Financial institutions could drain the vault investing in technology improvements. With finite budgets and a wide array of pain points and initiatives to support with technology, how do executives decide which receives budget dollars?
It can help know what peers have done.
The Financial Brand talked with a bank, a credit union, and a fintech about their chosen investment. Here are their opportunities and challenges and what they learned using technology to tackle them.
Lone Star Credit Union: Empowering Employees
For Lone Star Credit Union in Dallas, Texas, upgrades to employee engagement were a strategic priority.
“We believe if you have an engaged employee, you have an engaged member, and that leads to growth,” Marcy Phillips, president and chief executive of the credit union, tells The Financial Brand. “When you add in technology, they can help the members with their financial success.”
“We believe if you have an engaged employee, you have an engaged member, and that leads to growth.”
— Marcy Phillips, Lone Star CU
The credit union recently remodeled its home office and brought a heap of new technology into the branch, such as cash recyclers from Kinective to eliminate teller boxes and an ITM for self-service transactions. “We’re using that [technology] to empower our employees to be more advanced and consultative,” says Phillips.
Because the credit union has added new technology, employees can elevate to new roles in the organization. For instance, some staff are training to become certified financial counselors, according to Phillips. “They’re going to be able to give back more to our members,” she says, “they can spend more time with our members. They don’t have to worry about the teller line because there isn’t one.”
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Lone Star added the same tech to a new branch opened in July 2023. Members at that location were new to the credit union overall, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “They love and enjoy it because they don’t have to wait,” says Phillips. “And [employees] get to make more decisions. They’re looking at members’ accounts, seeing what members are doing, and helping them solve their problems.”
As she looks to the future, Phillips says the credit union will continue prioritizing upgrades that support employees, such as AI, to help the call center and fraud controls for online account opening.
“When you’re looking at a new piece of technology, we can all think it’s wonderful, and then an employee can say, ‘You know, that’s not going to be good for us,” Phillips says. “You have to bring in your team, talk to your team, and get their buy-in — even from the lowest level — anytime you bring in anything new.”
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Mahalo Banking: Making Products Accessible and Inclusive
Mahalo Banking is a mobile and online banking partner for credit unions. The fintech redesigned its platform in 2023 to include features to accommodate neurodiverse abilities and cognitive distinctions, such as dyslexia and visual sensitivity.
“Not every member has the same needs as every other member,” says Brittany Gonzales, VP of Operations at Mahalo Banking. “So how do we feed that down and make [the product] customizable for them?”
The company began research to address different challenges members might encounter interacting with its app. Features were added, like colorblind mode and left-handed mode, that Mahalo Banking felt could make the app more accessible and usable.
“We asked, ‘Are we hitting as many neurodivergent users as possible? And is there stuff we need to be mindful of and earmark for the future?” says Gonzales. “Once we started digging in, we found that a lot of the technology overlapped, and we could reuse other methods we were implementing.”
Mahalo focuses on upfront conversations and speaking with experts to focus its expenditure. Additionally, the company rolled out a version of the app to some of its credit union clients and asked for feedback from employees who would benefit from the features. Gonzales says the lefthand mode, in particular, was more popular than her team had anticipated.
“It’s changed how we approach things in general,” she continues. “We are more forward-thinking. We need to get involved with the people using it. We’re now saying, ‘Here’s this idea. What would you like to see in it? How would this impact you?’” Member feedback was collected via email and surveys.
Arvest Bank: Streamlining Processes and Platforms
Arvest Bank has been redefining “what it means to be a community-focused bank in a digital world,” says Tarin Pitman, contact center senior director at the $27 billion bank. Based in Bentonville, Ark., Arvest wanted to resolve experiential or operational issues within its contact centers.
“We performed a gap assessment, and the indicators were that our technology was not going to serve our vision,” says Pitman. “The sheer volume of interactions across our contact centers presented an immense opportunity for improvement at scale.”
“The biggest lesson learned is that strategy must be defined upfront to maintain stakeholder alignment with the transformation objectives and desired business outcomes.”
— Tarin Pitman, Arvest Bank
The bank implemented a new solution, eliminating the need for agents to log into multiple systems to answer calls. That small practicality aided in migrating its twenty-five different call centers, each serving a unique line of business. “At the centers that have migrated, staff have even enjoyed the new interface and experience,” says Pitman. “The phased approach has allowed us to perform retrospectives into how we needed to adjust our implementation model.”
The new technology will give Arvest Bank advanced analytics and process automation. Some of the bank’s key focus areas have been standardizing contact center data and performance indicators. “We have speech analytics with this new program,” says Pitman excitedly. “We had a program to send a post-call survey to gauge customer experience. Our new technology will be listening to every single one of our calls, and it will glean insights for us.”
Pitman adds that Arvest Bank is not stopping with a single technology upgrade within its call centers. A future state includes more self-service options, including a knowledge base and possibly AI. The bank has a multi-year strategic roadmap. “The biggest lesson learned is that strategy must be defined upfront,” she adds, “to maintain stakeholder alignment with the transformation objectives and desired business outcomes.”
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Find the Right Fit with Technology
Lone Star Credit Union and Arvest Bank noted that infrastructure is critical to technology upgrades. Arvest’s technology priorities could only be resolved by prioritizing migration from an on-premises contact center platform to a cloud-based solution.
There’s more technology on the market than there is technology that’s right for a credit union’s field of membership and employees, Phillips observes.
“We can’t just throw in a new piece of technology without looking at the past,” she says. “Make sure you know what you have and how you can implement going forward.”