We are living in a digital age. Cultural, social, and financial interactions are going digital. New financial products and back-end technologies are created every day. In order to stay relevant in the marketplace, forward thinking credit unions are empowering a chief digital officer to lead the digital effort.
Meheriar Hasan, managing principal and founder of MMH Consulting, helps financial institutions establish a CDO or similar position within the leadership team.
“It’s imperative for any financial institution to have a robust, integrated, multi-channel initiative,” Hasan says. “A multi-channel, digital initiative engages members during this shift in customer interaction as it moves rapidly from branch to online to mobile.”
As the former Head of Internet and Mobile Channel for U.S. Bank, Hasan led a team that built one of the largest digital channels in the industry. He also was responsible for designing and building Wells Fargo’s direct to consumer lending channel along with the bank’s consumer banking online sales channel, which grew to the largest in the industry during his tenure.
Hasan’s banking background provides him an informed perspective on the gap that exists between the digital progress of credit unions and that of larger financial institutions.
“The banks have invested capital to build digital capability over the years,” Hasan says. “There is a lot of institutional knowledge that has been built.”
Despite the banks’ considerable investment, credit unions still have the upper hand when it comes to their flexibility to react to market changes and address member needs.
“Meeting the members’ needs, that is where the smaller organizations have the advantage,” Hasan says. “Credit unions can react much quicker by changing their sales process or product design, leveraging existing technology or partner-based technology, and engaging members with a well-thought out digital strategy. Because of this we can clearly compete in the market with a larger bank.”
Creating a chief digital officer is one of the ways credit unions are quickly responding to their member’s needs.
Where To Start
The first step toward improving digital outreach is taking an inventory of your institution’s current digital capabilities. Hasan calls this a ground-level diagnostic where credit union leadership reflects on what is in place. For example, the personnel required to support a CDO is often times already on staff. Future digital staff might currently work in IT or marketing, but their talents are readily available and at the disposal of the credit union. Identify where these people are and bring them together to create the foundation of your digital initiative.
In the beginning stages, credit union leadership should also revisit its core membership.
“You need to establish who you are serving, your customer base,” Hasan says. “Is it a community-based credit union or a SEG-based credit union? You need to understand who you are serving and what their needs are.”
The next step is defining a digital roadmap. The digital experience is more about convenience, interaction, and efficiency, and less about technology. To create a roadmap, determine how your membership wants to interact with the credit union.
“Identify the percentage of your total sales and service transactions taking place among call centers, branches, and digital platforms,” Hasan says. “Then look at their best practices. If a major bank is doing 50% to 70% of credit card transactions online, then credit unions and mid-size banks need to ask why can’t we do the same thing for our institution. What is the market-opportunity, and where are we in that process? Are we 30%, are we 40%, or are we 10%?”
With an assessment of current digital capabilities and a roadmap in place, credit union leadership can start to understand where gaps in service exist and prioritize which to address first. Many credit unions outsource digital initiatives, including back-end technology, servicing platforms, eMarketing, mobile, and other offerings. It is important for credit unions to clearly communicate their digital engagement strategy to all technology partners, and for credit unions that rely on partners for digital services, engage partners and request specific online, digital, or back-end services that fit your roadmap.
“Credit unions need to provide members the option to do their own thing as much as possible and give them the ability to crossover to other channels in services and sales transactions,” Hasan says. “If it doesn’t provide those base-level options to the customer, then it will be tough for credit unions and small- to mid-size banks to grow and survive in the new environment.”
Establishing a leader at the top helps focus the digital effort and create a person who is accountable and empowered to advance the credit union’s digital efforts. Like all credit union decisions, the support of the CEO and the board is essential. The chief digital officer identifies opportunities, creates structure in the credit union, and researches new technologies to grow the credit union.