DENVER-Mobility, product differentiation-and Advil-will be key for credit unions in 2013, as they compete not just against the big banks, but also other CUs and new entrants into a changing payments landscape.

"We've seen the evolution of checking to checking with debit, then with online banking, then with online bill pay," said Bob Long, SVP of sales at Vantiv, a payment processing vendor. Long noted that those increased services help retain relationships, which in turn drives non-interest income-a crucial factor in the coming year, as interest rates are expected to remain at historic lows.

Mobile also continues to provide CUs with an opportunity for product differentiation and brand building, he said. "Mobility isn't just an application by which a credit union member can open or look at an account; it's an inflection point where it's a true mobile container concept, whereby it's driving (the credit union's) brand, their membership, into leveraging tools and services through that mobile phone device."

Long stressed that "having within that container the ability to direct market to that consumer" will be crucial in 2013.

The Vantiv executive also noted that the payments landscape is still shifting, particularly from a regulatory perspective, and he stressed the importance of vendor partners to help CUs navigate that space. Long didn't offer any specific projections on how the regulatory picture might shift-"The crystal ball is still pretty grey from my perspective," he said-but he predicted that FIs won't likely see anything in 2013 on the same scale as the Durbin Amendment.

Long had one other recommendation for credit unions in 2013: "Buy a large bottle of Advil and prepare for what's to come."

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