Real Benefits From Virtual Channels

A Q&A on all things virtual with the CEO and the CTO of Forum Credit Union.


With more than 100,000 members and roughly 50,000 users in its online and mobile channels, FORUM Credit Union ($907M, Indianapolis, IN) is balancing security and accessibility to slim down the digital divide.

As growth in the online channel progresses, FORUM’s long-term strategy hinges upon shifting traditional branch or call center functions to self-service online and mobile channels.

An upcoming relaunch of online banking will move the credit union to a new secondary authentication system, improve PFM offerings, and provide real-time text or email alerts to members.

CEO Doug True and Chief Technology Officer Cameron Piercefield discuss FORUM’s efforts and outline the credit union’s goals, values, and priorities for member-facing technologies for the year ahead.

What virtual services are you looking to roll out in the near future?

Doug True: In our 2012 business plan, we will be rolling out a new, internally designed Internet banking solution with an automated account opening option, improved iPhone and Android apps for Internet banking, an iPad app for Internet banking, and an improved mortgage loan processing system.

What do you expect to see in mobile banking in the day and years ahead? Will text banking or other options for dumb phones remain important or will the emphasis shift to smartphones?

DT: Not all, but most consumers seeking online convenience have smartphone technology. The launch of our new online banking apps in February will be our first step toward this goal, and then we will evaluate text-based banking options.

Will credit unions move more toward downloadable applications than wireless application protocol (WAP) access for mobile in the future?

DT: It is an app-driven world at the moment, and there is a future in the app space. We feel as though we can drive convenience in the app environment. For example, our personal financial management (PFM) and memo features are in the app, as many members who access the credit union via the app don’t use the website version of Internet banking.

Cameron Piercefield: Although the Android and iPhone apps are getting the bulk of our focus, we do recognize there are other devices with passionate user bases. In order to serve them, we have created a mobile-friendly, browser-based version of our new system. The experience isn’t quite the same, but it helps ensure we don’t leave those groups out. If or when a new device type gathers a big enough market share, we would consider another app.

How important are online account openings and loan applications for your credit union?

DT: We know this is an area where we can dramatically improve. We want to have a consistent FORUM experience with online applications. The first step for us was the internally designed and developed new account opening process. We have plans to expand those options to all services including loans, certificates, and more.

How can social media better deliver an ROI, whether in dollars or member value?

DT: We are still sorting this out. There are opportunities to provide ways for your existing members to share their experiences to promote the credit union. Most members don’t see the need for their credit union to be active in social media. We are more interested in how can we communicate our cooperative business practices to those that want to belong to a credit union and make a difference in their community.

When adopting new services, how do you draw the line between something that’s technically impressive but might not be a fit for your goals as an institution?

DT: We ask ‘does it help the member with the errands on their to-do list? Did it make that experience happen easier, quicker, or more pleasantly?’ If the answer is yes, then we consider it a win.

To read the rest of the interview, access 4Q 2011 Technology@CU, a technology and operations supplement to CUSP.