Improving the Online Branch

Meeting the needs of members online must be an ongoing effort. New research provides insight for credit unions as they strive to meet these needs in 2006.


Your online members are some of your best customers. Very often, their average balances and their use of services rank among the highest of all customers. Additionally, surveys show that online users are among the longest tenured customers and among the most likely to recommend the credit union.

It will be far easier to retain and grow relationships with these members than attract new members.  In order to better serve them and strengthen this relationship, it is essential to meet the expectations of these members. As these expectations are continually changing, keeping on top of them is crucial to credit union success.

Make It Easy for Members to Expand Their Relationship With the Credit Union 
Online member research shows that members are interested in using the credit union for additional products and services, provided the credit union makes it easy for them.  Members want recognition of their relationship and reinforcement that the credit union wants their business. 

Making it easier for existing members to complete loan applications, receive membership benefits and communicating rates and offers can help reinforce value.  dditionally, offering online account access and the ability to move funds easily will help members manage their finances better.

Some areas to consider:

  • Electronic services:  How easily can members sign up for online banking, eStatements or bill pay?  Can they reset passwords online?
  • Relationship expansion:  Within online banking, are your members able to open new accounts such as share certificates, IRAs, or share accounts?  Apply for loans with pre-filled forms and information?  Offering account-to-account transfers can also encourage members to strengthen their relationship by transferring outside funds to their share account or share certificate.  
  • Consider offering small business accounts and online access to those accounts.  Many members may already be using small business accounts elsewhere.

Make Increasing e-statement Enrollment a Priority
eStatements offer a way for credit unions to save material and labor costs—the cost savings just from eliminating seldom-read paper statements may be enough to justify the conversion. Additionally, e-statements help to protect the credit union and its customers from catastrophes such as hurricanes and crimes such as identity theft.

Our surveys revealed that many online members are not even looking at their paper statements, and would be willing to switch if it were easy to sign up. There are credit unions who are receiving great cost savings by converting online banking members (who are typically checking their account frequently online) to eStatements.

Review Your Website Security
Further guidelines by the FFIEC regarding multi-factor authentication are expected later this year. Credit unions should consider a proactive approach in order to avoid being left behind as other financial institutions start marketing this “benefit” of their online banking systems.

In order to demonstrate to members that it is on top of security issues and educate them on protection methods, credit unions should:

  • Provide a link for members to report suspicious e-mails or phone calls on the home page.
  • Post an information page, with links to consumer information, identity theft safeguards (online and offline) as well as instructions on the use of electronic account monitoring tools.
  • Offer e-mail notices (e-alerts) that can be used for fraud detection, such as high dollar amount transfer notices, transactions and withdrawal notifications.

Improve Online Customer Service Options 
A recent Survey Consortium study found that members are conducting research online primarily in the evenings and on weekends. (Even members who prefer to apply for loans at the branch tend to look online first.) 

If members are unable to access the kind of information they need online, they may turn to other financial service providers who have more thorough online information and other options such as e-mail response and chat. Research shows that, not only do customers expect features such as e-mail response, they expect a response to their e-mails within 24 hours, a standard that few credit unions could meet today.  At a minimum, providing an expected response time will give members the chance to contact the credit union another way if their request is urgent.

For credit unions; online banking offers savings, convenience and amenities. If credit unions are willing to continually research and invest in online banking, they may well receive savings, convenience, and loyalty in return.




Jan. 16, 2006



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