Improve the member experience in an instant

Instant issuance of payment cards is one key component of building the branch of the future.

October 7, 2017

The only thing moving faster than technology today is consumer expectations—and financial services consumers have come to demand the same captivating, engaging, and real-time experiences that technology has enabled in many other facets of their lives.

For the brick and mortar credit union, even in a digital world, the traditional branch remains resilient—albeit undergoing an evolution to adjust to this new normal.

Fiserv consumer research shows that branches remain relevant to all generations—even those tech-savvy millennials. According to the Fiserv Expectations & Experiences quarterly consumer research, 44% of respondents cite the branch as their preferred method for standard daily transactions.

Clearly, consumers covet a brick-and-mortar experience that blends the human touch with technology, and one that fits seamlessly into the way they live and manage their money.

Instant issuance of payment cards is one key component of building the branch of the future. When members’ debit cards are lost or stolen, it simply isn’t feasible for them to put their lives on hold for seven to 10 days while they wait for a new card in the mail. They still have bills to pay, essential goods to buy, and travel plans to book.

The end-game for credit unions is to provide an easy and convenient way for new and existing members to have access to their funds without delay.

Instant card issuance rises to that challenge, as branch staff can instantly issue and activate cards for financial institution cardholders—including EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) chip cards—with wireless technology. Millennials are among those most likely to get a debit card at their branch, according to 2016 Fiserv Insights: Consumer Preferences and Documents Delivery.

However, creating awareness is critical as research also showed that 44% of respondents didn’t know some financial institutions can print cards in branches. The same proportion said the availability of instant issuance would influence their choice of financial institution.

As instant issue grows, credit unions who don’t offer this convenience may find that members gravitate to competitors who do.

Case Study: First Alliance Credit Union

First Alliance Credit Union has a strong commitment to the southeastern Minnesota community it’s served almost 85 years. The $171 million asset credit union considers its staff and members to be family, and, as the digital evolution gathers pace, wanted to ensure it continued to serve its multi-generational membership in a way that crystalizes that bond.

Offering instant card issuance has been a differentiator for First Alliance and its member-centric approach.  Since offering instant issue, First Alliance has seen a triple-digit increase in membership for each of the past 18 months, with the average age of membership shifting from 49 to 42 years old and the average age of new members starting at 36.

First Alliance is meeting those members in an “I want it now” world by providing instant issue.

There’s integration into the processing system, which significantly reduces entry errors, and First Alliance is able to offer a real-time solution with the “wow” factor of tablet technology. Instant issue has also helped the credit union reduce rush orders for new cards, reducing costs in the process.

Win-win for CUs & members

In-person interactions still matter to members of all generations, and when credit unions can put activated cards in their members’ hands immediately, it’s a step towards bridging a surprisingly large gap between the number of cards in circulation and those that have actually been activated.

The U.S. market’s active debit card rate has held steady between 65% and 68% for the past several years, according to multiple industry analysts.

Fiserv research underscores the gap between when people receive their cards and when they activate them. Sixty-three percent of respondents activated their debit card the day it arrived, 22%activated it within a week, and 9% took a month or longer.

Of those who took longer than a week, 79% said they either waited until they needed the card or forgot to activate it.

Instant issue is a win-win situation for credit unions and their members—not only does personal service enable a credit union to reap the benefits and evolve their branches, it also provides members with the fast, convenient, and secure experience they have come to expect.

Human contact is invaluable to cross-selling other products and services tailored to a member’s specific needs, or to have the opportunity to give an in-person walkthrough of how to use new EMV chip cards, for example.

Even in this digitally enabled world, the physical branch is not going away. Rather, the role of the branch is changing to embrace the "anytime, anywhere, I want it now" mentality of a technology-driven world.

Instant card issuance is a service that members will increasingly come to expect, and with activated cards put in their hands it will encourage immediate use while building satisfaction and revenue for the institution.

Add in wireless technology that allows a teller with a tablet to meet the cardholder in the lobby to provide a personal experience and the branch is transformed.

SHARON PAZLAR is director, output solutions, for Fiserv.