The Art and Science of Digitizing Human Channels to Promote Financial Wellness

Guest editorial by Douglas Brown, President, NCR Digital Banking

In the face of inflation and economic uncertainty, members are seeking how to do more with their money which presents a significant opportunity for financial institutions. Credit unions’ dedication to service and the mass amount of member data they have makes them the ideal trusted partner to step up and help members during times of economic turbulence. Doing this effectively requires strategically leveraging data to humanize digital channels, providing pertinent tools and information at the right time – which is both an art and a science.

The Science: Discerning the Right Data

Douglas Brown

Credit unions capture data from transactions every day, but strategically using that information has historically been difficult due to legacy data siloes. As a result, the view of member relationships and situations is often fragmented and incomplete. To solve for these pain points, credit unions are increasingly moving their data to the cloud and embracing a shared data model that extends beyond disparate channels. Such shifts allow for a more comprehensive view of member data to make better decisions in real-time.

It's not just about gathering the data but analyzing it effectively. Correctly interpreting data has become more difficult as the traditional milestone model of engaging members quickly grows obsolete. Credit unions have historically relied upon propensity models, searching for key life indicators for when members are about to meet or embark upon major life milestones, such as buying a car, buying a house, starting a family, etc. However, there is now a larger variety of circumstances in which people are achieving or pursuing these steps; it’s not as time-based or linear as it used to be.

Instead, credit unions must be able to analyze member relationship data to identify tell indicators. It’s critical to start early to identify signs to inform the member about the relevant opportunities they have within the credit union. And simply informing isn’t enough – outreach is most effective when information circles back to the full financial picture, helping the member understand how their decisions impact their overall financial health. Credit unions are beginning to leverage data to predict future patterns and behaviors instead of looking in the rearview, which is a strong step in the right direction.

The Art: Presenting the Right Offers in the Right Channels

To cut through the deafening noise, credit unions must have a more concerted effort around reaching members where they are with targeted marketing. For example, right now there are Tik Tok influencers who claim to be ultimate cryptocurrency experts, and many members are blindly following their advice. This is dangerous because the majority of these influencers lack any solid credentials or training. However, because they show up where members are via trending social channels, they are seen and believed.

To compete and break through the clutter, it’s time to engage in more creative outreach across different delivery channels, including social media. For example, one best practice is to create champions, launching campaigns that highlight members who have benefitted from the credit union’s financial health tools and programs. After all, sharing examples and letting the member speak for themselves is what social media is all about.

And outreach is just half the battle; the offers and communication themselves have to be meaningful and deliver value. Savvy credit unions are starting to offer education via a curriculum model, often through a digital format. The most successful programs have structure, with pre-established topics such as mortgages, auto loans, automated bookkeeping, etc. Members should be incentivized as well. For example, if they complete the program they receive some sort of recognition, whether that be a certification or reward points.

Another example of beneficial outreach is when a credit union detects that a member is engaging in problematic habits, such as investing too heavily in crypto or overindulging in Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) type services. Alerting members of potentially negative consequences before they happen is extremely valued and appreciated by the members. Reaching out to guide members, sharing alternative and often better ways to do things, can go a long way in strengthening relationships.

Credit unions are striving to figure out the delicate balance between art and science when it comes to effectively digitizing human channels to help members improve their overall financial wellness. Between the cloud, APIs and modern platforms, there is more opportunity around the science portion than ever before. However, credit unions must challenge themselves with the art, delivering offers and engaging in a genuine way that drive meaningful success without being “creepy”. Those that master the art and the science will be strongly positioned to grow and bolster member relationships, no matter what external market conditions look like.

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