Today’s Essential Credit Union Technology Upgrades


By Robert McGarvey

Accept that you have to spend money on tech to compete as a credit union. That is fact. But the puzzle for many credit union executives is deciding what technology is essential—and what can be backburnered?

The list of absolutely essential technology—per many third party experts, as well as senior credit union executives—is surprisingly short. There are just five on this list, and very likely—especially for larger credit unions—at least two are already in service.

There are a lot of shiny new objects in financial tech, but remember the ones you need to pay attention to are on a list that is short.

So is the list of technology you can absolutely ignore, but that’s the topic of my next blog post.

For this blog, here’s your must-have shopping list.

Mobile banking. Nobody has an exact count of credit unions with mobile banking apps, but a guess is that perhaps one in two don’t have one. Malauzai, a developer of mobile banking apps, does an annual count in Apple’s App Store, and the most recent tally of mobile banking apps was 5,700. That includes both banks and credit unions.

CUNA’s most recent credit union tally is 5,857. There’s a like number for banks. Do the math and that means only one in two has a mobile banking app, and that just is unwise.

The future of banking is mobile.

There are more low-cost mobile banking apps aimed at credit unions. Smart credit unions are checking them out.

Mobile card self-service. Multiple experts finger member self-service tools as a key upgrade. It’s a fact: members like having the ability to turn a card on or off with a few clicks. They also want to be able to change a PIN. Some advanced tool kits allow members to bar spending at certain merchants or to turn their international usage on or off. And many now want to do all this within the mobile banking app they frequently use. That cuts use of a credit union’s call center, while empowering its members. It’s a win-win.

mRDC has increasingly emerged as a must-have, and consumer enthusiasm for mobile Remote Deposit Capture remains strong. According to researchers at Celent, 2,700 institutions went live with mRDC just in the last two years. Celent’s Bob Meara estimates that 6,000 financial institutions have mRDC, leaving 4,000 without it. Don’t stay in that minority.

Core API tools are essential according to Cornerstone Advisors. It sounds techy, but it’s not as techy as you may fear. These tools—aka Application Protocol Interfaces—help apps and widgets interface with, say, core systems, and smart credit unions are using them to build custom savings widgets, debt calculators, and in some cases, even writing their own mobile banking app. Even better, many of these new APIs are highly user friendly, requiring little technical sophistication from the credit union to get them up and running. It’s a real trend to monitor in 2017.

Online account opening. This is a huge battleground. Just about all the big banks and credit unions offer online account opening, but the majority of smaller institutions lag behind. That needs to change. It is very possible to meet KYC requirements when opening an account online. For example, many institutions require multiple proofs of identity or put holds on deposited funds in new accounts. There are plenty of ways to safeguard the credit union and its members.

But a new kind of member demands the convenience of online account opening. Many online banking platforms offer these tools; some mobile banking apps also do.

It’s become a must-have.

That’s a short list—just five items. But it’s a roadmap to survival.

Don’t have all of them? Start investigating how to get the tech you lack. More and more vendors seek to serve the small credit union market. That means there are now a lot of choices.

Next up: a guide to tech your credit union can ignore for now.


Author: The Credit Union Exchange

CULIANCE is a CUSO that draws its strength from inclusion not size. As an alliance of credit unions, we believe that together credit unions can accomplish so much more than they can alone. We’re devoted to the purpose and the potential of the credit union community, and are continually pursuing ways to engage, support, and inspire it. Our state-of-the-art, affordable products and services are developed to ensure you meet the demands of an ever-changing, dynamic financial services industry so that you can better compete and help improve your members’ lives. For more information, please visit or call (877) 570-2824.

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