Tectonic shifts are taking place in the financial services sector as technology-enabled innovations continue to change how customers do business. In this evolving landscape, the community banks and credit unions that understand how to adapt stand the best chance of success. Those that fail to innovate risk irrelevance, or worse, failure.
This was the message delivered by technology strategist, Bevil Wooding, who gave the keynote address to a recent gathering of top executives and leaders of credit unions from the Caribbean, North America, and other international markets. Wooding spoke about the impact of disruptive technology on the customer service experience at a special chief executive officer’s (CEO) roundtable hosted by the Caribbean Credit Union Managers Association, as part of the 2019 World credit union conference help in The Bahamas.
“Credit unions have always prioritized superior customer service, in part to distinguish their experience from traditional banks. However, credit union members’ expectations of what is a superior customer service experience are changing rapidly. However, the technology is improving quickly, and many community banks and credit unions are struggling to keep up with changing expectations of customers and the reality of competition in the digital age.”
Wooding, who also serves as a technology advisor to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, acknowledged that digital disruption can be an intimidating prospect for credit unions in the Caribbean and around the world. “It is a topic CEOs and senior leaders know they should be thinking about but aren’t always sure where to start. In fact, some credit union executive teams and boards are content with the status quo. Meanwhile, for others, the sheer pace of technology-driven change can induce paralysis, or even panic.”
Wooding believes that because of the vital role community banks and credit unions play, particularly, in small and emerging markets, even if the initial cost of technological innovation may seem high, the price of drifting into irrelevance and obsolescence is even higher, not just for credit unions, but for their members and the local communities they service. Such disruption poses real challenges but creates unique opportunities for credit unions, he said. “The members-as-owners model positions credit unions to leverage technology to tailor personalized financial services to their customers. It can also create new opportunities to empower members and increase their positive impact on local communities.”
Wooding believes there is time, and great incentive, for credit unions to get their digital act in order. “Many credit union executives are fully aware that the world of financial services delivery is changing dramatically. But often they still lack the tools, techniques, and criteria for identifying and assessing potential disruptions,” he said.
He encouraged the executives to develop a digital transformation strategy, focusing on customer service differentiators, including self-service options, mobile payments, account management, and more forward-thinking support for small and micro-businesses: “Navigating today’s changing social and economic landscape demands that credit union leaders carefully examine their current state, chart a customer-service oriented path to the future, and appropriately invest in their staff and their member communities to execute. The credit unions that take these steps will have the best opportunity to leverage technology to innovate. More importantly, they will also have the best chance of survival and success in the age of digital disruption.”