2022 Tekkie Award for Marketing: 4Front Credit Union
By W.B. King
Recognizing the need for progressive financial literacy programs that could benefit its 97,000-plus members, 4Front Credit Union began investigating related solutions a few years ago. But to Senior Vice President Zach Eychaner’s surprise, there weren’t many options.
“We began looking for a solution in 2019 and did not find another comparable vendor to include in our assessment. Meeting with Kathleen Craig and learning about her passion to make a difference was in lock-step with how 4Front wants to improve our members’ financial lives,” Eychaner said. “Using technology to level the playing field for all people and empower them to be more financially independent.”
Craig is the Founder and Chief Operation Officer of the Ann Arbor, Mich. -based Plinqit. The company, which counts more than 25 credit union as clients, offers an automated savings, intelligent content, peer comparison, and virtual account management solution.
“Our team collaborates with each and every client to advise on best practices to drive member engagement and ensure strong adoption of the platform,” Craig said. “We strive to be more than a vendor, but rather a partner to our clients.”
What initially stood out to Eychaner and his team was how closely 4Front Credit Union’s and Plinqit’s values aligned.
“Whenever we work with a fintech for any solution, we want to get an understanding of the founder/CEO or whoever is driving the direction of the company,” he said. “We have had great success when we align ourselves with companies that share our passion for financial empowerment and demonstrate that in their product and strategy.”
Quick and Easy Integration
For the $900 million Traverse City, Mich.-based 4Front Credit Union, which supports 15 branches, rolling the solution out to membership took approximately one month from contract signing, Eychaner said.
“We did some internal review of branding, but the solution was very intuitive and easy to use. Coordination of internal training took longer than technical implementation,” he noted. “Integration was quick and easy. There was very little lift on our back office.”
Craig further explained that 4Front Credit Union members can now access Plinqit with a single sign-on through the credit union’s digital banking platform, which, she added, makes it “easy and convenient” for members to take advantage of Plinqit’s features.
“This is possible because Plinqit integrates with most major digital banking platforms, including Jack Henry’s Banno Digital Platform [4Front Credit Union uses Q2 for digital banking],” Craig continued. “As a result, credit unions using Banno and other digital banking platforms can easily embed Plinqit’s savings tools and financial education content into their online and mobile banking platforms, giving members seamless access to personalized resources that support their financial wellness.”
Establishing Healthy Financial Habits
To ensure the credit union’s employees were well-versed in the offering, the Plinqit solution was launch in 2020 during an all staff training day to “create excitement” as well as explain program details, Eychaner noted.
“Members and employees are responding well and continue to create new goals as they achieve their initial goals,” he said. “This provides us with confidence that we have provided a viable solution that meets their needs. He added that the solution is an “engaging, easy-to-use” platform.
Craig added that Plinqit assisted 4Front Credit Union with an educational email campaign that coincided with the launch to ensure “strong adoption of the platform” among membership.
“The app employs the right amount of friction to encourage savings without creating barriers for those encountering unplanned expenses, while pursuing their savings goals,” Eychaner offered. “By expanding our digital offerings to include Plinqit, we can continue to empower members through innovative financial tools.”
To date, more than 1,344 members are actively engaging with Plinqit’s tools, demonstrating a “strong interest” in establishing healthy financial habits, Eychaner said. “We are already up to $897,000 saved and 799 financial education courses have been completed.”
Regarding the financial literacy component of the platform, Eychaner explained that Plinqit’s approach is unique.
“It’s the only platform of its kind that pays users for engaging with content through its patent- pending Build Skills platform,” he said. “As a result, 4Front’s members can grow their knowledge of finances by simply watching a video or reading an article from the Plinqit library, then taking a short quiz and receiving a reward [e.g., small deposit in their account or $5 for referring a friend] for learning more about financial wellness.”
Those Who Know, Plan
In Craig’s view, one of the reasons financial literacy adoption rates are increasing is due, in part, to inflation sitting at a 40-year high, which is causing consumers across the nation to focus more closely on monies coming in and monies going out.
“Given the current economic environment, it’s more important than ever for credit unions to implement financial wellness and educational programs that help their members make smarter financial decisions,” she said. “After all, evidence shows that financially savvy people are more likely to plan, save, and have less debt. People with greater financial literacy also tend to be more resilient in the face of economic downturns. Credit unions recognize this and many, like 4Front Credit Union, are taking action.”
Financial education, Eychaner offered, is a foundational building block at 4Front Credit Union helping members become successful by promoting long-term financial wellness.
“By prioritizing financial literacy and rolling out Plinqit, 4Front has given its members the opportunity to grow their savings and their knowledge of personal finances,” he said. “This demonstrates 4Front’s unwavering commitment to promoting positive financial health for members and the community they serve.”
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