Another Thought On Technology's Effect On Branches

It was just a decade ago that about one-in-10 interactions in branches at banks and credit unions revolved around resolving a customer/member's problem. A missing payment. Lost credit card. PIN is a pain.

Now, that ratio has changed drastically, according to one person, and it has a bearing on how branches should be staffed.

"Today it's one in four," said Jay Freeman, a senior advisor at the Gallup Group. "It's not that there are fewer problems, it's that more trivial things have moved to other channels, such as mobile."

For credit unions the discussion around branching frequently has to do with reducing costs and the overall branch "footprint." Freeman says the issue instead really is about giving the foot to some of the people working in those branches. "Think about what this means from a staffing perspective," he said during last week's BAI Retail Delivery Conference in Denver. "(Staff) has to have a propensity to interact with customers and be highly motivated to be an advocate on behalf of those customers."

Other notes from that BAI meeting, as well as the California/Nevada leagues' annual meeting a week earlier in San Francisco:

Three Accelerating Trends

Brian Bailey, VP-marketing and strategy, Financial Line of Business with NCR Financial Solutions, told BAI his company is focused on productivity and in particular on three trends it projects will accelerate over the next three to five years. "Those trends include mega-connectivity combined with real-time video; assisted service, which is the combination of personal and digital interaction, and a whole new trend in payments and e-commerce," he said.

How has the recession affected Nevada's CUs? It's getting easier to take roll call. There are now just 18 CUs in the Silver State, down from 23 in 2010. Of those, 13 belong to the state league.

A fundraising effort related to International Credit Union Day that began with four California credit unions in 2012 is seeking to go nationwide. Themed "Create Miracles with Your Card," the campaign (which began with California CU, SkyOne, Wescom, and Xceed) donates 25 cents for every debit and credit transaction on International CU Day to Children's Miracle Network. In 2012 the four CUs raised $34,000. This year 21 California CUs participated, and with 19 reporting their numbers $150,000 was raised, plus another $25,000 from CO-OP Financial Services as part of the Miracle Match program. California/Nevada leagues' President Diana Dykstra said the goal now is to take the fundraising nationally. After Walmart and Costco, credit unions are the third-largest fundraisers for CMN.

Dykstra pressed a common theme in remarks at the California/Nevada leagues' meeting, which was the need for a common theme-in this case, CUNA's "Unite For Good." She stated several times that 7,000 CUs in the U.S. are telling 7,000 different stories, and further pointed to the 78-million Gen Y consumers and the 68-million unbanked and underbanked (there is overlap between the two groups) as in dire need of hearing that common story. "If you read everything about (Gen Y) they are looking for something different in financial services, and credit unions are it. We need to share that message with them."

In 2014, a number of state leagues that are owners in League Infosite, including California/Nevada, will be rolling out a new program called ComplySite that aims to alert CUs to regs that are on their way and what needs to be done to get ready. It will include a dashboard providing an overview of each CU's state of compliance.

For those who sometimes don't get the "Mutual" part of the name, Bob Trunzo, EVP with CUNA Mutual Group, reminded folks at the California/Nevada meeting the company has provided $39 million in support to the state leagues. It has also made a $500,000 contribution to DontTaxMyCreditUnion.org, and provided tech support.

Another Point of View

I used this space recently to point out that all the attention, money and time being expended to fighting any loss of the CU taxation flies in the face of one little thing: there is no real threat in Congress to revoke it. So in the interest of fairness, here's CUNA CEO Bill Cheney's response to that position.

"It's easy for people to look at the dysfunction in Washington and say 'We're going to be OK. They can't do other things, how in the world are they going to reform the tax code?' But we know that Congress is working on comprehensive tax reform. They are working on drafts of legislation and we've heard they are getting close in Ways & Means on releasing drafts of legislation some time this fall. It's very important that credit unions are protected even in those drafts. Sometimes people ask, 'Have we moved too early?' I don't think so. I think we engage in this fight today. I'd much rather explain why we engaged too early rather than why we didn't engage soon enough."

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at frank.diekmann@sourcemedia.com.