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  • Writer's pictureRoy Urrico

CU Uses Remote Digital Upgrade, Self-Service to Help Members During Pandemic

Courtesy: Allegacy FCU

By Roy Urrico

In a very challenging 2020, the $1.8 billion, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Allegacy Federal Credit Union successfully completed a virtual core conversion and a major digital upgrade.

In the second of two articles about this transformation, we focus on how Atlanta-based fintech provider NCR Corp. — whose offerings include digital banking platforms, interactive and automatic teller machines (ITMs and ATMs), point-of-sale terminals and check processing systems — helped the credit union’s continuing digital transformation and growing use of self-service technology. Both capabilities played vital roles in Allegacy’s ability to assist members during the pandemic.

Like with its core change, Allegacy’s digital renovation featured a mock conversion and live implementation completed despite unprecedented restrictions. “NCR provided Allegacy an incredible support team that worked with us remotely,” Ashley Kohlrus, chief operations officer, at Allegacy, said.

“The pandemic has greatly affected the timing and method of upgrades and conversions at credit unions such as Allegacy,” said Doug Brown, SVP and general manager, NCR Digital Banking, which serves some 315 credit unions. “They're a classic example. They did a full core conversion, a relaunch of digital adding digital business banking. And they had to do it under a (COVID-19) mandate and do it virtually.”

Going Digital

Ashley Kohlrus, Allegacy FCU

Allegacy’s changeover took place Memorial Day weekend with the new core and digital systems switched on May 26th. Since going live, the credit union has seen significant increases in members adopting digital. But their growth is no accident. “Allegacy has collaborated with NCR for many years and NCR continued to build upon our relationship and enhance its strategic partnership with us,” Kohlrus said.

The credit union launched additional features to enhance its digital offerings:

1. External loan payments giving members the ability to pay on their Allegacy loans from another financial institution via ACH, or their debit cards and ACH.

2. Credit card integration enabling members to see their transaction history via online and mobile banking without having to go to another website.

3. Promotion Suite Premium, which provides Allegacy with advanced marketing tools through push notification and geolocation messaging to members.

4. Single sign on capabilities, which allowed the credit union to roll out Instant Open, Allegacy’s online account opening for deposit and loans.

5. Experience groups, which give the credit union more flexibility in the features and services offered to members. “In the future it will give us the ability to customize the look, feel and services for target segments,” Kohlrus said.

Kohlrus suggested NCR’s current services and strategic road map align well with Allegacy’s digital growth vision. “We are also hoping to take advantage of NCR’s innovation process and team to further drive some of our strategic initiatives as we continue to build upon our mission of helping our members make smart financial choices and improving our members’ overall wellbeing.”

In the near future, Allegacy expects to deploy additional enhanced features and functionality:

· Card controls, which will provide members with the ability to temporarily turn off, report and cancel their Visa credit cards if misplaced, lost or stolen.

· Mobile personal financial management, which will empower members to manage their total financial situation, including outside accounts from their phone.

· Business online and mobile banking with a full suite of services for Allegacy’s business members that includes wire transfers, ACH, Positive Pay and other features.

Kohlrus said, “NCR continues to be a leader with new features and functionality, which helps us deliver on our members ever-changing digital expectations set by Amazon, Google and others.”

Pandemic Response

The new Allegacy digital platform helped members specifically, and the credit union overall, throughout the pandemic. “COVID-19 has accelerated consumer adoption of digital services, creating an urgency for additional digital transformation,” Kohlrus said. “Our new features and functionality that we have implemented, and will be rolling out, will meet some of these additional consumer expectations,” explained Kohlrus. “We saw an initial huge spike in adoption and in usage when the pandemic first hit our area.”

Doug Brown, NCR Digital Banking

Brown explained, “We've seen the number of new registrants to digital banking, across age demographics that don't normally trend up on a slope line and things like mobile check deposit up 28%, in some cases.”

Kohlrus said, “We expect our adoption to continue to increase with our digital services as new features and functionality are introduced. We also solicit and get regular feedback from our members. It gives us the ability to further enhance our digital services.” The credit union’s popular mobile banking app, which consistently receives strong reviews from members, rates 4.8 out of five stars.

Allegacy adapted to the new pandemic normal in other ways. Kohlrus explained initially they shifted most of the credit union’s transactions to its drive-thrus, ITMs (which include live video tellers), and online and mobile banking, which included account opening and lending capabilities using DocuSign. Allegacy, she noted, made appointments only when absolutely necessary.

Kohlrus added, “The financial center, contact center and e-services teams further embraced our Digital Advocate program by remotely guiding our members on how to use our digital services, from downloading our mobile app through providing step-by-step guidance on how to use our mobile deposit and ITMs.”

Allegacy also ramped up its marketing and member digital services communication to create additional awareness and guidance. This included social media posts, how-to videos, electronic brochures and even a digital services mailer. The credit union also observed an increase in chat volumes through online and mobile banking.

Once the financial centers implemented full COVID-19 protection protocols and gear, such as ongoing cleaning, sneeze guards, social distancing signage, mask requirements and capacity management, they opened their lobbies to walk-in traffic.

Help! I Need Somebody

Brown pointed out as the pandemic response evolved, NCR saw a dramatic urgency for more remote and self-service capabilities. “We have seen online and mobile banking spiking at peak periods up to 250%. We actually saw ITM utilization in certain credit unions going up in the 700-900% range of interactions.” At times this increased usage of those self-service channels came because drive ups were so crowded, it forced people to find alternative channels like ITMs. “Once they got there and they understood how it worked, how easy it was to interact and use the video collaboration or the interactive teller platform, that proved quite successful.”

Brown also indicated the video capability helps members who still need to connect with a person for advice, coaching and counseling. “Video has become an important way to go about doing that in socially distanced banking model and a mechanism that allows for flexibility of the workforce.”

Brown noted the demand by members combined with the credit unions’ necessity to deploy more machines, reconfigure and transform some of their physical space, and respond to the economic impact of the pandemic, ignited an aggressive acceleration behind these self-service capabilities. “It went from being the a top five want, to a top one or two things need, in a matter of months.”

Brown also pointed out. “We're helping a lot of credit unions and community banks amplify that servicing capability. We think it is going to be here to stay, too. This is not like a one shot (deal); (once) the crisis has passed.”

Moving on Self-Service and More

Even before the outbreak occurred, Brown observed the increased emphasis of a self-service strategy at credit unions. He explained some very large credit unions like the $6.1 billion, Huntsville, Ala.-based Redstone Credit Union deployed ITMs in its fleet to help this expanded servicing model.

NCR sees credit unions in particular having continued interest in digital interactions facilitated with a live interaction model. “Video has also been now demonstrated and proven beyond a doubt its ability to do things like scheduling appointments and interactions with members. That has become really important.”

In addition, there is a bigger shift to services such as digital onboarding for new member relationships and account openings, Brown maintained. “There's a human side of this that has got to be delivered when you can't rely on the member center or branch.”

Brown noted NCR and the Allegacy staff did not slow down on completing their respective digital enhancement agendas on schedule. “That kind of represents the theme that we saw from the credit union community. This perseverance, ‘let us help members, with all hands on deck (approach).’” That extended to helping members negotiate the complicated PPP loan processing, and extension of payment options on current loans and mortgages.

In separate announcements, NCR recently reported its release of its hardware-independent ATM software platform, which makes it easier to offer new digital services through the ATM; and collaboration with Microsoft to power NCR Digital Connected Services to run on top of Azure IoT artificial intelligence technology.


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