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7 posts categorized "Apps"

May 09, 2013

Thinking Like a Software Company: Some Thoughts on Mobile, eWallets and Where We're Going


 by Ron Daly 

I caught a look at this article from BankInnovation about Bank of America's mobile users. Recently, BofA Senior VP Marc Warshawsky disclosed that the number of mobile logins to their electronic banking services outnumbered the "online" logins (that is, from a personal computer) for the first time. Apparently, BofA customers can't get enough of the megabank's mobile apps. Warshawsky had a few words for how to manage mobile as smartphone penetration increases.

From the article:

How should banks approach mobile? “Think like a software company,” Warshawsky said. But he added a word of caution to developers: “Not everything is the right thing to do for customers just because you can do it.”

A sharp observation. But I wonder what he means by "think like a software company", especially when software companies aren't really "companies" these days - some are just a handful of developers, or even one developer, working remotely to make an app. Hard for a company as large as BofA to tell other large institutions that the key to success is thinking small and light, don't you think?

To try and expand on this very small soundbite and think it out a bit, I made some notes. Tell me if you agree or not: 

Step 1: Function first, form second, platform third

If I were a developer, I would want to create a product first and foremost. What's the pain I'm trying to salve over with this app? Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, had a single goal in mind: make articles easy to read when you're able to read them. He worked hard to create the code that would strip out all the ads from an article and present the information in a way that was easy on the eyes (Instapaper makes it easy to adjust brightness and font size - great for guys like me who love their iPad and hate having to find their glasses). He then brought that to bear on the iPhone, the Kindle, the computer monitor, the iPad...and now that he's sold a majority stake to BetaWorks, you'll likely see the app on every platform out there. But what makes it worth the time and money? Simple - it does one thing well on the back end and presents it beautifully on the front end, no matter which "front end" you're using.

Step 2: Change is good, and necessary, and (relatively) easy

There's a world of difference between the "software" we were used to in the 90's and early 00's and the "apps" we can't live without today. "Software" was a big, branded box of discs and booklets and download codes. Want to update that software? You need another box and another authenticity code and another set of booklets. And, most likely, you'll wait five years.

"Apps" live in our little icon squares and update every few weeks...maybe every few days. When developers find bugs or want to push updates, it happens quickly and, typically, efficiently. Adobe's taken note of this - their super-expensive and super-sought-after Creative Suite is going subscription, meaning updates and changes will be pushed automatically - no more buying upgrades to CS packages. Don't be afraid to upgrade your mobile offering when the time comes and be sure to focus on bug reports, breaks and user feedback.

Step 3: Find new ways to simplify and specialize

Malauzai, our mobile app partner for our My Virtual StrongBox app, has made a few headlines recently thanks to their common-sense approach to app development. River City FCU has a high number of Spanish-speaking members. The solution? A multi-lingual app that can serve both English- and Spanish-speaking markets effectively. Users complained about having to enter login credentials to check a balance. The solution? An app that will display balances and recent transactions without logging in but requires a full login for transactions. Simple, compliant, effective. 

Our own app's got some smart problem-solving features, too. Some folks don't have scanners and want to make electronic copies of paper documents. Solution? Take a picture with your iPad's camera app and it stores the image in your online safe deposit space. Simple!

Step 4: Always be, opening, that is.

Warshawsky warns against overwhelming users with too much functionality in an app. While you may not want to jam every possible user action into your mobile app, you should definitely leave yourself open to opportunity. If a member checks in three times a day, how can you be sure they'll be seeing what they "should be" seeing? That is, how can you make certain that when a member's ready to move on a home loan or an auto loan, they think of you first? Better get smart about giving people clear paths to a deeper relationship.

Apps are a way to keep current and bring mobile convenience to members. They are, however, just another mile-marker on the road to mobile dominance in our culture. What happens when that much-discussed "mobile wallet" hits the member's hands? Are you going to be an important player, or an obstacle to progress? How can you be sure you won't be left behind? 

Talk to us about it in the comments.

April 10, 2013

Let's cut down the theme song and get to the bar.


by Ron Daly

I used to love watching Cheers. A funny show with a great cast, Cheers lasted through eleven season, a female lead change (are you a Diane fan or a Rebecca fan?) and thousands of shouts of "NORM!"

Sometime in the middle of its run, Cheers cut down its theme song and opening credits ("Where Everybody Knows Your Name" is stuck in your head now, isn't it?) to get to the show faster. Why waste time? Squeeze in more show, a few more jokes, a couple more beers - don't bother with the song we all know the words to anyway. Get to the point. 

I bring it up because I just read a bit of ON Innovation by author Terry Jones. In it, he talks about how the nature of gathering information has changed. Customers are walking into buying situations with a heaping helping of information and prep. From the book: 

My realtor friend told me the other day, there is no such thing as a "First Showing" of a house anymore. "Every showing is a second showing as all my customers have whittled their list down online and have seen every house already!"

Customers no longer need you for information, they need you for advice! "Actually sir, this color looks better on you", "I drove this model for three months and got about 21 mpg, so that is what you can really expect".

Interesting. As information becomes more and more accessible, people spend more time reading and researching major purchases. It theorhetically makes a sale easier. Theorhetically.

But as a person who sells things and a veteran of the CU industry, I have to wonder about how effective "more information" really is.

Let's say I'm looking into a product. For argument's sake, let's say it's a power washer. I start by searching online for "power washers". It goes from there to Amazon, then to home improvement store websites. I look at reviews ("stars", average prices, write-ups, etc.) and then I check out prices across all the websites I've visited. If I can find any, I'll grab a coupon or two. If I'm convinced, I'll buy online. If I need to look at the whole affair in person, I'll head to the stores. I make my purchase, start power washing everything and, pretty soon, my house is sparkly clean. And my neighbor's house. And his boat. Okay, so I got carried away. 

But that's an item. That's not a credit union. 

If I'm shopping for a car loan, how do I make a choice? Is it anything more than rate? If I'm out hunting, can I read reviews of the bank or credit union I'm using? Do I start with my current lender and work my way out? Can I go "kick the tires"? And how much information can I really gather?

I take three notes away from this: 

  1. "The Best Foot Forward Approach" - Is the information people are collecting to make a purchase/account opening decision the most useful information? And how do you determine that? Getting feedback on the lending process is a great idea. Talking with members, making notes, figuring out where the hard-to-understand ideas are - that helps prevent confusion in further one-on-one advising situations. And speaking of "advising"...
  2. "What's Your Take?" - Are tellers and MSRs familiar with the experiences that drive a member's questions? How familiar are mortgage specialists with buying a home? Have they purchased one of their own? Experience is a great teacher and opinion does matter.
  3. "Tow the Line" - Is everyone in the organization on the same page when it comes to answering questions? Do they have all the most important information at hand? If they can't answer a question right away, how quickly can they get that answer to the member? Good training and a dash of technology can assure that members can get the right answer from anyone at any time and that a qualified representative can answer any lingering questions. 

So, no, don't bother with the full theme song. Get to the good stuff - answered questions, thoughtful advice and opinion, and, eventually, the deal.

And if making your way in the world today takes everything you've got, oughta go where everybody knows your name.

January 23, 2013

People Are Lending Directly to One Another…So What Are We Doing Here?


by Ron Daly 

Today on, I was drawn to an article titled "Beyond the Home Loan: What can credit unions learn from online crowdfunding platforms?" [Here's the Full Article.]

While the article doesn't spell out the overall lessons, there are a handful of examples. Good enough, I suppose, because it got me thinking - what are we missing? 

Credit unions, as best I understand them (and after 30+ years in the business, I can honeslty say I do), were created to give members a way to lend to and borrow from one another. They were created as an alternative to the system. Now, for consumers, it seems like we're just another part of that "system". 

Bank customers and credit union members know that good loans go to good paper. If you're trying to buy a home or a car and you have a good credit score, you won't need to look for too long to get what you need. But if what you're trying to do is create a movie about Linotype machines or start a small business selling weirdly-shaped candles, you'll likely go wanting. And for the people who have rough credit, quick, high-interest loans with fewer strings mean more than "relationships" with a bank or credit union. 

As far as peer-to-peer finance and technology goes, you're crazy if you don't go read "A Game of Leapfrog" by Brent Dixon. 

From the article, originally published on the CU Watercooler

But meanwhile, many credit unions still don't even offer online account opening. We're saddled by regulations. We're a weighty, slow-moving beast. We make excuses.

Consumer finance is not just begging for disruption, it's experiencing it. In a few short years, many traditional institutions will be passed over. Leapfrogged. It's easier to build than reform, and people are building.

So, what can credit unions learn from peer-to-peer finance today?

  1. Time to Re-evaluate the "People Helping People" Message -

    Everyone I talk to in the industry loves that phrase, but how many credit unions are interested in the proof of it? When a person lends to Kickstarter, they get a "thank you" in the form of a gift - maybe a version of the product the borrower is developing or a branded package of swag with the up-and-coming product or company logo. What's the "thank you" gift new members get at your credit union? A letter? A free pen? 

    Better yet, where are the booklets and brochures with member success stories? Show me the story of a member who joined and went from broke to flush thanks to the credit union. Show me the small businesses that have benefited from the CU's guidance. Those stories have got to be there. Otherwise, my fees and interest are going toward nothing, as far as I can tell.

  2.  Partner Big, Lend Small

    According to the article above, services such as Kiva and Fundly use proven tech platforms like Paypal and Amazon to process payments and securely move money to and from borrowers and lenders.  Why can't credit unions partner with tech providers for everything they need - better online banking and account opening, smart phone apps, tracking of the loan process, etc.?

    It's not that they can't, it's typically that they won't...or don't want to. Even when vendors provide all the due-dilligence and proven testimonials and case studies, credit unions will still look for ways to doubt results. Who does that help? Not the member, certainly, and not the loan portfolio.

    And look at the amounts certain people are requesting - $300? $500? They'll go to a payday lender before they walk through your front door, how is that a good thing? It's not because the money isn't expensive - the rates on these small, short-term loans are outrageous. But people see fewer barriers to entry. They don't know they're walking into a trap. Shouldn't being more accessible be a goal for every credit union?

  3.  Never Turn Away From Your Social Missions

    People value charity, philanthropy, benevolence - not because they're "trendy", but because they're the right thing to do. We know hundreds of credit unions that partner with great causes but rarely explain the depth and their level of involvement. Why shy away from talking about things like Credit Unions for Kids? Share the good news with more than just a parting shot in your newsletter - make it a cause that you champion, not just "support".

  4.  Play the Game, But Play to Win -

    Sure, LendingClub and are growing enterprises. But are they human enterprises?  Can they really lend and handle deposits the way you can? Are those prepay debit cards celebrities seem to love so much really a better alternative? The answer to all three of those questions is "no". 

    You can provide deposit insurance. You can provide security. You can provide convenience. You can do it all and, if you do it well, you can show everyone that you're not "just another bank" - you were facilitating "peer-to-peer" before it was cool. And you're still here now.

It's not just lending that's being overtaken by "the people" - it's debt forgiveness, too. The Rolling Jubilee raised half a million dollars, bought up thousands and thousands of dollars of debt from banks, and forgave it. These "gifts of forgiveness" went out to average consumers, bogged down by medical or educational debt, and told them their debt was forgiven in its entirety. 

Your average consumer now knows that there are multiple ways to manage one's money - there's the bank, there's the credit union, or there's "none of the above". 

We USED to be the way people loaned money to one, we're a hinderance. We get our "people helping people" status back by being adaptable, affordable, approachable, and dependable. 

Let's get to it.


October 24, 2012

Self-Service Is About The Member [Live on]


[This article is live on, but we thought we'd share it here to make sure you didn't miss it.]

Banking technologies are continuing to evolve and their influence on the way financial institutions do business is skyrocketing. Not so long ago, direct deposit, audio voice response and online bill payment were the next big thing in financial services, but now they rarely turn heads.

Today, technology trends are following consumers’ growing desire to bank when and where they want, led by more than 75 million Gen Y customers. Members want mobile banking with deposit capability, and access to smart ATMs and self-service kiosks, inaddition to onlineand traditional delivery channels. And they expecttheircredit unions to keep pace.

That’s a good thing because satisfying members’ demand clearly benefits credit unions. Credit unions of all sizes are replacing or augmenting traditional teller windows with self-service kiosks and remote teller systems, some with video access. They’re seeing improved efficiencies and lower operating costs – along with the twin member benefits of greater convenience and less  wait time. For most, the shift toward self-service devices and applications is no longer a question of if, but when.

Yet, most people still want some form of face-to-face interaction, along with easy access. Even Gen Y prefers F2F for advice, financial planning or other money matters they’re unsure about, according to a 2010 Oracle study. For credit unions, that presents an opportunity and a challenge. How do you get on board with convenient, cost-saving technology while keeping the relationship-building service that has long been your credit union’s hallmark?

Read more at the website.


July 10, 2012

They'd Like to Leave, You'd Like to Have Them…Technology's the Bridge


by Ron Daly

When we started this blog, we wanted to call it "CU Soapbox" because it was meant to be a place to stand up and shout about the industry. I've been doing a little "shouting" recently and I thought I'd make it a point to do the same on this blog, because hey, this is the right place, isn't it? 

I've done a little reading about a recent Javelin study about big-bank customers and why they want to make the switch to another FI...but don't. The Financial Brand does a great job of making all this digestible and points out one very important piece of information: 40% of surveyed consumers WON'T LEAVE their big bank because of that bank's online/mobile banking service. Do they want to leave? Yes, of course they do. Who wouldn't? Getting beaten by fees and losing a ton of money that you could hang on to would make anyone want to leave...what keeps them hanging on is the illusion of convenience. 

I say "illusion" because the kind of technology that would bend the bow in credit unions' favor is out there, and it can be had. We could be courting these on-the-fence big bank customers and their billions in collected assets. Why aren't we? 

I believe there are two problems:

  1. We're not promoting the technology/convenience we have and already offer, and
  2. We're not positioning ourselves to bring in the technology that levels the playing field. 

 I wrote two articles recently that sum up my thoughts on the topic. Go read: 

Then, start asking yourself the four major questions that need to be answered, and fast:

Question 1: "Are our current members utilizing the online services we offer, and if not, why?"

The best and easiest research to conduct for yourself is on your own member base. If you have 10,000 members and only 1,000 are using online banking, what could be done to get more people to sign up and start using it? Maybe they already did and it was such an excruciating experience that they swore off of it (I can't imagine that happening, but who knows?). What can you do to make it right?

Question 2: "Is our website (or OLB/mobile app/email newsletter/social media feed) everything it should be?"

Websites need updates and overhauls. It comes with the territory. Marketing hates to hear that they have to write new copy and make new graphics and IT hates the hassle of creating and implementing sweeping changes. I have two words for both: tough toenails. If the site needs a face lift, give it one. If it needs a total reboot, give it one. Make it easy for interested outsiders (and undereducated insiders) to get all the information they need.

Question 3: "What next-generation technology would best suit our members?"

Audience is everything. If you serve a member base that's always on the move (military, air travel industry, etc.), why not include remote deposit capture and a smartphone app? If you serve a large area that's tough to reach on foot, more drive-thru ATMs make sense, don't they? Don't just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks...make an informed decision for the member.

Question 4: "Who's in charge?"

So often, technological advances and purcahses are made without clear goals in mind, or anyone to enforce them. Set expectations and meet them. It's not difficult and it means there's a person driving these endeavors from the inside. 

Final Thought

Did you ever hear the riddle about the frog in the well? 

A frog falls into a well, 20 feet deep. Every morning, he wakes up and hops three feet up the side of the well. Every evening, he falls asleep and slides back two feet. How many days does it take him to get out of the well? 

The answer: Considering he jumps three feet every day and falls two feet each night, it would take him eighteen days to get within three feet of the top. Then, on the nineteenth day, he'd jump three feet and clear the well. So simple it's complicated, right? 

Let's put a CU-spin on this. If a credit union gains ten members a month and loses nine by the end of the month, how long will it take that credit union to compete with Bank of America in terms of sheer numbers? 

The answer: You can't compete with BofA on locations. You can't compete on "number of members vs. number of customers". Their product offering is too abundant, their reach is too wide and too far. Where you can compete is on an emotional level -making a lasting impact on your member. You can also compete on member service. You can also compete on rates. You can even compete on technology...provided you're willing to make it happen. 

Start jumping.

May 12, 2011

Your Word-of-Mouth Litmus Test: Do You Make the Cut?


by Ron Daly 

Kelley Parks is what they had in mind when they came up with the idea of a "go-getter". Shortly after leaving Call FCU, she founded her own consultancy called gira{ph} (the pronunciation of which I've been corrected on multiple times - it's just "giraffe", like the animal, it's not a trick or anything). She's written some great articles and made some waves by talking about what, exactly, makes an initiative stand out for a credit union. Recently, in an issue of the CU Journal, she shared what she calls her "litmus test" for word-of-mouth. According to Kelley - 

  1. Is it engaging?
  2. Is it true?
  3. Is it relevant?
  4. Is it fresh?
  5. Is it memorable?

are the five questions you need to ask . If the program/plan you want to implement meets these criteria, you can bet they'll get people talking. 

Some great initiatives I've seen in recent years that meet these criteria: 

Shell Federal's iLife

Shell Federal in Deer Park, TX has a program to get people involved with the credit union. One of the programs they took on was Cell Phones for Soldiers, which provides cellular services for soldiers overseas. They collected a lot of prepaid cells and minute cards so soldiers could call home and they've engaged members in a way that's fun, relevant and lasting. 

Belvoir FCU Scavenger Hunt

Belvoir FCU in Woodbridge, VA teamed up with CodeGreen to create a web-based scavenger hunt. Members went to the site to browse through the pages and find the "slices of life" pie pieces - which increased viewership and time-on-site for Belvoir and far exceeded their marketing goals. I think this worked so well because A) everyone loves games and prizes, but more importantly because B) it makes the Internet feel like it used to - a fun place to browse around and discover. 

NARFE Premier's Onboarding Program

NARFE Premier FCU in Alexandria, VA started an on-boarding program that increased deposits by 24% and increased loans by 190%. More importantly, it cut their costs by 50% by year end. Why? Because the promotion highlighted all the points of Kelley's litmus test: 

  1. Engaging members that just came to the credit union
  2. True content, current rates, the values of the credit union on show
  3. Relevant to members because NARFE serves a niche community (retired federal employees and their families) and the content reflected their needs and concerns
  4. Fresh look (they'd recently rebranded after a merge) and fresh content (rate changes reflected month-to-month)
  5. Memorable because an on-boarding series sends an email every few days/each week/twice a  month to members to keep you top-of-mind on services. 

Do your plans and products cut the mustard? Ask yourself why or why not and then take Kelley's advice. 

April 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mobile Phones! What Do You Get for the Phone That Has Everything?


by Ron Daly 

This month marks the 38th anniversary of the first mobile phone call. Martin Cooper, a Motorola employee (below, photo via, stood on the street with a gigantic (by today's standards) cellular phone and had a conversation. And in 38 years, we've come a long, LONG way. 

Who-invented-the-cell-phone-worlds-first-cell-phone-220x293 The phones got smaller, they got more functionality, and they went from being a convenience to a "necessity". I'm not one of those people that sleeps with his phone under his pillow at night, but my iPhone is my GPS, my on-the-go email inbox, my research assistant and, occasionally, my phone. It's a businessperson's tool, and the thought of going back to waiting for all my "get it done" information is a little frightening. I'm not alone, obviously. From Kottke: 

Once someone has an iPhone, it is going to be tough to persuade them that they also need to spend money on and carry around a dedicated GPS device, point-and-shoot camera, or tape recorder unless they have an unusual need. But the real problem for other device manufacturers is that all of these iPhone features -- particularly the always-on internet connectivity; the email, HTTP, and SMS capabilities; and the GPS/location features -- can work in concert with each other to actually make better versions of the devices listed above. Like a GPS that automatically takes photos of where you are and posts them to a Flickr gallery or a video camera that'll email videos to your mom or a portable gaming machine with access to thousands of free games over your mobile's phone network. We tend to forget that the iPhone is still from the future in a way that most of the other devices on the list above aren't. It will take time for device makers to make up that difference.

When it comes to credit unions, mobile might be one of the next big mountains to climb. Many CUs aren't running a fully capable website right can they be expected to come up with a useful mobile app for a smart phone? And more importantly - how important will that be in a member's decision to stay or a potential member's decision to join? 

Some very insightful information on mobile apps and credit unions

Continue reading "Happy Birthday, Mobile Phones! What Do You Get for the Phone That Has Everything?" »