How Credit Unions Can Reset Their Digital Transformation Effort

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By Erin Wynn , Carrie Nelson

4 minutes

3 strategies for moving more quickly and making a meaningful impact

More than ever, it’s critical for credit unions to find ways to prioritize the speed of innovation and delivery when it comes to digital transformation. The pressure is on to improve member journeys, reduce operating costs and create efficiencies across the organization while simultaneously bringing new features and technology to market to remain competitive. And while everyone talks about digital transformation as a way to accomplish this, not every credit union has it figured out just yet. 

Most financial institutions say digital transformation is a top strategic priority, but only 23% of organizations say that digital transformation has been deployed at scale, and 40% of these organizations are not meeting expectations, according to the Digital Banking Report. So, what’s the disconnect? 

Below are three ways credit unions can rethink their strategic planning processes and digital transformation initiatives to move more quickly and make a meaningful impact.

1. Challenge the Status Quo

Nothing will halt progress more than a siloed architecture, legacy staffing models and dated processes. True digital transformation initiatives need to be fluid and flexible and require a thorough evaluation of technology, people and internal practices. Credit unions should also be thinking about and planning for their next initiative two to three years ahead. This means careful consideration about how they’re staffing their teams to keep up with new projects and integrations and keeping abreast of what’s going on in the market, both on the financial services side and with nonbanking tech companies, popular retailers and the like.

To successfully compete for wallet share and loyalty, prevent silos from forming and ensure that projects run smoothly, credit unions will have to embrace a new mindset that will help them overcome roadblocks from traditional thinking. More credit unions will pursue partnerships, continue to modernize their offerings, embrace the cloud, and leverage application programming interface integrations to jump this hurdle.

2. Secure a Digital Budget 

One of the biggest challenges holding credit unions back from investing in their digital transformation is their “project” budget. This legacy way of operating can present significant obstacles to even the most forward-thinking credit unions. Success is optimized when credit unions are empowered to work with a digital or agile budget. Such a model allows them to keep the momentum by avoiding having to go back in front of a review board, create a new business case, request more funding and spin up a resource team every time enhancements or tweaks are needed. 

A strong way to secure buy-in from executives is by highlighting the value of the digital channel and the need to create digital-first experiences across the institution. Share how often members are logging in and what activities they’re completing once engaged. Show the typical profile of a digital banking user, how many other products and services they have, and how often they leverage different channels. Credit unions that can demonstrate that value upfront will be more likely to acquire approval and support for a digital budget from the onset. And, they’ll be better positioned to receive ongoing support, relieving them of having to go back to the drawing board every time they want to introduce new technology.

3. Embrace a Digital-First Approach 

Embracing a digital-first mindset, which includes a widespread understanding that digital-first does not mean digital only, but instead digital-everywhere, should be central to ongoing transformation efforts. Many credit unions now recognize that cross-channel transformation is vital, and that digital transformation is about more than just revamping the digital channel. While it’s an important piece of the broader puzzle, true  digital transformation requires reimagining and digitizing all channels so that they talk to one another. Prioritize omnichannel in all initiatives, which means bringing the digital team, call center, branch operations, IT and all other relevant groups to the table. 

Credit unions that commit to an open and agile technology platform will be better positioned to differentiate their offerings and facilitate the digital-first experiences members crave. Look for a platform that offers access to open APIs, developer tools and resources to customize member experiences and accelerate innovation and deployment while also boosting efficiencies across the institution. 

Every credit union has unique strategic priorities and different ways to measure success. No two digital transformation strategies will be identical. To remain relevant and keep pace with evolving member expectations, external market pressures and internal resource restraints, credit unions must be flexible, adapt quickly and prioritize delivering digital-first experiences across all channels. Getting there requires them to reevaluate the way their organization has always done things, embrace a digital-first mindset at all levels and have the technology platform and support in place to move more quickly.

Erin Wynn is executive director of product management and Carrie Nelson is executive director of client services, NCR Digital Banking.

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