Lauren Culp

The 21st-century credit union: Meet members where they are

Four conceptual models for tomorrow’s credit unions.

June 12, 2019

Lauren Culp, Filene Research Institute’s Cooperative Trust manager, described four 21st-century credit union models derived from research the Madison, Wis.-based “think and do” tank conducted.

She addressed the CUNA National Young Professionals Conference  Thursday in Madison, Wis.

The four models range in their mix of high- and low-touch interaction with members as well as their positioning as a single financial service provider or one of many financial service providers in consumers’ lives.

They are:

1. Relationship. Culp describes relationship banking as the “craft beer” of credit union models, one that is high-touch and personal. She says credit unions must have two layers of trust with members: Members  must not only trust the credit union’s mission and values, but also that the credit union will make their lives easier.

“They have to trust that you’re not going to shut down your debit card when you go overseas,” Culp says.

2. Ambient. This includes a deep relationship but less touch. Culp described it as “the Siri of credit unions.” The focus here is on an omnichannel or integrated experience that makes members’ lives easier and emphasizes convenience.

Access is channel agnostic and will not only be initiated through a screen. Instead, the interface will be wherever the member happens to be, making interactions with financial providers virtually seamless.

“It’s just another integrated part of your world that you don’t worry about,” Culp says.

3. Automated. This is a low-touch but personalized approach to banking. Automated banking makes efficient use of data analytics and makes personalized product selections for members, similar to a wine-of-the-month club, Culp suggests.

By automating such financial chores and building in added value for members, credit unions can place some of the more repetitive or confusing banking tasks out of sight and out of mind, freeing members up to concentrate on other activities.

4. Concierge. This is a high-touch but platform-based approach, Culp says, where typically the credit union is one of many providers in the member’s financial life.

For example, a member might want to improve his or her credit score and start investing but isn’t sure whom to trust. The credit union can help the member navigate these challenges.

Culp says it’s unlikely that any credit union will serve any single one of these models. “As you think about where you strategy going forward, you can think which model works best for your membership.”  

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