task and how 1985 is that?

Why can’t I do a simple, mechanical task like changing a PIN on a mobile phone – and, really, do you think call centers do a better job of screening out fraudsters? Ask Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen about that.  

Nor is there evidence to suggest doing this via online or mobile banking is inherently riskier than via a telephone call.

So why can’t I do it?

A bottomline reality is that in 2018 an increasing number of consumers want – indeed demand – that their mobile banking app and online banking let them do anything they could do in a branch visit.

D3/Harris did find that there are age differences in expectations about mobile banking – but the differences aren’t as big as you might have hoped for. Said D3: “The survey revealed that digital banking users ages 18-34 are more likely than those ages 55+ to be frustrated with their digital banking experience, as 73% of the younger group indicated that they have been frustrated with their digital banking experience over the past year, compared to only 61% of adults ages 55+.”

Even tho credit union members skew older, it is safe to assume 6 in 10 of them are dissatisfied with their mobile banking experience.

For sure, too, members demand a feature rich digital banking experience: “The survey also found that more than half of digital banking users feel it is important for financial institutions to provide mobile deposit (70%), P2P services (66%) and mobile account opening (51%) as part of their digital banking offerings,” relayed D3.

Here’s the frightening kicker: “32% of digital banking users report that they are willing to leave their current bank or credit union for a better digital experience.”

That is blunt: one in three members who use digital services say they just may shift financial institutions to get better services.

Mark Vipond, CEO of D3, observed that that’s the real issue here is “the number of American digital banking users – 32 percent as found in our survey – who are willing to leave their current banking relationship for a better digital experience. As new types of technology continue to be introduced, financial institutions are going to need a strategy built on technology that allows them to innovate and introduce new features and functionality faster than they have to date.”

That’s the reality. Today consumers benchmark your app and website against Amazon, Netflix, Google and the other top digital services – and, sadly, at all but a handful of financial institutions the digital products are mediocre at best.

What’s the solution: commit, today, to improving your digital offerings just about daily, certainly weekly.  Word of advice: smart credit unions are committing to continuous improvement of their digital offerings.  The era of a once or twice a year update is over.  

The path to credit union extinction is paved with complacency.

Particularly with Millennials, credit unions have key positive attributes – they are local, they are community-minded, they generally are intimate scale, and they aren’t “big business.” All good. But will Millennials suffer a poor digital experience to do business with a credit union with bad online and mobile offerings?

Most credit unions seem to be betting that indeed Millennials will.

I don’t think they will.

Do you?


Fighting Account Opening Fraud With Big Data

By Robert McGarvey


For Credit Union 2.0

When it comes to account openings, credit unions increasingly find themselves caught between the proverbial Scylla and Charybdis, the fancy Greek mythology way to say between a rock and a hard place. In either direction lies complete devastation.

That’s because on one side, where credit union account opening barriers are high to prevent bogus accounts opened by crooks, big banks clean up by opening a lot more accounts.  Credit unions too often simply drive new business away.

On the other hand, when barriers are lowered, sometimes criminals pile on – like sharks sensing blood in troubled waters – and they get busy defrauding a credit union.

Indications are plentiful that criminals, increasingly, are honing in on account opening fraud. A lot of their activity is shifting into that realm.  

Credit unions, seeing that data, have doubled down on erecting barriers to fraud at account opening.

The upshots: potential members are frustrated when account opening barriers are too high and credit unions, too, are frustrated because they know they aren’t opening enough accounts.

There is a big data driven escape hatch that can save credit unions. But lots remain clueless.

They will suffer because what they are presently doing just isn’t current grade.

Personally, I know about the difficulties involved in opening a new account. It took me some weeks, of sheer tedious frustration, to open a new account at a credit union two blocks from my house in Phoenix.  If I hadn’t been a credit union fan, and if I weren’t something of a student of credit union practices, I would have walked long before I succeeded in opening the account.  Always it seemed another “proof” was required.  

My drivers license had a different address than my present address and that was the hitch.

But five years earlier, soon after I had moved to Arizona, I had opened an account at Chase with a driver’s license from another state and, in the bargain, Chase gave me a check for $300, just for opening a checking account.  The process was accomplished online. It took a couple days, max.

With the credit union, I eventually surrendered and visited the branch.  How 20th century. I did get the account open but the process left a bad taste of obsolescence.

Think about that. Chase paid me to open an account, the credit union inflicted aggravations upon me to do so.

Where will most potential customers wind up?

By now you may be saying, what should the credit union have done differently? What could it have done differently given government insistence on KYC?


It could start by joining the 21st century.

Start by reading a very short ebook from Feedzai, a data science company with roots back to Carnegie Mellon University.  

It puts forth a lot of frightening ideas. For instance: criminals, increasingly, are opening crooked accounts but leaving them sleeping for some time – typically until a financial institution has stopped watching it as a worrisome new account. Think about that sophistication. The FI eyeballs a new account, crooks discover that, so they wait out the FI.

It gets worse.

Criminals know financial institutions love rules and so they learn them, they obey them – until the FI’s anxieties pass. Then they strike.

Machine learning can still give a credit union the edge, said Feedzai. “Banks can begin to keep pace with fraudsters with hypergranular, continuously updated profiles that pinpoint and connect fraud signals. There can be thousands of fraud indicators that alone aren’t enough to make a conclusive decision of fraud, but which a machine can thread into a complete view and an accurate decision.”

What Feedzai is using is very big data – but that’s how to thwart crooks. It’s found oddities that correlate with criminality.  For instance:  “Feedzai has found that devices with high battery power are correlated with high fraud. Fraud is three to four percentage points above the average fraud rate when emails have two to four consecutive digits. Certain email domains are more correlated with fraud behavior, including public domains. And when a device name is unknown or null, the likelihood of fraud is 78%.”

Machines can also hunt for data across multiple channels to support, or deny, a new account opening.  In a matter of minutes, a machine can make a thin file fat and take a lot of worry out of an account opening.

In assessing a new account, a smart machine looks at both traditional sources (credit bureaus for instance) but also non traditional sources such as social media channels.  A full picture results, quickly.

That’s the thing. Many institutions continue to use only a small, limited data set in opening new accounts. Smart, contemporary institutions are using an array of 21st century data and, despite the volume, it is swiftly processed when machines do the heavy lifting.

How does this work in practice? Feedzai pointed to a case study – involving a large bank – where the institution had been approving only 40% of new account applications. With machine learning and big data on the case, it upped that number by 74% – with no increase in fraud. None. And the process itself was streamlined.

Can you say similar about your account onboarding?  Talk with any of a growing number of companies such as Feedzai that are targeting account opening fraud and how to do the screening better, faster and smarter. Many companies – mainly small, very tech in orientation – are now in this space. Talk with a few.

If you can’t open accounts as well as big competitors, you won’t long stay in business.

Put the machines on your side and stay in the game.


MRDC 2.0 And Your Credit Union


By Robert McGarvey


For CU2.0


A new report from makes plain that mRDC now is a must for credit unions.  Declared the report: “mRDC is no longer a competitive differentiator, but instead a ‘must-have’ offering Financial Institutions need simply to remain competitive.”

Without mRDC you just may not be competitive. That’s a stinging reality.

This claim, incidentally, is underscored by a separate report, led by the Federal Reserve of Boston, that claimed 73% of the institutions it surveyed already offer mRDC and another 18% “plan to offer.”  Just 9% don’t have mRDC on their dance cards.

Small credit unions are very much included among the adopters. Said the Fed: “ Even among the smallest respondents, 78 percent support or plan to support mRDC within two years “ It defined “smallest respondents” as < $100M in assets. And just 22% of them have no plans to offer mRDC.

Big institutions are all aboard. Among institutions with assets >$1 billion, the Fed said 92% already offer mRDC and only 3% have no plans to follow.

mRDC has become a must have.  That’s a key reality in today’s new reality where we have entered the era of mRDC 2.0. Now the focus is on new uses, more usage by members, and there also is a wholly new kind of thinking around mRDC fraud and how to combat it.

A lot has happened to mRDC since 2009 when USAA debuted mRDC.  A handful more joined the chase in 2009-2010. But by 2011 the race was on at full speed inside most CUs to offer mRDC.

Initially many credit unions grumbled about the fees associated with mRDC – fees charged by third party processors – but, by now, most larger institutions have simply decided to suck up the added costs, which incidentally usually are much, much lower than the costs associated with a paper check deposited at a branch.

That’s a fact: mRDC saves a credit union money.  While expanding the convenience and utility of the account to members who now can make deposits while dressed in their PJs and sitting at the breakfast table.  That is cool and it ultimately is why mRDC usage will remain popular as long as paper checks circulate and these days about 17 billion of them get written in the US annually.  That number continues to slip down but it will be years before checks vanish (and aren’t we all waiting for the long predicted death of cash?).

Face it: checks are hanging around and so will mRDC because it just is so much better than driving to a branch or to an ATM.

John Leekley, CEO of, said many institutions have gotten increasingly more skilled at their mRDC offerings.

A plus: Leekley pointed to data that shows a 35% year over year increase in mRDC transactions which means more checks are getting deposited this way.

Are more fraudulent checks also getting deposited? Roll back the clock and that was a huge fear among many credit union execs, some of whom stalled when it came to rolling out mRDC.  

Today’s take is very different, said Leekley, who indicated that his survey found that “the vast majority (74%) of respondents indicated they had no losses directly attributable to mRDC.”

That means zip.

The big fear still revolves around duplicate deposits – depositing the same paper at multiple institutions – but the numbers don’t show there is a threat of any real magnitude. Leekley’s report goes on: “Exclusive to, the industry’s mRDC Duplicate Loss Rate in 2016 was just 0.035%, or 3.5 in every 10,000 items. To put this in perspective, according to the Federal Reserve, the industry’s overall return item rate was 0.4%, or approximately 40 out of every 10,000 checks deposit.”

What’s next for mRDC? Most credit unions now appear to want to get more consumers depositing more items with mRDC.

Leekley also indicated many institutions are giving a re-think to mRDC deposit limits. Traditionally, some institutions set very low limits, to manage exposure to fraud. But, said Leekley, more effective and more consumer friendly approaches involving smart use of big data are taking hold.  

Many institutions also are looking to increase business use of mRDC, added Leekley.  Exactly how will be a huge topic of discussion and exploration this year but know this: now is the time for you to begin to seek to push mRDC usage into new arenas.

It’s a good tool, it works. Let its success fuel your institution’s.

Wrestling with Your Digital Talent Gap


By Robert McGarvey


For CU 2.0


Wake up to a frightening reality: very probably your credit union is falling behind in the race for digital talent and that just may be a sound of impending doom.

Consulting firm CapGemini, working with LinkedIn, recently issued a report on The Digital Talent Gap and the takeaways for credit union executives have to be frightening.

According to CapGemini, six in ten banking executives acknowledge they face a widening talent gap. The report pinpoints banking as a sector where that gap is especially high.

The money center banks, almost certainly, are not pointing to themselves. They are busily hiring top digital talent as they chart their paths into a 21st century where digital is seen as the core of banking.  They see that future and they are preparing for it.

Down a checklist, CapGemini sees less skill than is needed in a range of digital activities that are central to banking today. Included on the list are cybersecurity, mobile apps (where a big skill deficit is cited), data science, and big data (another huge deficit).

A lot of what has become core in delivering financial services is now emerging as areas where many, many credit unions and community banks are just not keeping up because they don’t have the talent to stay in the game.

Employees know these realities. According to the survey data, 30% of banking employees believe their skills will be redundant in one to two years. 44% believe their skills will be redundant in four or five years.

That suggests a frightened, anxious workforce.

Employees also express dissatisfaction with trainings offered them by their organization.  45% say they are not helping them attain new skills.  42% say the trainings they attend are “useless and boring.”


Question: does your credit union leadership know their own employees fear their institution is lagging in the race for digital competence – and that they despair over the viability of their own skills?

It gets worse. You just may lose the digital talent you presently have. The CapGemini survey found that “over half of digital talent (55%) say they are willing to move to another organization if they feel their digital skills are stagnating.”

The good news: CapGemini offered concrete suggestions about what organizations need to do to remain players in the race for digital talent.

A suggestion not on the list is blunt: credit unions often will need to find their digital talent through third party vendors and CUSOs.  No shame in that.  At a certain institutional size, the savvy survival strategy is to know where to go outside to help chart the credit union’s digital path.  There still needs be digital skills internally – especially a sharp sensitivity to what matters digitally inside the c-suite.  But a lot of the digital heavy lifting can and should happen through third parties at all but the very largest credit unions.

But the biggest credit unions need to be sure they are nurturing internal digital talent. And smaller institutions need to know what they can do with the talent they have and they also need to stay watchful of their third party vendors and their talent development efforts.

Just because a CUSO was spot on technologically in 2010 doesn’t mean it has a clue today. Things move very fast in this world.

That’s where the CapGemini suggestions about how to develop digital talent come in.

And step one is Attract Digital Talent where CapGemini points a finger at the institution’s leadership.  Specifically: “Align leadership on a talent strategy and the unique needs of digital talent.”

How does your credit union measure up there?

Does your leadership see the ultimate importance of digital in charting the institution’s future?

The next steps are no easier: “create an environment that prioritizes and rewards learning” and “align leadership on a talent strategy and the unique needs of digital talent.”

Digital warriors go where they are loved and wanted.  It’s that simple.

One more step: “Give digital talent the power to implement change.”

This doesn’t sound easy?

Nope. It all is very hard, especially for small and mid size credit unions.

But the alternative just may be planning to go out of business.

That makes the choice easy.


How Frightened Should You Be About Amazon Banking?: Memo to Credit Unions


By Robert McGarvey

For CU2.0


Think very – that’s the question’s answer. But maybe you already have in hand the exact weapons you need to defend your position.  Surprised?

Read on.

Triggering this discussion is a recent Snarketing post by Cornerstone Advisors’ Ron Shevlin that  offered hard data about Amazon’s potential popularity as a consumer bank. 

Cornerstone had surveyed 2015 consumers – with both a bank account and a smart phone – and asked two questions: would you bank with Amazon for a free checking account?  Would you pay, $5 or $10 monthly, for a premium checking account that bundled in perhaps cell phone damage protection or roadside assistance?

Before guessing the answers – they will surprise you – feast on this recent headline from the Evening Standard newspaper in London: Is data the new oil? How information became the fuel of the future.

That question is deeply intertwined with Amazon’s possible banking play.

Ask yourself: what US company knows an incredible amount about you, probably more than any other?  Hint: it’s a company that sells just about everything, much of it delivered free within two days.

Amazon, very quietly, has emerged as a real king of the data mountain.  Google may know what interests you, Facebook may know who your friends (and enemies!) are, and Apple knows what tech bling you will splurge on, but Amazon – in many households – knows everything you buy, from groceries to clothes.

In 2017 Amazon tells me I placed 107 orders. Many were for multiple items.  From cat food to an Echo Look.  

Think how well that data resource positions Amazon to pounce into banking.  It knows its many millions of customers, it’s already providing credit cards and purchase credit to millions of them, and CEO Jeff Bezos has never shied away from offering discounts if he believes doing so will produce longterm profits.

Will Bezos take the plunge into the slow moving financial services world? Do we – consumers – want him to?

A free Amazon account just might seem to be a threat to a credit union sweet spot. According to, 84% of credit union checking accounts have no monthly maintenance fee, up from 72% a couple years earlier. For many credit unions, this is a key marketing difference.

And yet Cornerstone’s research found something interesting.  Asked if they wanted a free Amazon checking account, 42% of consumers said nope.  Just 26% said they would open it.  Another 32% said they would consider it.

Matters get more intriguing when Cornerstone asked if they wanted a premium, bundled account with a small monthly fee of $5 or $10.  Only 34% said no thanks – that’s sharply down from the 42% who rejected the free account.

And 29% said they would open it, up from the 26% who said they would open a free account.

Does free carry less weight than you thought?

Is it maybe time to rethink using free as the centerpiece of the institution’s marketing?

Shevlin stressed that, at least superficially, the institutions that would be most impacted by an Amazon entry into banking would be the money center banks, mainly because they are courting millennials who, Cornerstone said, are the ones most attracted to the Amazon potential products.

But Shevlin tossed out this poisoned dart:  “The smaller financial institutions are already challenged in attracting younger consumers to their institutions. An Amazon entrance into banking will only make it harder for them.”

And remember this: Amazon may well know your members better than you do.

Frightening? You bet.  But there is that solution that already is in your hands.  The solution is to fight back by diving ever deeper into member data.  The data will tell you your next steps – if you learn to listen to it.

Plenty of credit union focused big data experts are adamant that credit unions can fight back against the Amazons.

Fight data with data.

You have lots of data, from sharedraft accounts, credit and debit cards, maybe car loans and home mortgages. Use the data you have to prepared a battle plan.

You will need it because, whether Amazon takes the plunge into consumer banking or not, other non banks will.  They already are circling this pond and they act as though they smell blood in the water.  

You have the data. It’s the only weapon you need.

And remember that in the 21st century data is indeed the new oil. Let it power your institutional growth.


Become a Tech Company – or Die: Memo to Credit Unions


By Robert McGarvey


For Cu2.0


A credit union leader has to break out in a cold sweat reading Aite Group’s new report on the top 10 trends transforming retail banking.

Here’s trend 1: Tech Firms Become Banks.

Trend 2 is blunter: Banks become tech firms.

That latter trend ends with this prediction: “Going forward, the banks that quickly adapt and recognize this shift will stay relevant to their customers and even gain a stronger foothold in the market. Those that do not will struggle to acquire and retain customers, and to survive.”

Read that again. What Aite is saying is that credit unions that don’t climb aboard the tech express are doomed.

Does that mean you?

I’m not aware of an exact count but I would be surprised if at least half of today’s credit unions aren’t hopelessly mired in a Luddite world of anti technology.  So many want to blather on about how great their branches are and what wonders their employees are, as though either matters in a 21st century technology world.

But back up.  Look at the threat. Increasingly, tech companies from Quicken Loans to PayPal are gobbling up traditional bank and credit union business.

Non banks are on track to very soon have more than 50% of the home mortgage business. PayPal and Venmo, meantime, are feasting on p2p payments, a niche many credit union executives saw as theirs just five years ago but between bad tools and bad marketing, credit unions are increasingly irrelevant in a sector that looms as one of the key financial tools used by Millennials,

Amazon, maintime, has made more than $1 billion in small business loans – how many bankers and credit union execs even know they are in that business?  Credit unions may want to up their business lending operations, but do they have a market that craves their offerings?

Non banks also are zeroing in on car loans.

Some techs may even unfurl official banking colors. Aite’s Julie Conroy, in an email, wrote this: “Square already has a bank charter application in progress, and I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that Amazon would set up a wholly owned sub to do something similar.”  

Amazon and PayPal both have been meeting with bank regulators.  Nobody knows exactly why but a good guess is that both are interested in expanding their bank-like activities (with or without bank charters).  

Conroy, in the report, also warns that banks – this also means you, credit unions – are increasingly becoming what she calls an ingredient brand to whom the consumer has little or no loyalty. The consumer uses Apple Pay, does he/she remember what financial institution it is connected through? Ditto PayPal. Android Pay. Etc.  They all run on financial institution rails but few consumers really care what card is connected. They see themselves as Apple Pay loyalists, period.

And she points to Asia where Alibaba and Tencent “have made substantial inroads” into banking.

There are no good reasons to think similar won’t happen here.

David Albertazzi, writing in the Aite report, offered this warning: “FIs need to change entering 2018. They need to fundamentally shift their mindset, business model, and operating model. They must be equipped to fight for the modern consumer—who, because of technology, has a whole new set of expectations. The modern consumer doesn’t want a traditional branch bank. They want their transactions to happen on their mobile devices in real time and on-demand. This is why FIs must become tech companies and provide elegant, nimble, and technologically sophisticated solutions to their customers.”

He also advised a “sharp increase in digital transformation.”  So right. It’s hard to find a credit union that doesn’t have a digital transformation committee. But it’s harder to find a credit union where that committee has any say beyond what doughnuts to serve at the next meeting.  It just is time to get very serious about digital transformation.

That’s because your institutional life depends on it.

Wrote Conroy in her email to me: “Effective use of technology will be increasingly important to competition for FIs of all sizes.  Those FIs that don’t invest (either in their own tech stack, or by finding progressive processing partners) and are constrained by legacy technology will increasingly be marginalized.”

What do you need to do now?  Commit to going digital – really – in the next year or two.  Poll members on what digital tools they want and offer them.  Keep hunting for powerful digital tools your members will want.

And ask yourself this: if I didn’t have to use my institution’s technology, would I?

If you wouldn’t, why are you offering it to members?

Do better.

Read the Aite report.  It’s short. But it will give you sleepless nights.

And that is good for you as you face a crossroads in consumer banking where those who take the wrong fork are heading towards extinction.

Take the other fork.


The Non Bank Threat to Sharedraft Accounts: Why Your Lunch May Be Eaten


By Robert McGarvey


For Credit Union 2.0


You already know that non banks are fast in a race to seize a majority of home mortgages but the far, far worse news is that non banks may soon be grabbing your sharedraft business.

Credit unions have options. They can win this. But that will involve big changes in mindset.

Here’s a nudge towards that new reality: in November, the acting Comptroller of the Currency, Keith Noreika, said he believed it was time for a fresh debate on the role of non banks in traditional banking. Implied was an endorsement of a possible role for companies like WalMart in banking.

The current Comptroller of the Currency, Joseph Otting, has been on record supporting similar.

One more reason to worry: evidence mounts that a sizable slice of the population, mainly but not exclusively millennials, has been moving money out of banks and into other parking places. They are finding that just maybe they can get along fine without banks and credit unions.

Don’t assume a credit union future is a given. Ten years ago how many book and record stores realized they were at the end of the line?  How about consumer electronics stores? Now even grocery stores seem on life support, as WalMart on the one hand and Amazon-Whole Foods on the other seem primed to devour the market.

Banking services are very much in play.

Probably the most cogent arguing on this issue is from Ron Shevlin, now with Cornerstone Advisors. In a Snarketing post Shevlin points out that “the percentage of US households without a checking account dropped from 8.2% in 2011 to 7% in 201, and since 2000, deposits at banks have tripled.”

So,that means things are good? Nope. Shevlin continued: “there is a longer-term trend that will hamper financial institutions’ efforts to keep up the recent pace of growth. I have a name for this trend: deposit displacement.”

His point: huge volumes of money are shifting out of traditional checking and sharedraft accounts and into new vehicles such as health savings accounts, P2P tools such as PayPal, retailer mobile apps (think Starbucks, whose customers are believed to have multiple billions of dollars parked in their apps), also robo-advisors.

I’d add to the list the rise of prepaid debit cards which a growing number of consumers are using as a replacement for both credit cards and sharedraft accounts. Many billions of dollars already are funneled quarterly through the popular Visa and Mastercard prepaid debit card channels.

Personally I’ve had a Bluebird card, via Amex, for some years. It even comes with a checkbook option. 

I also use PayPal multiple times monthly, to pay some recurring charges (Netflix, NYTimes) and to put money in the hands of relatives and friends.

An advantage of options such as prepaid debit cards and P2P tools: most involve no credit check. Set up is nearly instant. The friction has been removed from the system.

Go ahead and attempt to open a new sharedraft account at a credit union near you where you have no present relationship. Word of warning: it won’t be easy. And it may be impossible to do it online. Just sayin’.

Why is money moving out of checking accounts? Simple: there often is no benefit to the member in keeping money in that account. And many accounts involve all manner of fees deemed sneaky by many consumers.

Try to use a prepaid debit card to buy groceries at Safeway and if the attempted charge is over the balance, there’s only a little embarrassment as the checker says the card has been declined. Try to pay with a checking account and there is maybe an overdraft fee of perhaps $35. For what? A few bits and bytes burping in the matrix?

Warned Shevlin: “Deposit gathering for all financial institutions will become more difficult over the next five years, as this trend toward deposit displacement accelerates. Combating deposit displacement means reinventing checking accounts.”

Read that again. It’s time to re-invent checking and sharedraft accounts. Burn the fees. Banish the friction. Make the accounts easy to use, easy to initiate, easy to predict the costs involved. Create incentives for use of the sharedraft account.  

Does your credit union offer a prepaid debit card option? Few do. But many, many big banks do, from Chase to Wells Fargo.

Navy Federal wins kudos for offering a prepaid debit card. How many other credit unions do?

Best advice: urgently slate a meeting to reinvent your sharedraft account. That’s just about the only way to stop the displacement of funds that Shevlin warns about. It will happen unless you take prompt steps to stop it.