Anthony Jenkins, former group CEO of Britain’s biggest bank, Barclays, predicts a future wherein financial technology, led by innovations such as blockchain, will severely disrupt the current banking system. The former executive predicts those employed in banking institutions will be reduced by at least 20 percent in the coming decade, if not up to as much as 50 percent.
Sure, there will be losers in the digital revolution, but we would argue that the most forward-looking credit unions will not only survive the disruption; they will thrive and prosper. Credit unions have major advantages over fintech disruptors. They have a large member base and own extremely valuable data on their members. Credit unions that prevail in the fintech race will transfer the majority of their members to their own digital banking services. Instead of being a provider of infrastructure and product, they will be at the heart of the customer relationship in a secure digital environment. They will not force members to use their own apps, but will offer them customized ways to engage with the credit union on their own terms.
What this means for members is that they are not forced to use the digital credit union solution. Instead, credit union technology will be able to interact with fintech innovators. Reality is, young startups will always be faster to market with new ways to innovate. Credit unions should not try to match the speed and innovation mindset of those upstarts. Instead, credit unions should collaborate and partner with startups to bring new services to their members.
Fintech is a highly dynamic sector and nobody really knows where the next payment system and Bitcoin 2.0 will come from. Many of these ideas are exciting, but the majority of them will fail. The solutions that will make it are the ones that makes people’s lives better. Credit unions need to think outside of their financial expertise to create new solutions. Members trust them with their money and data. Are there other ways that valuables can be safely stored with credit unions? What about personal data, even medical data? Biometrics? There are endless options for credit unions to connect with their members, combining financial solutions with new digital offers. The future is unknown. Credit unions need to create it.