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A Digital-First Banking Playbook for Credit Unions

Douglas Brown, President of Digital Banking, NCR Voyix

NCR Voyix

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Persisting inflation, high interest rates and regulatory scrutiny have put immense pressure on credit unions. These factors have also significantly impacted consumers and businesses. Increasingly, they need strong financial partners that will provide the personalized experiences, guidance and tools they need, where and when they need them.

Credit unions need to be on a digital-first journey to stay competitive and relevant. They must understand, however, that digital-first does not mean digital-only. It means embracing digital-everywhere by infusing digital elements into physical touchpoints and creating a seamless experience across channels.

Here are six key areas of focus for building a digital-first credit union:

Make data actionable

Consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. But to do so, they need robust data analytics capabilities to identify trends, preferences and patterns.

Data is the dependency in every next step—whether that be a marketing strategy, cost reduction efforts or a deposit growth strategy. And for credit unions to make their data actionable is multi-faceted. First, they must ensure they can collect data related to their members’ behaviors across all channels and touchpoints—not just digital. Then, they must have a means to mine and analyze it. But they don’t always have the resources to do so from a technology or staffing standpoint.

Credit unions should be looking to their technology partners for assistance in all steps of the process. Having a comprehensive data strategy and the right tools in place will allow them to fully understand their members’ behaviors and preferences so they can make that data actionable and better serve them with personalized products and services. It will also help boost back-office efficiencies.

Personalize the experience through segmentation

Personalized experiences have become an expectation for consumers. However, experiences can’t be personalized without the thoughtful use of data.

Credit unions should segment their members based on age, income, behaviors and financial goals so they can target them with the right products, services and communications to help meet their specific needs.

Imagine if a credit union sent the exact auto loan offer to every member regardless of their credit score but rejected any applicant with a credit score below 700. Instead, they could segment members based on their credit scores and only present an auto loan offer to members with a credit score of 700 and above. And for those whose scores have fallen below the threshold for the offer, they might offer educational content to help them improve their score.

Improve account opening and onboarding

Everyone knows the old saying, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” This sentiment holds true in banking—especially regarding account opening.

Consumers expect to be able to open a new account in minutes, digitally. And if they can’t, they’ll likely abandon the process and go elsewhere. The account opening and onboarding process must be as simple and quick as possible—and fully digital. That means being able to open a new account in minutes with the option to enroll in digital banking immediately.

Provide financial management tools

With continuing economic uncertainty and the rising cost of living, consumers need their financial providers to deliver the tools and resources to help them manage their financial health.

Credit unions should keep taking steps to prioritize financial management, education and wellness tools for their members. This could include offering gamified content with education and tips for paying down debt or offering deeper assistance with automatic budgeting and transaction categorization tools. Even providing resources to help improve financial proficiency through digital tools such as credit score monitoring.

Digitize and optimize the branch

Branches remain vital for loyalty and growth. And they’re essential for more complex transactions. The credit unions investing in transforming their branches with technology and a community-first approach are positioning themselves as trusted advisors in their communities.

As credit unions optimize their physical footprints, providing remote assistance through Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) is an increasingly important way to offer members a digital-first, efficient self-service option. It also lowers the cost to serve. With ITMs, credit unions can assist members outside traditional 9-to-5 branch hours at times that better suit their members’ needs.

Likewise, integrating interactive and video capabilities into the branch experience enables credit unions to reach their members more cost-effectively. They should continue to weave these capabilities into the branch experience to extend their footprints and branch hours and create back-office efficiencies while still offering the personalized experience their members require.

Prioritize businesses, including gig workers

The gig economy continues to grow, and more Gen Zers than ever are looking to gig work. Credit unions have an opportunity to support these workers in their day-to-day operations by offering things like invoicing and payments, bookkeeping and financial reporting capabilities. They also have an opening to help educate and guide them in areas where they may be lacking direction or tools. Guiding them on alternatives to traditional retirement savings plans, which are no longer an option as they opt to become their own boss, for example, would allow them to continue saving for the future.

Additionally, businesses in general have unique needs for accessing cash and coin. Enabling them to pre-stage a transaction by preordering cash and coin for pickup at a locker at their convenience can help digitize the experience and make the end-to-end process more efficient. Digital-first experiences like this benefit the business and credit union, making the entire cash ecosystem more efficient.


Credit unions must invest in modern technology and embrace partnerships to remain competitive and enable better engagement across the banking ecosystem. Making these investments now will help position them for digital-first success in the long run.

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