Coronavirus continues to dominate front page news and headlines as many of us are struggling to adapt to new conditions and situations. With the increasing societal pressure and government regulations to remain home, businesses are needing to find alternative routes to conduct their operations. Restaurants have become take-out only, depending on the lure of free delivery and cooperating delivery apps to make a profit.
Not immune to these difficulties, credit unions across the country are shutting their teller lines down and moving to drive thru and online only. This has inspired credit unions to look towards new technologies and avenues to continue serving their members.
As fintech company POPi/o’s CEO Gene Pranger noted, “Financial institutions are faced with the challenge of keeping their branch staff safe from possible contagions, and are searching for methods of safely providing branch banking services. Likewise, consumers across the country fear going out and visiting public facilities. Unfortunately, the fear hits at a time when consumers most need access to professionals at financial institutions to secure lines of credit, access savings, and perform other urgent needs.”
To help support financial institutions and their members, fintech companies across the country are offering their services for free or at reduced rates. Three such companies are video teller platform, POPi/o, and Credit Union Services Organizations (CUSO), eDOC Innovations and CU*Answers.
POPi/o will be offering 10,000 free video banking licenses to support financial institutions during the COVID-19 crisis for 6o days. Using this service, credit unions can engage in a face-to-face discussion with members and complete any transaction on mobile devices, desktop/mobile computers, or in-branch solutions. Branch representatives can either be centralized or work from a remote location. This means that even with closed branches, tellers can serve members while still adhering to social distancing policies.
In March, eDOC Innovations announced that they would offer a subscription to its basic level eSign solution, eDOCSignature®, free of charge for all credit unions not currently utilizing the platform. “Credit unions and their members will still need carry out transactions in a quick, efficient, and secure manner,” said Mark Fierro, CEO of eDOC Innovations. “As a CUSO with an e-sign solution, eDOC wants to help these credit unions safely facilitate transactions from any remote location where members can access their email.”
Also joining the fight to support credit unions, CU*Answers has created free marketing campaigns for credit unions to notify their members that they’re open while also providing a discount on all their marketing products. In addition, they’ve begun a reeducation campaign to help credit unions with setting up fee waivers, skip payments, and other measures to help members, while also providing credit unions with analysis and reports on their cash activity and online/mobile banking usage.
The support of these three companies will not only allow credit unions to stay in communication with their members but better serve them during this time.
A helping hand during the crisis
“CU*Answers, like every other organization nationwide, is figuring out how to keep teams and families safe while balancing keeping the business viable,” said CEO Randy Karnes. “But we also have to remember that our credit union clients and owners are also in the middle of their own planning, figuring it out one step at a time. We have to find ways to support them in keeping their operations running and their teams safe so they can in turn provide that same kind of support to their members. That’s the cooperative difference.”
As we all wade into unfamiliar waters, it’s inspiring to know that even non-cooperative companies are leaning into the guiding principles to support each other and their communities.
When asked what inspired his company to take action Pranger responded, “POPi/o has a tool to alleviate some of the concerns raised by consumers and financial institutions with the coronavirus, so we feel we have an obligation to provide our service to as many people as possible to protect their financial security and well-being. In short, we want to protect communities throughout the United States, and during this time, financial institutions are a critical part of our society.”
Pranger went on to say, “The cause of humanity is always greater than solely focusing on sales revenue. We implore all companies to help and assist in any way that they can during this crisis.”
Around one hundred fintech companies are aligning themselves with those beliefs, taking great action to make their services available by offering them for free or at a discounted rate. These companies range from AI assistants to cybersecurity and digital support. Some will even offer conveniences for your members, such as easy applications for mortgage assistance. If you’re interested in seeing a full list of opportunities available to your credit union, Forbes has a running list of all such services on their site.
As fintechs responds to the needs of credit unions and other financial institutions, credit unions are in turn called to use these new tools to offer improved and special services to help keep their members afloat. CUSO Magazine’s Esteban Camargo provides a nice reminder to credit unions that this is not the first time the industry has seen a similar situation, and we need to be rising to the challenge as essential institutions.
Looking to the future
Knowing credit unions and members are getting the support they need is comforting, but this situation may also affect how the industry operates in the future. Of course, business continuity plans will be more thoroughly updated to include such pandemics as this, but it also may shift our way of thinking when it comes to mobile and online banking.
Debates on the viability of brick and mortar branches and what future they have in the industry are not new, but this required shift to completely digital banking and the intervention of fintech companies will serve to prove whether or not we actually need brick and mortar locations. As more and more credit unions and members turn to new technologies and discover the conveniences they offer, there’s an increased chance that they will want to continue using these virtual services, even as things shift back to the norm.
And the norm will return in time. As far off as it may seem, a coronavirus-free news day will come, and we will all be allowed out of our houses once more. For now, credit unions can take comfort in the standards they’re setting for other industries, and that in the event something of this nature comes around again, we will be prepared to face it and have the support of our partners, vendors, and fellow credit unions.