The Expensive Side of Efficiency ::: Trying New Things

I know what you’re thinking.

Finally, marketing is doing what they do best: spending money. You’re absolutely right, I’m a marketer to the bone, and I believe with all my heart that any money made was predicated on money that was spent speculatively. In other words, “You gotta spend money to make money, baby!” However, I am in love with the idea of money spent to save money down the road. That’s what we’ve tried to accomplish in the past year.

We’ve begun to reach a point of peak profitability though, and subsequently have been forced to make decisions about where and how we want to grow. After all, that’s what you do when your business is successful, right? So we’re considering several alternatives, all in the name of efficiency, and all representing significant monetary investments:

  • Online Account Opening (OAO): we’ve seen the trend for quite some time, and with a tremendous market shift toward credit unions in the wake of the Durbin Amendment passing legislation, we believe it’s time to make ourselves as “available” as possible. With the technology that is readily available to us, we can automate the switch kit process and not only open new checking accounts, but also fund them and integrate directly with the core.
  • Branch technology investments: our sales culture is increasingly moving toward a back-office style, with online loan and deposit accounts originating on the online channel. The natural progression is for our branches to become a mix of optimum efficiency for traffic flow on the transaction-side, and engagement resources for knowledge-sharing during the shopping process. Such changes may include an iPad bar, touchscreen directories with brochures on-demand, and online banking kiosks that may take deposits.
  • Core processor conversion: for some time now we’ve operated under an antiquated core processor, and we have a laundry list of unachievable goals under the current system. Although a tremendously expensive proposition, and possibly the most daunting task to undertake, we believe now is the time to realize our full potential. Not only will the change speed our account-opening process (which is currently lengthier than the industry standard), but it will also allow us to automate many processes that have previously been unnecessarily tedious.

Many folks will say that any of these projects is inherently anti-credit union. Some even on our staff! They may wax flippantly that “if it ain’t broke, why go fixing it?” Do we absolutely need to be able to open accounts in the online channel? Is branch interactivity actually adding value to the member? Are people really going to notice if we save them five minutes during the account process? I suppose that my answer to all of those questions would be a giant resounding YES!!!

From where I sit, our success both as individual credit unions and as a collective (cooperative) movement depends largely on our ability to step outside of the “granddad’s savings-and-loan, post-office” style of doing business. If that involves significant expense, so be it. Many of us have the ability to move in a very nimble fashion, and we have to capitalize on it. Try new things! Don’t avoid an innovative idea simply because the cost is high. In the immortal words of my Operations Management college professor, “Do something, even if it’s wrong. At least you will be able to say you did something.”

Josh