The future belongs to credit unions that remain true to their roots while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to growing consumer demand, says Teresa Freeborn, president/CEO at $950 million asset Xceed Financial Credit Union in El Segundo, Calif.
Digitization, for example, will continue to define the very fabric of financial services, says Freeborn. Financial services in the future will be “digital, mobile, 24/7, and instant,” she says. “I’m talking payments, transfers, loans, statements, member queries, reporting—all of it.”
Expect payments to lead the way in the shift to digital.
“I fully expect cash and checks to fall by the wayside in favor of fast, simple, and secure digital payments,” Freeborn says. “There are a lot of competitors fighting it out right now. While I won’t guess which will prevail, I suspect there won’t be just one winner. Consumers will continue to want options and choice.”
At the same time, the credit union movement will continue to consolidate, with surviving institutions providing services wherever and whenever members want them. Credit unions that succeed will be nimble and willing to collaborate, providing on-demand services in a fluid and competitive marketplace, she says.
“Sure, technology-driven changes to financial services present huge challenges to credit unions, but they also offer tremendous opportunity,” Freeborn says.
“Once everything is digital, we can truly play in the same space as giant financial institutions—and our smaller size is actually an advantage. At Xceed, we make it a priority to be nimble and clever. We believe we can continue to compete by shifting how we deliver financial services and how we configure our products and services to meet and even anticipate member needs.”
At the same time, credit unions must remain true to their principles.
“I expect the banks will continue to try to squeeze every penny they can out of their customers, so we’ll continue to stand out for our advocacy on behalf of our members and our genuine commitment to their financial well-being,” Freeborn says. “In this time of decreasing consumer trust in societal institutions, the value of consumers’ perceptions of credit unions as more trustworthy than banks is another factor that simply can’t be overstated.”
Success in the future, she says, will require credit union leaders to be:
►Engaged with the industry, their teams, and consumers so they’re not caught off-guard by the next big thing.
►Creative, so they can identify ways to benefit from change and bring out the best in their people.
►Flexible and strong enough to make the difficult changes that will allow their credit unions to survive and thrive.