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February 23, 2021

How Leading Credit Unions are Changing to Meet Evolving Consumer Needs

Find out how leading credit unions are developing digital strategies to meet the needs of their members.

How might credit unions develop a digital strategy to meet the needs of their members?

Despite the fact that no one really likes change, it continues to be a constant factor in everything we do in the home finance industry. Much of the change we’re dealing with today is being driven by consumers as they work to cope with the continuing health challenges presented by the pandemic. In the process, the industry is seeing increased technology adoption, both on the part of industry players and the borrowers we serve.

To find out why, I called on three longstanding Mortgage Cadence clients, all of whom were recently recognized by Forbes magazine in its 2020 list of America’s Best Credit Unions. (P.S. Check out part 1 and part 2 of my interview.)

Only 3.5% of all credit unions in the country make the list. Among this year’s best are GESA Credit Union(originally servicing General Electric employees), Richland, Washington; BECU (originally formed in 1935 to support The Boeing Company), Seattle, Washington; and BCU (chartered originally as Baxter Credit Union in 1995), Vernon Hills, Illinois.

The changes leaders are making now

When I spoke to executives at these firms, a familiar topic kept coming up.

“Credit unions must allocate a huge part of their budget to digital,” said Randy Wacker, Vice-President of Mortgage Lending at GESA. “They should already be doing this. We must ride the horse that is looking ahead, not looking back.”

Unfortunately, Wacker says that too many industry veterans may be focusing more on their retirements than learning about the new demands consumers are placing on the industry. Lorraine Stewart, Senior Vice-President at BECU, agreed.

“Society is digital. We expect things ‘now’ not 5 minutes from now,” Stewart said. She pointed to Amazon with it’s same day/next day delivery and Netflix with movies on demand. “We can’t be any different.”

Failure to meet the consumer’s demand for a digital experience will be costly, Stewart says, and the price will be paid in member trust.

“After the financial crisis, people left their banks and went to credit unions because our institutions appeared more trustworthy. We don’t fail,” Stewart said. “But the trust factor is narrowing between banks and credit unions as banks build back that trust.”

The result is that credit unions are going digital to meet member expectations. But as Herbert O. Behrens, Vice-President of Mortgage Lending at BCU, points out, technology doesn’t mean people are taken out of the equation.

“The people part of the business is an enhancement to the technology,” he said. “With technology comes complexity, even when it does its job. We’re seeing a far more engaged member now because they have been empowered by technology. As member demands grow, we must be ready to deliver a high-touch, personal experience.”

Today’s leading credit union executives are ready for this challenge. As Benson Porter, President & CEO at BECU, put it: “Credit unions need to change the way they conduct business to deliver the value consumers are coming to expect. By taking the credit union ‘people helping people’ approach, you can deliver that exceptional experience digitally.”

By Cate Dalton, EVP Customer Advocacy at Mortgage Cadence

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Media Contacts

Mortgage Cadence:
Megan Martin
EVP, Marketing
(516) 480-6765