Technology Your Credit Union Can Ignore for Now


By Robert McGarvey

You already know which technology goes on your must-get list. From mobile banking and mobile remote deposit capture to biometric authorizations—we recently reviewed five must-haves.

And then there is the technology that—very probably—you can ignore for now.

Note: different credit unions may have different necessities. Some years ago I was talking with a mid-sized Washington State credit union that told me they had iPhone, Android, and Windows mobile banking apps. Windows? I was stunned, and then, duh, it hit me that Washington is the mother ship for Microsoft Windows. So, while a Windows mobile app may not be a smart decision for most credit unions, it was for this one.

Your members may in fact demand something we say is unnecessary. Listen to them and not me.

But here’s a look at four technologies that, right now, are on the easy-to-ignore pile for many credit unions.

Personal Financial Management tools. It was maybe five years ago when financial institutions—credit unions included—rushed to provide members with PFM suites, generally inside online banking. By now, some of those institutions have quietly taken down their PFM. Many others have it tucked behind an obscure tab. Why?

Usage is anemic, credit union executives tell me. The reason, many say, is that members are reluctant to input account data about their relationships to other financial institutions, and incomplete PFM data is near to worthless.

Another reason PFM stalled is that we have shifted into a nation of mobile banking users and, honestly, many PFM suites simply are hard to use on small mobile screens. Of course that’s a fixable problem, but with usage so low, there’s not presently much energy thrown at PFM.

PFM can be ignored by institutions that never offered it and, as for those with it, monitor usage, and be ready to pull the plug when not enough members use it.

P2P. Suddenly there is substantial interest in person to person payments – it’s a technology that appears to be close to going mainstream. So, why shouldn’t credit unions pounce on it?  Because—at least for now—the play seems to be among financial giants such as Visa, Chase, and PayPal (Venmo). Additionally, there likely will be new entrants among Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and other non-banks. This isn’t a case of the dust not settling yet; it’s more analogous to an active dust storm where there’s no visibility.

Monitor P2P closely. Younger members particularly appear to be attracted to it as a way to settle debts and P2P is becoming a check alternative in those crowds.

Even Boomers are using it, often to send money to Millennial relatives.

Look for ways to get your debit card involved but know that this space is fast-moving, so stay flexible.

Watch Apps. It was just two years ago that the Apple Watch went on sale—in April 2015—and there was a rush to introduce watch apps for banking. But if you don’t have an app, don’t sweat it. Sources tell us that many institutions with watch apps get less than 1% of their traffic that way, and the numbers aren’t growing.

And completely forget Android watches. Apple claims 75% or more of watch traffic.

Could this change? Definitely. What watches presently lack is a killer app that justifies the cost of the hardware. But if such an app were introduced, there would be a rush to buy watches, and that could stimulate a stampede into watch banking.

Tablet apps. In the most recent quarter, iPad sales dropped 13% year-over-year (YOY). That marked 13 consecutive quarters of YOY declines, per IDC.

IDC found an 8.5% drop in sales YOY for other tablet makers.

To be clear, tablets aren’t dead—Apple sold 8.9 million units in the most recent quarter—but the excitement is over.

Many of us are turning to phones to do just about everything.

The bottomline: some institutions admit they are refreshing their tablet apps at a much more leisurely pace than their phone apps. Others, without tablet apps, say they have downgraded the priority in their innovation time table.

That’s smart thinking. Most users can do most of their banking in a phone app. A tablet app might be nice to have, but it’s not a must-have.

Know this: there’s lot of technology out there. It all sounds great. But before investing, ask this: how does it support my credit union, its business goals, and member needs?  And keep asking until you are persuaded that the investment will pack a real ROI.


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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