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Around this time last year, the digital transformation frenzy in the financial services industry reached a fever pitch. From the largest banking operations to the smallest local credit unions, the goal was to create a fully functional digital branch that empowered customers and members to engage with their financial services providers anywhere, anytime. This goal partially emerged out of necessity—a direct result of closed bank and credit union lobbies during the height of the pandemic. It has since turned into a critical differentiator as digital banking catches momentum.

Yet, many traditional financial institutions haven’t moved nearly as fast as they would have hoped in accomplishing their 2021 digital transformation goals. Of those who launched digital initiatives in 2021, only 46% believe that they are at least halfway done with their transformation. A mere 11% believe they are 75% of the way done; and just 3% of financial institutions would say they are “almost” done.

What is holding financial institutions back?

For starters, this problem is driven by legacy infrastructure. Except for the largest banking operations, most credit unions and smaller banks lack the expertise, bandwidth, and time to manage and innovate an increasingly complex ecosystem. As a result, financial institutions that continue to operate using on-prem solutions lack the agility of their cloud-based peers in adopting and integrating many of the tools that define the new digital branch revolution—like video banking, mobile deposits, and other convenient services.

From a digital transformation perspective, this harsh reality makes cloud migration a critical first step to start implementing modern multichannel strategies. Cloud-based platforms offer the API-enabled flexibility and ongoing feature innovation to add and grow capabilities quickly.

Still on the fence about a cloud migration for your credit union? Let's dispel some of the myths about cloud-based contact center solutions.

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However, developing a cloud-based strategy that provides access to the new engagement channels customers and members seek is only the first half of the digital transformation journey. To fully realize a digital branch vision, the second wave of the digital banking revolution in 2022 will focus on turning “can do” into “can do—seamlessly.

Elevating multichannel capabilities to unified omnichannel experiences

As financial institutions and their customers settle into their new digital-first relationship, the quality of each banking experience will become a primary differentiator. For credit unions that have staked their identity on superior member experiences, this second wave of transformation will become especially critical.

Let’s take a look at three initiatives that will take center stage during the digital transformation’s second wave:

Seamless member authentication: This first initiative stems from the complexity associated with securing digital interactions. Fraud prevention is a necessary part of any digital branch strategy, but it doesn’t have to lead to unnecessary user friction. Introducing two-factor authentication and additional biometric and user tracking applications behind the scenes can help streamline these cumbersome authentication steps—while simultaneously increasing security and fraud prevention.

More informed agent handoffs: As conversational AI and the “chatbot” continue to become a useful automated capability to help direct member traffic through digital channels, the handoff between chatbot and agent becomes a highly critical touchpoint in the member journey. In many cases, it can feel like the member is starting all over—re-answering the same questions, re-verifying account information, and wasting time in the process. Simple feature extensions that share conversation history with the agent and automatically pull up member information at the beginning of an interaction can help support the handoff process and leave members feeling understood and cared for.

Personalized member messaging: With greater access to data and data-sharing between channels, credit unions also have a unique opportunity to double down on personalization. Finding ways to trigger automated messages that speak to each member’s unique financial life stage across channels can help strengthen the bond between a member and your brand. More importantly, it can help support members through those financial life stages by providing next steps, reference materials, and helpful reminders to keep each member on track. Think about how you can bring greater personalization to agent interactions, automated email marketing messages, and even during call waiting.

How SmartApps simplifies omnichannel deployment lead times for credit unions

SmartApps is a full-feature app suite that can help credit unions extend their current capabilities and connect multichannel tools into a unified member journey. The suite consists of multiple applications that work together with core technologies to expand and improve the channels credit unions stood up as a part of their initial digital transformation. More importantly, it helps credit unions move fast—unlocking omnichannel experiences quickly and safely.

Here are a few capabilities that directly address the initiatives at the center of the second wave of digital transformation:

  • Omnichannel Engagement: Unify, standardize, and streamline the authentication process across channels.
  • User Efficiency: Streamlined authentication saves your members time and allows your agents to be more efficient.
  • Fraud Prevention: Reduce fraud and identify risks with agent alerts and management reporting tools.
  • Accessible Self-Service: On-demand banking empowers your members to interact with your business 24/7. Plus, it saves your agents time.

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Omnichannel member experiences have rapidly moved from a nice-to-have competitive advantage to table stakes in the race to retain members. Standing up a cloud-based, multichannel core for member interaction is an important first step, but it doesn’t go far enough to create the intuitive, helpful experiences members expect. As we move through 2022 and beyond, making progress at the margins of your digital branch capabilities will help replicate the high-touch, in-person credit union experiences members know and love.

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