Alexa, How Does Numerica Do Payments?

Early adoption and member convenience drive strategy at this Spokane cooperative.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Numerica is a front-runner with Alexa as part of a comprehensive member service digital strategy that includes payments.
  • Rewards, partnerships, fraud protections are essential pieces of the strategic pie.
  • The biggest opportunity is creating a great member experience.

Mark Fox joined Spokane Railway Credit Union as a teller in 1996. In 2015, he became the first vice president of payments for what’s now Numerica Credit Union ($2.2B, Spokane Valley, WA).

More than just the credit union’s name has changed over the years. In fact, change has become a constant for Numerica and for Fox, who left the credit union in 2002 and returned in 2012 as assistant vice president of e-services.

Here, Fox talks about evolving channels, growing expectations for payments delivery, early adoption, security, and more.

How has Numerica approached its payments strategy?

Mark Fox, Vice President of Payments, Numerica Credit Union

Mark Fox: Numerica created my position three years ago to focus on our payments strategy. We started by creating strong vendor partnerships — with Visa, for example — and focused on the member’s well-being to create an improved member experience. We’ve made some big improvements in that area. We’ve decreased the frequency with which we flag legitimate transactions as suspicious, and we’ve made it easier for members to confirm the legitimacy of their suspicious transactions.

We got EMV chips on both debit and credit cards in late 2015. We’re well ahead of a merchant base that still isn’t completely ready to accept EMV at all stores today. I was at a big box store this morning that required me to swipe my debit card rather than use the EMV reader.

We’ve added a great rewards credit card and added or expanded our partnerships by creating custom cards and reward programs for local universities, including Eastern Washington, Whitworth, and Gonzaga. Our members love supporting their favorite school while making their everyday purchases.

But, it’s not just about debit and credit cards. We were prepared for same-day ACH debits and credits well ahead of industry mandates. We also restructured our account number schema to accommodate generations of future growth. We’ve received several awards from Visa and been finalists for others. It’s an exciting time to be in payments, and I’m excited for where Numerica is heading.

What are the big opportunities in payments? How is Numerica responding to them?

MF: The biggest opportunity is in creating a great member experience — helping members manage their finances with as much ease and with as little stress as possible when performing transactions. To that end, we’re working on real-time payments and ATM innovation, among other initiatives.

We were one of the first institutions to offer Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, and Android Pay, now known as Google Pay. We’re a partner with Visa Checkout, and we’ve recently added FitBit Pay, Garmin Pay, and Microsoft Pay.

 

 

 

What innovations has Numerica put in place at the ATM?

MF: We’ve made several enhancements to our ATMs over the past three years. Some were cosmetic improvements, such as clearer menus and attractive surrounds and canopies. We added functionality, such as ATM loan payments and the ability to access more than just a single checking account with a debit card. We’ve also made it easier for members to have their funds made available after making a deposit.

We had to put steps in place to limit fraud, but the end result is that members have expedited funds availability in most cases. As a result, ATM use has risen during the past three years, but we’re not stopping there. We’re upgrading our ATMs to allow members to choose among a variety of bill denominations and to make the touch-screen interface more intuitive and visually appealing. We’re also looking at card-less ATM transactions.

What is Numerica doing in real-time payments?

MF: Zelle and other P2P payment networks have been gaining traction. Rather than forge several partnerships with individual industry participants, we’re working with our core processor, Jack Henry, on a solution that integrates across multiple platforms.  

CU QUICK FACTS

Numerica Credit Union
Data as of 06.30.18

HQ: Spokane, WA
ASSETS: $2.2B
MEMBERS: 142,580
BRANCHES: 22
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 8.3%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 10.3%
ROA: 0.91%

Numerica is an early adopter of Alexa functionality. What that’s about?

MF: We launched Alexa in early 2018. Alexa allows members to check balances by simply asking, “Alexa, ask Numerica what is my checking balance?” Or they can move money: “Alexa, ask Numerica to transfer $10 from savings to checking.” Alexa can even notify Numerica when they’ve lost their card.

We have a dedicated e-services team that is on hand to help members with Alexa and other technology, such as our mobile app or online banking, but Alexa isn’t intended to be a highly used service like our online or mobile banking. It’s just one additional way we try to make things easy for members, anticipate their needs, and provide features they might not have expected were available. That’s why we’ve also partnered with smaller mobile wallets such as FitBit Pay and Garmin Pay rather than focusing solely on Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

What are the biggest threats in payments? How is Numerica responding to them?

MF: We see several threats. Our early migration to EMV for both debit and credit helps reduce the credit union’s risk of fraud losses, but fraud is always present. We’ve seen card-not-present fraud increasing over the past two years.

Competition from non-banks is also a threat. Regulators are now accepting bank charter applications from fintech companies. But there’s also good news in that announcement, as it will help create a level regulatory playing field around companies that are already acting quite a bit like a financial institution.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Sept. 10, 2018


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