The coronavirus — not to make light of perhaps the most widespread, devastating disease to sweep the planet since the Spanish Flu of 1918 — has finally gotten me to go where this boomer has never gone before: I’ve made my first remote check deposit.
That seems ironic, considering I’ve been writing about financial services technology since long before remote deposit checking (RDC) was introduced, much less widespread.
But like I said, I’m a boomer. Born in 1956, that puts me right in the not-so-sweet spot where health experts advise staying at home and keeping your distance.
I’m not a tech-averse dinosaur, really, I’m just a creature of habit and have been depositing checks in person at the teller line or in the drive-through since getting my first paycheck now nearly 50 years ago.
It’s a hard habit to break, but COVID-19 did it. Finally, I had the definitive reason to not go into a credit union branch, to not touch the drive-through canister or the receipt shot back through the tube, none of that.
So, on Sunday I downloaded the app from Palmetto Citizens FCU ($922M, Columbia, SC), asked for RDC access, and deposited a $150 check. That whole process took less than 10 minutes, and the deposit was credited to my checking account when I immediately went to see the result.
Full disclosure. I made a second deposit on Tuesday. It took about a minute, maybe, but that one wouldn’t go through. I called the contact center and the nice lady told me it was because I wrote “For Deposit Only” on the check. It needed to say “For Remote Deposit Only” or “For Mobile Deposit Only”. Sounds like Compliance is still on the job!
We’re all a bit on tenterhooks waiting to see how this plays out.
Directed Toward Digital
Meanwhile, across credit union land, I’m not alone. While it’s too early to have much hard data, all that advice cooperatives are posting about using digital channels is not going totally unheeded.
For instance, Seth Schaefer, president and CEO of Rivermark Community Credit Union ($869M, Beaverton, OR), said Tuesday that his mobile deposit registration has jumped 13% over historical averages in the past two weeks at his 86,000-member Portland-based cooperative. He said branch traffic, however, seems to be remaining pretty steady.
Up in the hard-hit Seattle area, Jim Morrell, president and CEO of Peninsula Community FCU ($197M, Shelton, WA), said Tuesday that his operation is seeing more of its 20,223 members not only signing up for online banking through the call center, but more account openings and requests for instant issue debit cards over the past couple days.
Key credit union suppliers also are seeing the move to mobile and more. “We have industry feedback that there has been an increase on contactless usage due to the need to not have contact or not have someone else touch a cardholder’s card,” said Vickie Walker, senior product manager for debit and prepaid at CO-OP Financial Services in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
Same for Cyndie Martini, president and CEO of Member Access Processing, the Seattle-based CUSO that provides credit, debit, EFT, and related services to more than 100 credit unions.
She said, “There’s no doubt that credit unions have seen an increase in online and mobile use, but it's still a bit too early to share much beyond that at the moment.”
Concerns about handling cash in places like grocery stores and takeout restaurants make it likely that mobile payments and contactless card use will continue to accelerate, Martini adds.
We’ve experienced an increase in check clearings, which indicates that members are writing more checks as opposed to handling cash. Call center volume has been down by one-third and we’ve noticed an approximately 10% uptick in checking account withdrawals via the ATM.
Some Seek Cash
Meanwhile, in Chicagoland, Steve Bugg, president and CEO of Great Lakes Credit Union ($886.2M, Bannockburn, IL), said his shop hasn’t seen a surge in new digital enrollments, and that call center volume and branch traffic have been noticeably slowing down.
What isn’t? “We’re really seeing more members taking cash out of their accounts,” Bugg said.
That experience is echoed by Members Driven Technologies, the suburban Detroit CUSO that hosts the Symitar Episys core processing platform and other services for 116 credit unions around the country.
“We’ve experienced an increase in check clearings, which indicates that members are writing more checks as opposed to handling cash. Call center volume has been down by one-third and we’ve noticed an approximately 10% uptick in checking account withdrawals via the ATM,” MDT president and CEO Larry Nichols said Wednesday.
Of course, the coronavirus crisis is creating a situation that is, to say the least, fluid and ever-changing. For instance, Chris Call, CEO at North Bay Credit Union ($68M, Santa Rosa, CA), said Tuesday night that his 2,576 members hadn’t produced a surge in online banking yet, but that he expects that may change quickly.
“We were just informed this evening that our county is being ordered to shelter in place, so perhaps this will force people to switch over to online banking now that their options are limited,” he said.
Members are being encouraged to use their mobile apps and Call says he expects activity in general to drop off, except perhaps for ATM cash withdrawals. Currently, North Bay’s four branches are still open with limited hours and a skeleton staff, and some by appointment only.
And that, too could change as the industry and the nation and the world anxiously watches, waits, and makes plans as best we can.
Perhaps Call speaks for us all: “We’re all a bit on tenterhooks waiting to see how this plays out.”