John San Filippo
2021 Tekkie Award for Core Integration: Meridian Credit Union
By John San Filippo
Meridian Credit Union is the largest credit union in the province of Ontario and the second largest in Canada. The institution operates as a full-service credit union in Ontario under the Meridian name and also offers a nationwide digital-only brand called motusbank. In total, the credit union has about CA $27B in assets and serves more than 400,000 members.
“We have a sizeable development team,” Jack Brudzynski, the credit union’s senior manager of digital banking, told Finopotamus. “We build just about everything in-house. Of course, we partner with various fintechs, but it’s our responsibility to make sure everything integrates seamlessly into our member experience.” When it comes to mobile, he said the credit union’s credo is “single app, single experience.”
Such was the case with Price Drop, a free, automated service that allows members to take advantage of price-matching/low-price guarantee opportunities on products they’ve already purchased using a Meridian payment card.
“Our technology roadmap has at least 100 items, so we need to prioritize according to what really delivers on our brand promise,” said Brudzynski. “Like credit unions in the U.S., we’re competing with big banks, so we need to really differentiate ourselves.”
According to Brudzynski, the “aha moment” for Price Drop came during a discussion at one of his team’s regular brainstorming sessions. One of his senior developers happened to mention that he had just bought a bottle of Weed B-Gon at a local hardware store, only to discover the same product for a lower price elsewhere. The team sensed that there was an opportunity in this experience.
“We put a lot of effort into encouraging members to save better and provide a wide range of tools to help members do that,” said Brudzynski. “In Price Drop we saw an opportunity to help members spend better.” He added that Price Drop quickly moved to top-5 status on the technology roadmap.
Brudzynski’s team identified a technology partner, PriceRazzi, that provided the needed functionality. Working closely with PriceRazzi, Meridian built a proof of concept, which was successful. After that, the team built a full-blown prototype that was baked into the credit union’s mobile app and released to a beta group of members.
“The feedback from the beta group was 99.5% positive,” said Brudzynski. “In fact, some members told us Price Drop might be enough incentive to make Meridian their primary financial institution.” He added that member acceptance was equally positive with the full release.
How It Works
The Price Drop process is both simple and familiar. Price Drop automates the refund process in three easy steps:
• After making a purchase, the member simply snaps a photo of the receipt of the item (if bought in-store) or forwards a digital receipt to Price Drop via email (if bought online). The in-store option uses a similar interface and the same rails as a remote check deposit.
• Price Drop then searches for better prices on electronics, furniture, toys, apparel, and other eligible items from price-matching retailers. Price Drop uses optical character recognition to parse the data and identify any potential savings opportunities.
• Price Drop sends an email or in-app notification if it finds a better price. It will also provide proof required to claim the difference in cost from the retailer, or for many online retailers, submit the refund request automatically for the member.
For online purchases, depending on the merchant, the credit union can often claim the Price Drop savings on behalf of the member and credit the funds directly to the member’s account. Brudzynski said that the average savings per Price Drop transaction is about CA $20, but he saw one member who saved CA $500 on a television.
“We want Price Drop to become habitual,” said Brudzynski. “To that end, we created key integration to our core platform.”
That core integration comes in the form of real-time transaction monitoring, coupled with real-time in-app notifications. As soon as a purchase transaction hits the core, the Price Drop system determines whether there’s a potential match with participating vendors. If there is a match, Price Drop sends an instant notification to the member reminding them to submit their receipt. In some instances, the member might receive that notification before they’ve even exited the checkout line.
By the end of 2020, one in every five mobile users had subscribed to the service. This far exceeded Meridian’s initial year-one projections by nearly a factor of three. Moreover, Price Drop has been a significant factor in acquiring new members despite limited external marketing. In addition, Meridian started to see some very desirable behaviors within only a few months of launching the service.
Engagement, as measured by logins per month from members subscribed to Price Drop, was 123% higher than members who hadn’t subscribed to Price Drop. Debit card usage was also double the amount over non-Price Drop users. Perhaps most notable, disposable savings from subscribed members increased by 56% versus no change in savings from members who hadn’t subscribed over the same 12-month period.
“We’ve already helped members reclaim tens of thousands of dollars through Price Drop,” said Brudzynski. “What’s more, we’ve been able to deliver on our brand promise of helping members live better lives.” That’s a win for everyone.