What Makes a Credit Union a Success?


By Robert McGarvey


For CU2.0

Do you believe Fox Communities Credit Union in Appleton, WI is the nation’s best performing credit union?

S&P Global Market Intelligence does and therein lies the seeds of a fierce debate.

I am not pointing a mocking finger at Fox Communities. No doubt it is a fine institution.

I do have questions about the how of the S&P ratings.

“Their metrics make no sense,” a longtime credit union analyst grumbled to me when he brought this story to my attention. He requested anonymity mainly because credit union people don’t like to be seen as boat rockers.

But two things – he may be absolutely right that the metrics used by S&P Global make little real world sense and just maybe, too, some aggressive boat rocking is exactly what the credit union world needs now as it faces a universe of threats, from mega banks to non banks, all of which want to step on small FIs like so many uninvited ants at a Spring picnic.  

The way forward will be led by great, inspired, energetic credit unions whose tactics and strategies light a path for others that choose to follow.

Do any of the purported “best” credit union rankings actually show the way? Understand: there are many ways to measure a credit union’s purported health. There’s NCUA CAMEL system.  Callahan has its own metrics.  Fiserv’s RADDON has another system.  DepositAccounts.com, a subsidiary of Lending Tree, now has released its tally of the nation’s “healthiest” banks and credit unions.

What does any of it mean?

Set aside the non public rankings – via Callahan and CAMEL.  Are the public-facing rankings worth much?

Here is how Fox Communities grabbed its top spot in the S&P tally, according to an S&P press release: “Aided by a pair of mergers, Appleton, Wis.-based Fox Communities Credit Union dethroned five-time champion Chubbuck, Idaho-based Idaho Central CU, to grab the No. 1 spot in S&P Global Market Intelligence’s annual ranking of the 50 top-performing credit unions. Last year, 81-year-old Fox Communities merged with two different Green Bay, Wis.-based credit unions — Horizon Community CU and Harbor CU — which helped the credit union post 17.6% membership growth in 2017 and 21.4% market growth.”

Mergers – that is, buying members and market share – equate to “best performing?” Really?

A lot of mergers are shotgun marriages of ailing partners.  That’s just reality.

In the DepositAccounts.com rankings, the Denver Fire Department FCU is the nation’s healthiest. Runner-up is Cascade Community Credit Union in Oregon.

The “healthiest” bank, by the way, is First Commercial in Alhambra, CA and, nope, I haven’t heard of it either.

In the RADDON rankings, winners are presented alphabetically. 23 credit unions – out of 500 analyzed – are cited.  I cannot say I am familiar with many of them.

All these rankings make for press releases and applause.

Does it add up to anything that matters?

Here’s the real question: what makes a credit union successful? What makes it a model for peers to study?

A handful of measures to me matter:

  • Organic assets growth
  • Organic membership growth (more members without mergers)
  • Bigger local marketshare (how does the CU stack up against local competitors)
  • Solid financials (gleaned from NCUA call reports)
  • Board quality
  • Management quality
  • Readiness for the digital battles ahead
  • Preparedness for the Millennial members of tomorrow

That list can – should – be debated. But what needs to happen is the debate. Now is the time for credit union leadership to doubledown on fostering the survival skills they will need to make it through the banking wars that loom ahead of us.

This is no time to go full out ostrich.  

The next recession – many experts now whisper about a brutal 2020 global economic turndown – will be ugly.  Who will survive? It’s coming, hard to say when, but downturns are inevitable.

Some credit unions are making all the right moves to position themselves to grow. In bad times and good. They are getting out their message that they are all the bank a consumer needs, and a better deal for the members and their communities.

Many, many others are just holding on.

Here is what the industry really needs now: a ranking of the top 10 credit unions for digital excellence, that is, excellence tomorrow and today. 

Who wants to help pick them?

The 21st Century Credit Union Welcome


By Robert McGarvey

For Credit Union 2.0

Sign up as a new member at your credit union – or pick any credit union – and what happens?

Ask yourself a sharper question: what doesn’t happen?  Think hard on that because the future of this new member relationship hangs in the balance.

Amy Downs, CEO at Allegiance Credit Union, a $260 million institution headquartered in Oklahoma City, has been thinking hard on these very questions and she believes she has found an answer that helps bring her credit union squarely into the 21st century’s digital world.

Mind you, Amy has worked at Allegiance for many years, 30 in fact. She remembers the new member welcomes of the old days. Back then Allegiance was officed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and it serviced federal employees.  As new workers were onboarded by human resources, they ordinarily were brought by the credit union and of course they got a warm welcome from the credit union employees, recalled Amy. Many of those new employees signed up on the spot.  And why not? They had been sincerely greeted by credit union employees – probably including the president, definitely senior managers. They knew they had a name and face they could seek out down the road if they had an issue they wanted to discuss.

What bank could match those human faces at the credit union?

Flashforward to nowadays and what happens when a new member joins a credit union? Increasingly that happens online. Then what? Probably there is a welcome email – and doesn’t that sound warm, friendly and inviting?


Probably, too, there is a welcome packet that arrives by US Mail – along with bunches of postcards from nearby dental offices, solicitations for donations, and maybe a past due notice on an electric bill.

Credit unions are scrambling – and many are failing – to make good, warm ties with new members. And many of those new members drift away or, even more commonly, they never put more than a few dollars into their credit union account. The bulk of their wallet is at another institution.

The future for credit unions is terrible – if things stay like this.

Matters got especially complicated at Allegiance. In 2002, the credit union got a community charter where it now serves people who live or work in the six counties around Oklahoma City.

In that transition, what was lost was that new employee introduction and that was a powerful moment that set up thousands of strong member – credit union relationships.

Amy thought on this and then she heard about an alternative.  What she now sends new members is a welcome video in which her smiling face is on camera, offering a sincere happiness that the new member brought Allegiance their business.

A couple times a week she scans the list of new members and when she recognizes a name, she makes a personal video. When she saw a husband of a close personal friend, she laughingly said in that video, “About time you listened to your wife!”

But even with the members she doesn’t know, what they see in Amy’s video is a person who is glad to meet them.

“We are losing our personal touch, all credit unions are,” said Amy.  “Everything has changed. It’s not the way it was, when we were on a first name basis with all our members. Now we have to work at it.”

When Amy heard about new member welcome videos, she wanted to know more. When she discovered the costs are nominal – she records her own, using a digital video recorder that cost $65 – and the actual time to record is a matter of minutes, she was all in.

Understand: the video is similar to what would have been an in-person meet and greet with a new member a generation ago. Amy’s videos are in the vicinity of 30 seconds. That matters because our attention spans just aren’t suited to movie-length video welcomes.

The bottomline for Amy and Allegiance: “We have to start marketing in different ways, or credit unions will be left behind.”

Use the technology that is readily available to forge stronger ties with new members. Welcome videos – absolutely – are a step in that direction.

Credit Union 2.0 has developed video solutions for new member welcomes – they in fact facilitated the work for Allegiance. For more info, here’s the contact.

Want to see Amy’s video? Click here.


The 50 Most Convenient Credit Unions


By Robert McGarvey


For Credit Union 2.0


Did your credit union make the 50 most convenient list?  Stop wondering, click to see the MagnifyMoney ranking.

What this ranking is about is how easy it is for a member to access the services he/she wants, when he wants them, and so it looks at both the analog and digital worlds, branches and mobile apps, among other touchpoints.

Understand a couple things about the ranking: it ranks only the 50 biggest credit unions and, according to the data, the top rated credit union notched 90 points out of a possible 100. The lowest rated pulled down only 46.6 points.

That represents a huge spread.  The #1 credit union in this convenience scorecard – Alliant – literally grabbed twice as many points as the lowest scorer, Mountain America.

There may well be many more credit unions, outside the biggest 50, that also outscore Mountain America.

So what exactly is getting scored?  MagnifyMoney looked at 5 fields: opening hours (more means more points); how many ATMs; telephone service hours; mobile app (how satisfied are users); and data portability (do accounts sync with Quicken, etc.)?

A complaint about that group of five is that different members want very different touchpoints. I couldn’t care less about branch hours because I live around 2500 miles from the nearest branch at my chief credit union.  I care only about digital access. But I have relatives who care only about branches and phone services. So it makes sense that MagnifyMoney sifts different channels.

It also breaks out top 10 scores in each category.  Here, for instance, are the top five scorers for mobile app:  Eastman Credit Union; ESL Federal Credit Union; Redstone Federal Credit Union; SEFCU; Wright-Patt Credit Union.

Here are the credit unions with the best surcharge-free ATM coverage: Alliant Federal Credit Union; Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union; Northwest Federal Credit Union; OnPoint Community Credit Union; Suncoast Federal Credit Union; Wings Financial Credit Union and Wright-Patt Credit Union.

As for longest hours, the winner is Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, with 59.9 hours per week.

You want 24/7 access? MagnifyMoney found a handful of top 50 credit unions that in fact offer exactly that via phone: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union

  • Alliant Credit Union
  • BECU
  • Delta Community Credit Union
  • First Technology Federal Credit Union
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Redwood Credit Union
  • Security Service Federal Credit Union

How did credit unions do as a whole? MagnifyMoney co-founder Brian Karimzad said that generally credit unions are not competitive with big banks on branch opening hours and telephone service hours. But, in the other categories, credit unions do very well.  Shared ATM networks – via CO-OP and CuLiance, for instance – give participants ATM networks numbering in the many thousands and those are numbers that stand tall against the ATM fleets of the biggest banks (more than 15,000 each at Chase and Bank of America; CuLiance claims more than 75,000 surcharge-free ATMs in its network).

As for how credit unions fare on convenience against other credit unions Karimzad stressed that there are “wide disparities.”  But the key is providing what matters to this member. A generic score is good to know but where the pedal hits this metal is in measuring how convenient the credit union is to this member.

Karimzad, incidentally, said in an interview that MagnifyMoney readers express a lot of interest in credit unions, usually because credit unions typically offer some of the best deals on loans, credit cards, and similar.  The movement already has significant recognition for its highly competitive rates.

And maybe now more consumers will understand that credit unions also can be very competitive on convenience, too. The reputation endures that credit unions keep short, banker’s hours, are laggards in technology, and are nearly impossible to join. The reality of course is very different.

And that’s why, despite the quibbles, it’s a good thing that rankings such as MagnifyMoney’s convenience scorecard get out the message that in many ways credit unions equal – maybe even beat – banks when it comes to how easy they are to use.

The more consumers that get that, the better for all credit unions.

Now, where did your credit union rank?


Realtime Banking Is Coming at You: Ready or Not


By Robert McGarvey


For CU2.0


A new report out of Celent asks a question that just may terrify you: Are banks ready for a real time world?

You probably know the answer at your credit union.

Join the club: many – probably most – credit unions are nowhere close to embracing a real time financial services universe.

Tell me why it takes a day – sometimes several days – to move money from an account at my credit union to a payee already in the system when, truly, it simply is a matter of shifting bits and bytes?

Money can – and now should – move as fast as a text message and if a friend in India sends me an SMS via Facebook right about now it is showing up in my FB queue.

It can happen in financial services. With money. Everybody – that means you – will have to climb aboard. “Real time payments,” said Celent, “have moved beyond being an if to a when.”

Here’s a Celent observation: “Most existing payment engines have a number of challenges in delivering real-time payments. First, they are generally batch-driven, rather than single message and instant, and so simply not suitable. The second, and less obvious reason, is that they require downtime for maintenance and upgrades, something that isn’t allowed in a real-time payment solution. Many real-time payment schemes only have downtime over the year measured in seconds. Old technology simply wasn’t designed to support that.”

What Celent is prescribing is adoption of a robust payments hub that can provide the 21st century world what it wants.

“Real-time payments require all the activity in the value chain to be carried out, typically in under a second, if not quicker. If all the processes are within the hub, they are easier to manage and coordinate. But as volumes increase, this becomes more and more essential. Furthermore, functions that sit within the hub will be subject to the same design requirements in terms of availability and maintenance,” wrote the Celent author, Gareth Lodge.

Some real time functions already are in use in the United States.

Digital currencies – the report pointed in particular to Ripple – are paving the way for a shift to real time money movement.

Zelle also is a step into real time for institutions that adopt it (and some credit unions already have – such as America First Credit Union and BECU).  And Dwolla offers real time ACH transfer functionality.

Don’t necessarily expect smooth sailing for your institution into the real time universe. Exactly how – and how well – many competing real time systems will integrate with each other is not yet known.

Then, too, as Celent pointed out: “The term real-time payments perhaps hides an obvious truth: in order to make the payment real-time, everything and anything that touches the payment, including fraud checking, balance checks, and the front end initiation system have also to be real-time…24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

All of that represents a massive change in how credit unions work.  Digital banks, Celent pointed out, are architected from the word “go” to handle real time. A legacy institution has a different, very real set of challenges. Said Celent: “Real-time payments then are the vanguard of the digital bank. New banks, built from the ground up, do not need to give this a second thought, but for any other bank, the task of converting from the existing infrastructure is a huge task.”

And the news gets worse.  Said Celent: “Many banks still run core banking systems that are over a decade old. The chances are that unless it has been replaced within the last five years, it is still a batch system. This poses immediate challenges — how to update the customer balance until the next batch, overnight run.”

Institutions – and their cpre providers – are fiddling with workarounds.  But that’s the point: there will definitely have to be workarounds and they may not always be easy, elegant or even straightforward.

What to do?  The first step is recognizing that now indeed is the start of real time banking.  That, said Celent, is integral to the transformation into the digital bank that just about all now know is the future. Wrote Celent: “Banks may see the need to move to a digital bank, but they may be struggling to make the business case for investing in real-time payments. Yet there is a confluence of the digital banking trend with real-time payments, as they share many of the same attributes and indeed, that make it impossible for a digital bank to truly exist without it.”

Absolutely right. Until real-time payments are part of the package the institution just isn’t a digital bank. Period.

Payday Loans and Your Credit Union


By Robert McGarvey

For Credit Union 2.0


Should your credit union offer payday loans?  Don’t rush to say no. In North Carolina, and spiraling out of there, Self-Help Credit Union and its offshoots such as the Center for Responsible Lending have documented that there is good to be done, and even some money to be made, by offering payday loans.

Technology, by the way, may be the magic that lets this flourish.  Read on.

Start with Pew Charitable Trusts’  blockbuster report that says credit unions should look hard at plunging into payday lending.

Some credit unions already are doing it.  Like Technicolor FCU.  Unify FCU.  Horizon FCU.  Banner FCU. There are others.

But there could be more.

Understand: according to Self-Help’s CRL, the average rate for a payday loan is 391%.

In bygone days, when the Mafia offered street lending at shipyards and factories in north Jersey and New York City the typical term was “five for six.”  Borrow $5 on Tuesday and when payday came on Friday the borrower owed $6. If he couldn’t pay in full, he could pay $1 to stay current. Many borrowers did exactly that, forever paying interest on a principal that long before was spent.

Everybody knew those loansharks were evil.

But – and this is the point that often is missed – they thrived because they lent money when others said no, and there weren’t that many others anyway. Banks and credit unions had no interest in small dollar, unsecured personal loans. There were no consumer credit vehicles in mass distribution (a la Visa and Mastercard).  Mainly there were relatives and friends and when they said no, borrowers turned to loansharks.

An estimated 10 to 12 million of us want payday loans every year today.

Everybody knows these loans, too, are evil.  

The market continues to thrive however. People need these loans, to feed their families, to keep the lights on, to stop an eviction.

So why aren’t more traditional lenders wading into these waters? Regulators are dragging their feet in enabling small dollar loans and many institutions just don’t like the smell of them, said Pew.  “Because regulators have not yet issued guidance for how banks and credit unions should offer small-dollar installment loans, or granted specific regulatory approvals for offering a high volume of such loans, these programs have not achieved a scale to rival the 100 million or so payday loans issued annually.”

The Center for Responsible Lending has campaigned to cap interest rates on small dollar loans at 36% – enough, said CRL, for a smart institution to make some money but not so much as to bury the borrower in a spiral of indebtedness.  According to CRL, 15 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted caps of 36% or less.

Payday loans to members of the military already are capped at 36% APR.

What needs to happen to get more credit unions making small dollar, personal loans? Said Pew: “banks and credit unions will need to develop small-loan products, and their primary regulators—the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)—will need to approve the products.”

The NCUA has given a green light of sorts to credit unions to proceed, cautiously: “NCUA is aware that an increasing number of FCUs are interested in establishing short- term loan programs that are more advantageous to their members than programs available from traditional payday lenders and pawn shops. NCUA believes a well-run loan program can be an opportunity for an FCU to improve the lives of its members by providing low cost, small loans.”

Just offering such loans isn’t enough. Pew stressed that credit unions would have to get the word out that they in fact offer low interest payday loans.  Just as cucially, noted Pew, “banks and credit unions would need to compete with nonbank lenders on speed, likelihood of approval, and ease of application.”

Pew did note that credit unions entering payday lending could do so with a lot of advantages: “banks and credit unions would also enter the market with large comparative advantages over nonbank lenders, with their lower costs of doing business allowing them to offer loans profitably to many of the same borrowers at prices six times lower than those of payday and other similar lenders.”

Note: Pew, in its report, persuasively argues that credit unions have enormous cost advantages when it comes to issuing payday loans versus a standalone paycheck loan operator.  That can translate into much lower – but still profitable – interest rates.

Pew added: “The average payday loan customer borrows $375 over five months of the year and pays $520 in fees, while banks and credit unions could profitably offer that same $375 over five months for less than $100.”

A key to doing this profitably, said Pew, is to embrace automation: “The cost of manually processing applications is too high to offer small loans at scale. So, to keep the cost of origination low—and to compete with nonbank lenders on speed and ease—banks and credit unions will need to largely automate the lending process, including determining eligibility, establishing the maximum loan size, processing applications, and disbursing funds.”

What about provisions for losses? According to Pew, in pilots, charge offs have been comparatively few.  

A bottomline: many Americans want credit unions to make payday loans and they are willing to pay for them.  The regulators, admittedly slowly, have signaled support for cautious entry into payday lending. Smart, community focused credit unions will take the cue and get out the word that they are there to make loans to the very needy.

That’s a win in terms of community relations, it’s a win for the borrowers, and – according to the Pew and CRL data – it’s a win for the credit unions.

On the Digital Transformation Journey with Partners FCU’s CEO

By Robert McGarvey


For Credit Union 2.0


“We are not moving fast enough. We need to move 2x or 4x faster,” said John Janclaes, CEO of the $1 billion Partners Federal Credit Union headquartered in Burbank, CA.

In a wide ranging interview, Janclaes revealed exactly why he had put the credit union on what he describes as a journey of digital transformation – and he also talked about progress made.

You might think Partners is a blessed credit union. It has enough assets to compete and it has strong SEG ties – it essentially is the Disney credit union and pulls membership from the many Disney companies, from the theme parks to movies and ESPN.  It also has two very different geographical hubs – southern California and Orlando, FL. It has a lot going for it.

But three or four years ago, Janclaes looked at the competitive landscape and he had a worrisome thought: “Credit unions are in the crosshairs,” he said. He elaborated that the industry faces ever smarter, tougher competition from big banks and also fintechs and companies like Amazon.  “We need to keep up with that level of competition.”

Not that many decades ago, credit unions, he said, were a well balanced three legged stool that offered better rates, better service, and better convenience because many members could bank at work.

And then that happy bubble burst as consumers – increasingly – have demanded digital banking and many credit unions have faltered in the transformation from high personal touch and community based institutions.

“We recognized we need to keep changing to remain relevant to our members,” said Janclaes.

Fueling his thinking was a CO-OP funded study on digital transformation that found, in a survey of 221 credit union leaders, 88% said digital transformation is “extremely or quite important.”  And about half the respondents acknowledged their digital experience is “inferior” to top brands like Google and Apple.

Janclaes wanted more for Partners, he wanted to offer members a digital experience that in fact rivaled the best of breed because – face it – those are benchmarks members use to grade what they get from their financial services providers.

A big step was that he went outside to Kony and also the Boston Consulting Group to help Partners in its journey. “We wanted to work with trusted partners who are industry leaders,” said Janclaes.

“We have de-emphasized inhouse tech innovation,” said Janclaes and that is because – looked at frankly – few credit unions have the scale and environment to attract the top tech talent that is needed to create a thriving 21st century institution. “We are picking where we can win.”

What especially attracted him to Kony – which has done the bulk of the heavy digital lifting for Partners – is that it had a limited credit union background and also had had successes in very different industries such as retail and energy.

“We did not want a credit union incumbent with a credit union mentality,” said Janclaes.

Read that sentence again.  Credit union management orthodoxy is to vet potential vendors based on their resumes of past credit union hits.  

But Janclaes turned this thinking upside down.

He elaborated that “we are getting better at picking strategic partners.”

He also has taken an increasingly active role. “Ten years ago I was not involved with our tech partners. Now I am. I talk regularly with their CEOs.”

He said he had full support from his board which, he explained, is composed of Disney executives.

“Our sponsor sees us a value for the company and its cast members,” said Janclaes.

A challenge, he added, is coordinating the new digital credit union with the traditional brick and mortar credit union  He indicated that every measure says that in fact is happening as Partners has committed to offering an omnichannel presence that lets members pick how they want to interact. Most tasks – from account opening to joining the credit union – now can be done via any channel and that, believes Janclaes, is the future of credit unions that aim to thrive tomorrow.

Along the way, Janclaes has recognized that the traditional credit union way of updating digital functions via an annual or semi-annual upgrade just doesn’t work today. “We need to do this much faster, 3x, 4x.  We have started with 2x – that’s the business problem now in front of us.”

“We want to make incremental improvements at a rapid pace,” said Janclaes.

This, he said, represents a massive “mindset shift” in credit unions that, traditionally, have aimed for perfection and that has taken time.

Today calls for faster and that means, often, perfection won’t be there.

But what happens will nonetheless be good enough.

That of course is how all tech companies think.

“Our members are already ahead of us in thinking that way,” said Janclaes.

And now Janclaes is determined to bring Partners to that mindset too.


An 11 minute video on the Partners digital transformation is here.  It’s worth a view by any credit union manager, or board member, contemplating the next steps in their institution’s digital journey because that has become a ride no one can refuse.


What’s your CEO story? This column is looking for credit union CEOs – institutions may be any size – to share their transformation story.  Email rjmcgarvey@gmail.com


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.