By Roy Urrico
POPi/o Mobile Video Cloud, which specializes in video-enabled solutions, announced a record year of milestones and successes for 2020, as financial institutions continued to embrace video banking services in response to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.
At the beginning of the pandemic, POP/io — which provides a comprehensive mobile, web and in-branch video banking software solution using two-way communication and collaboration tools such as screen sharing and document signing — allocated 10,000 free video seat licenses to help financial institutions. It allowed banking customers to stay safe and maintain web-based face-to-face connections.
“Since the emergence of a global pandemic, video banking has been truly put to the test—and has proven itself 100 times over,” said Gene Pranger, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy, Utah-based POPi/o. “The virtual branch is no longer a futuristic technology, but one that has stepped up to the plate and is playing a critical part in keeping financial institutions and consumers connected.”
In 2020, POPi/o’s customer base of credit unions and banks grew over 130%. Two credit unions, the $545 million Metairie, La.-based Xplore Federal Credit Union and the $2.7 billion Mount Pleasant, Wis.-based Educators Credit Union, both received boosts from POPi/o in 2020 and have now made video banking part of their overall strategy.
Some other recent credit union implementations included Michigan State University Federal Credit Union ($5.5 billion, East Lansing, Mich.), America First Credit Union ($14.4 billion, Riverdale, Utah) Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union ($3.2 billion, Saint Paul, Minn.), American Heritage Credit Union ($3.4 billion, Philadelphia) and Tyndall Federal Credit Union ($1.8 billion, Panama City, Fla.).
Xplore Fast Track’s Rollout
“It took us about four months from implementation to roll out,” said Rafael Rondon, president and CEO of Xplore Federal Credit Union, about the introduction of Xplore Away video banking in August, 2020. He added that the credit union saw video banking as a future development and was already vetting solutions. But when the pandemic happened, the Xplore board decide to move quicker.
Said Rondon, “It was extremely helpful because the moment that we implemented [Xplore Away], members could basically do 100% of the branch transactions (with the exception of actually getting physical cash) from the comfort of their home, without getting exposed. It really took care of that concern to the membership.”
Members could access the video branch by using their mobile devices or computers, or at an Xplore branch equipped with the video call hardware. By the end of June (2020), Xplore had a 60% increase in the number of accounts opened versus January 2020. Overall, new account openings, as of January 2021, increased 50% compared to pre-POPi/o. Additionally, 49% of all the funded loans now come through Xplore Away video banking.
Rondon noted that during the earlier pandemic days, members completed a larger concentration of their video banking transactions by either desktop or mobile devices. “However, as the pandemic comfort level has increased and people are getting vaccinated, we seem to be getting a higher utilization of our Xplore Away video banking at the branch.” At the end of January, 67% of Xplore Away transactions took place at the credit union’s branch locations.
POPi/o works with Xplore’s other platforms as well. Rondon said, “Our employees type the information on our core system and through the integration with POPi/o we're able to convert those into electronic e-signature documents to share with the member. Members are able to instantly review the documents, make changes, and if they approve it, electronically sign those documents.” Xplore then manually transfers those documents. “We are in the process of integrating those systems so that POPi/o is able to automatically transfer those documents from their server to our document storage servers.”
Rondon also pointed out, “POPi/o video technology has reduced transaction times by over 50%, especially in those complicated transactions.” In addition, Xplore Away stations allow the credit union to stretch coverage regardless of specific branch staffing. The credit union estimates video banking reduced lost business opportunities due to branch wait time by over 70%.
Video banking also created significant reductions in operational costs by 50% and branch staffing by 20%. “I was just able to replace a branch for a smaller footprint branch that is fully operating under video banking (POPi/o),” said Rondon.
One thing that really helped the credit union, according to Rondon, was approaching the addition of video banking as a team building and morale enhancing event. Even naming the video-banking app “Xplore Away” came as the result of an internal staff competition.
“The ease of use has been huge, but also the ability that it gives members, the flexibility to really bank when and how they want is so valuable to us. It has made a huge difference,” Rondon said.
Educators Learns the Value of Face-to-Face Transactions
For Educators Credit Union, video banking started out as project to solve a potential service problem for a new branch (opened during the first week of March, 2020) in Mukwonago, Wis., about a 40-minute drive from its headquarters. They initially looked for a solution that would complement some of their specialty products, such as mortgage origination, investment services or vehicle loan originations.
“We really wanted to be able to offer those services at this outlier branch and not have to have those representatives drive all the way out to that branch,” said Kimberly Schmidt, vice president of digital services at Educators. Consequently, the credit union’s first use of POPi/o video banking was part of a “branch of the future” design concept. “We had a cute little robot that greeted our members and checked them in. And then we had these kiosks for these specialty services.”
Then came the pandemic and social-distancing precautions. Educators had already sent its employees home to work remotely when POPi/o contacted the credit union about a video-banking solution that could be up and running on their website in a few weeks. This enabled Educators to plug in video banking around the beginning of May 2020 with a few lines of code and a button on their homepage, where it has remained.
“The day we went live we had a handful of agents ready to go. A couple of them worked on our ITM solution (NCR self-service kiosks) before, so they were used to being on camera,” Schmidt said. She explained the credit union did not know how members would react so they decided on a soft rollout to test the technology.
The number of video calls was a pleasant surprise as was members’ reactions. “We put it on the website, did absolutely no marketing. The first day we had 12 calls,” Schmidt recalled. She said they could see the enthusiasm on those members faces for those first few calls where they could see a person. “In some cases, it was a branch person that they knew. It was just good to see those that we were making those connections. They were excited to see us,” Schmidt exclaimed.
Initially, Educators offered video banking two days a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As the quarantine continued, the credit union settled in with their WeCU (pronounced “we see you”) Video Banking. They expanded the hours of operation to Monday through Saturday, and added a few extra employees.
Because reps could work remotely, Educators was able to hire back two employees that coincidently had moved to the Atlanta area for other jobs. “They were let go when the pandemic started; they were looking for work. They work as agents on our Educators WeCU Video Banking platform now.”
The credit union expanded its WeCU hours as more members used the video option. Educators added another video banking kiosk, aside from the aforementioned Mukwonago site, at a small branch located inside a hospital. Schmidt said besides doing almost any transaction or services such account openings, members can also schedule appointments with a mortgage lender using WeCU. “Instead of the member coming into the branch to meet, they just meet virtually by video. POPi/o has the ability for us to have them sign disclosures baked right in, so that's kind of the advantage versus just using a Zoom call.”
To date, Educators has seen many members receive help through WeCU. “Those first few months of the pandemic were probably the lowest numbers that we've ever seen regarding members joining the credit union,” Schmidt said. But after the first few months there was a bounce back. “Between our online channel and WeCU we were right back to opening our average number of new accounts per month.”
Right now, Educators uses POPi/o as a standalone system. Schmidt said, “Because we implemented it so quickly, we didn't have a lot of time to say, ‘Okay, what are we going to tie this into?’” They do it have it tied nicely to their Temenos loan origination system and IMM eSign for loan documents. “We have a pretty slick solution where it just takes all of the documents and then pushes them to POPi/o. I see that as a little bit of a differentiator, because we can package those documents very easily and push them to the member.”
POPi/o Helps FIs
POPi/o’s video banking call volume increased over 283% in 2020. Pranger, who created the personalized interactive video ATM experience around 2005 with uGenius video (purchased by NCR in 2012), pointed out a year ago POPi/o counted some 2,500 video production calls per week. “We are getting close to doing 10,000-12,000 video production calls per week now. I suspect a year from now, we'll be doing well over a million-video production calls every year.”
Video banking also helps level the playing field for community-based financial institutions. POPi/o client analytics showed:
· Eighty percent of video calls related to new account opening or lending opportunities.
· A 51% reduction in monthly lending expenses.
· Twenty percent of visits outside 9-5 banking hours, and 11% on weekend sessions.
· An 80% average loan volume increase per centralized employee.
· A 96% positivity rating across all clients and all call types.
In 2020, POPi/o unveiled POPwelcome, a plug-in, which allows website visitors to initiate text chat and real-time calls; and saw approval of the platform’s ninth patent, which protects systems utilizing multi-pane video in connection with check deposit.
From a technology standpoint, financial institutions can embed POPi/o into an existing mobile app or online system or use it as a standalone video app. “One solution is not better than the other,” Pranger proposed. “What we're advocating for today is to make sure that we're strategically set up correctly for the way the financial institution wants to best deploy the unit.”