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There is no doubt 2021 has offered up a heavy dose of uncertainty as the COVID pandemic continues to alter the way we work, live, and connect with others going into 2022. Let’s take a look back on 2021 and attempt to put another challenging year in perspective while zeroing in on what credit unions can expect from digital banking and a growing consumer base going into the new year.

There are no limits on access to financial technology 

The development of financial growth and the equal distribution is merely one path forward to a better financial future for lower-income individuals across the United States. Instead of limiting the effectiveness of financial tools or even the bare minimum of financial wellness strategies to a privileged few, we now have the capability to democratize access to financial services to individuals of all income levels who need them, especially lower-income individuals and communities. 

However, it’s not simply a matter of financial inclusion policies and initiatives heading into 2022. It’s also about offering members the wealth management tools, opportunities in investment, and the flexibility to learn and participate in newer economic environments and structures for managing and growing their money. 

From the growth of digital lending fintech, 2021 has seen strong interest from our nation’s financial institutions. The ease of opening up a new financial services account and other burgeoning financial service options are making it easier than ever to borrow, save, and invest. Such technologies are also lowering barriers like skyrocketing fees and more accessible means to affordable loans like the QCash mobile small dollar lending platform. 

From digital transformation to engagement in 2022

When it comes to a financial industry and culture where everything is changing – especially in the world of credit, fintech, and particularly COVID – the industry adapts quickly. Let’s not get it twisted. Before the pandemic came barging in, digital transformation was well on its way to changing financial services, long-term. COVID simply threw some nitro into the financial service industry’s collective engine.

Due to the acceleration of change paired with the general public’s adaptation to online presences and companies like Amazon, Netflix, and various social media channels, this pace of change has increased expectation for how consumers can expect their credit union to interact with them. In order to both maintain and attract new members, credit unions will not only need to increase their digital transformation assets (if they haven’t already), they will need to increase their digital engagement in 2022. 

Members and consumers at large will have increasing expectations that all questions, inquiries, or specific issues will be solved online, regardless of complexity. When did the member last call customer service? Access their account online? Made a payment online? Looked up a specific transaction? For any number of reasons, they will have an expectation that their credit union will use this data to enable them to best use their financial accounts and the institution’s products and services.

Digital transformation has been top of mind for a while now, according to Callahan and Associates, and modernizing processes is key to making them easier, more efficient, and more accessible for members and members-to-be. Lessening member friction is essential, particularly as consumer demand for convenience in the digital space increases by the year and in as few clicks as necessary.

Photo: Juliane Liebermann | Unsplash

Is your credit union consistently keeping an eye on the future?

The importance of always keeping an eye towards the future of consumer expectations and offering better member experience than is being currently offered should be the goal of any credit union. Members today are always noticing and desiring an experience that is easy, quick, and security-conscious. Most of all, however, they want access and control available at the tips of their fingers. 

By the day, it seems, consumers are increasingly making choices and decisions about their financial institutions based on their mobile and digital banking accessibility. Research by Citizens Bank found that 40 percent of consumers say digital banking assets are the most important factors in making decisions about their financial institutions, while only 27 percent said the convenience of physical branches are most important. Such findings place fintech in an advantageous position to partner with credit unions and increase opportunity through financial inclusion and wellness around the United States. 

Many traditional financial institutions – and many of whom are slow to come around – have found it a difficult transition to create a digital banking experience that necessitates a completely new mindset for taking advantage of contemporary fintech partners and artificial intelligence processes. According to Insider Intelligence and reported by The Financial Brand, 87 percent of U.S. adult digital banking users claim mobile is the primary way they access their checking accounts. The more consumers access their mobile devices to catch up on their finances, one can conclude user experience becomes more important. Therefore, the competition between different kinds of financial institutions intensifies. Partnering with fintech is an easier, more economically convenient answer for credit unions to separate themselves from their competition.

What consumers can expect from mobile banking and fintech in 2022

Winning that battle for the mobile banking consumer in the new year entails credit unions pinpointing those features that deliver the most essential financial tools. Is your credit union consistently maintaining a watchful eye on coming improvements and innovations? Because tomorrow’s potential members are coming your way and you want to be prepared to impress! 

According to the research performed by Insider Intelligence, security features took the top three most valued features in mobile banking. Security determines how dependable and trustworthy users feel about their financial institution’s digital banking channels. An interesting finding showed those age groups that valued security and control higher than any other were respondents aged 18-24, rather than older consumers. 

Mobile notifications and financial account management claimed the next two categories, counting transfers, digital money management, and customer service filling out the top of the list. Another interesting insight involved how compelling the differences lie in various demographics rated the same categories and how financial institutions were able to follow through on those customer service experiences and overall expectations. Out of both concern and opportunity, of all the categories counted, the top 10 financial institutions achieved the best in the categories of “alerts” and the worst in “security and control” and “digital money management.” 

By and large, financial institutions have fallen short of the necessities of the mobile and overall digital banking experience, which incorporates the challenge of solving for the simplification and speed of routine activities on any given institution’s platform. The days of basic alert notifications and access to customer service are over. These features have become elementary in raising the game for mobile banking supremacy and drawing the attention of today’s mobile consumer.