Creates a Communications Fintech Serving Over 400 Credit Unions
By Roy Urrico
In early June, Eltropy, which delivers artificial intelligence (AI)-powered messaging solutions, announced its acquisition of POPi/o, which specializes in video-enabled solutions. Finopotamus connected with Eltropy Co-Founder and CEO Ashish Garg to learn what the new combined entity means for credit unions going forward.
“During the pandemic, credit unions faced the twin challenges of finding new ways to connect with their members remotely while continuing to streamline in-branch services. By joining forces with POPi/o, we are empowering credit unions to build robust virtual branch capabilities and serve members anytime, anywhere, in the channel of their choice,” said Garg. “Our world-class digital communications platform helps credit unions deliver on the promise of digital transformation — improving online and in-branch experiences for members and allowing for more rapid expansion in new markets without the need for a physical presence.”
Eltropy anticipates its recent acquisition will lead to a unified integrated communication platform for credit unions reinforced by POPi/o’s video banking and contact center technology. Eltropy now offers credit unions a single platform for automated, AI-driven text messaging, video banking, and secure chat, as well as chatbots, co-browsing, live observe, and screen sharing capabilities as well as electronic verification, notarization and signing capabilities, and video check deposits.
POPi/o Founder and Chair Gene Pranger, who created the personalized interactive video ATM experience in 2005 with uGenius video (purchased by NCR in 2012), said of the acquisition: "Throughout my career, I have been focused on the consumer experience while creating enormous value to financial institutions. Through the merger of POPi/o's video banking and Eltropy's sophisticated digital communications platform, we will be able to fulfill both objectives. Now your members will enjoy seamless communication that will help them find the financial answers and solutions they need while making you the most productive FI in the markets you serve. I would invite every credit union senior management team to learn more about this game-changing opportunity.”
In announcing the purchase of Sandy, Utah-based POPi/o in early June, the Milpitas, Calif.-based Eltropy also noted it now supports over 430 credit unions with the tools needed to meet members where they are, whether in branch or online. “We are the fastest growing fintech serving the credit union movement,” said Garg.
Tremendous Growth Among CUs in Less Than Five Years
Garg noted Eltropy started serving the credit union industry in early 2018 by providing text messaging technology. In 2019, CUNA Strategic Services (CSS) named Eltropy the Best Text Messaging Solution for Credit Unions. “In June 2019, we had only nine credit unions on our platform and then comes the pandemic out of nowhere and our company made tremendous progress.” Eltropy grew to 200 credit union customers in a matter of two and a half years. “Part of the reason was that because of the pandemic credit unions had to figure out how to remotely communicate with their members and text messaging is the most effective medium that does that.”
Eltropy recognizes that text messaging is not the only medium members use to communicate nowadays. In addition to video banking there are voice calls, chat, and AI. While members seek multiple communication methods, credit unions have to increase the range of interaction options through multiple vendors and solutions. Explained Garg, “This is where the light bulb went on in my head. Credit unions will need to support all different kinds of communication mediums, but not through many platforms, most likely through a single platform. And that is what led to the acquisition of POPi/o.”
Eltropy expects its new digital communications platform to enable credit unions with end-to-end virtual branch capabilities, helping them build connections and deliver on the personalized service members expect. Credit unions can use the platform to seamlessly connect members with staff at any branch — from opening an account, to originating loans, or getting instant service.
Garg outlined what he sees as three levels of integration corresponding to the unification of Eltropy and POPi/o:
1. Integrating the platforms. Garg noted as communication channels grow member service representatives suddenly have too many screens to get the job done. “The first thing we embarked upon is a journey to provide a singular user interface.”
2. Merging the service teams. Said Garg, “We believe that by merging those teams, we can provide even better service to credit unions.”
3. Establishing a go-to market strategy. “There is a lot of work going on right now in just combining our marketing and sales teams so we can take what we are building to many more credit unions,” added Garg.
Eltropy provides its customers with several options. They can buy communication technology such as text messaging, video banking, chat or AI solution, a la carte. However, the key factor in the approach credit unions takes is how it views future communication with members, suggests Garg. “Even if it is in a branch or members at their home or somewhere else, if you truly believe that digital is going to be the way of the future, then what a lot of credit unions are looking for is a single platform where everything sort of comes together. We have that integrated solution.”
In addition to integrating the various levels of communication channels such as voice, video, text, chat and artificial intelligence, Garg noted Eltropy must also blend with existing systems including lending, collection and payment systems; and help the credit union establish use cases for the different departments serving the organization. “So, the call center team, the lending team, the collections team, the branch staff, human resources team, everybody can live together.”
Industry veteran Pranger, who Garg described as “my guiding light” has stepped back from a fully operational role in the combined entity but has joined the Eltropy board of directors. In addition, Jed Taylor, pre-merger CEO of POPi/o Video Banking will continue in the collective entity, according to Garg, and take on a “very active role in our company.”
Garg noted at least 20 credit unions already use both Eltropy and POPi/o separately and several are already engaged in conversations about combining everything into one system. Among them: the $8.6 billion Idaho Central Credit Union, a state-chartered financial institution in Chubbuck, Idaho, and the $3.9 billion Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union based in St. Paul, Minn.
“Eltropy and POPi/o joining forces creates a tremendous opportunity for the credit union industry, positioning credit unions to leverage this best of class digital communications platform to streamline the way they engage with and serve their members,” said Barb Lowman, president of CUNA Strategic Services (CSS), in the announcement of the acquisition. “This path forward not only positions credit unions to drive operating efficiencies and attract and retain profitable members, it improves the member experience and makes credit unions an even more attractive alternative to banks.”