Tools: Check. What About Vision?

Bright new solutions to everyday financial issues are popping up everywhere – particularly in the realm of mobile technology. Consumers are increasingly game to try new innovations. At the same time, sharp new technology is available to credit unions while it’s still sharp and new. This raises an interesting dilemma: As demand and availability accelerate, will credit unions find the vision to lead the market? In this week’s news: Digit, a new automated savings app invented by 29 year-old Ethan Bloch, gained $2.5 million in backing from Baseline Ventures and Google Ventures. What’s new about Digit? It uses smart technology to figure out how much and when you can afford to squirrel away a few bucks throughout the month, creating a savings program that is completely effortless. Old schoolers will balk at Digit’s “invisible” transactions – transfers occur without the user’s immediate knowledge or approval. And Digit savings accounts don’t earn interest. But savings-challenged Millennials already see the value. “The bank experience has too much friction and inertia that people are just not saving,” Bloch told Business Insider. Whatever the challenges with this new technology, it can hardly do worse than the status quo: The Fed tells us that 60 percent of Americans between 18 and 40 saved nothing in 2013. The savings rate for adults under 35 last year? Negative 2 percent. Digit is not an example of technology that will revolutionize the credit union movement. It’s a company unto itself. But Digit does illustrate important new realities in personal finance technology:
  • Consumers are ready to solve age-old problems – now. Need to pay someone fast? The market for real-time, person-to-person payments is already ripe: You just need to provide the technology. The same holds true for mobile account management, security innovations, loan applications – you name it. Consumers aren’t resigned to waiting years for the solutions they want. They’re growing accustomed to solving their problems now.
  • The future is yours, and it’s closer than you think. Coming soon to CO-OP: A suite of APIs that will enable you to integrate CO-OP’s best mobile technology into your existing mobile app. Using a single app and log in, your members will have access to a wide world of mobile payments, account and card management and mobile banking.
Upstarts like Digit will continue to introduce new ideas to an innovation-starved financial services market. That isn’t bad news for credit unions: It’s good. While consumers are casting about for new ways to access, spend, save and manage their money, credit unions have an opportunity to save the day. It’s not just demand that drives this trend, but also this industry’s growing ability to surprise and delight. As credit unions increasingly find the technology to meet rapidly-evolving consumer needs, the question becomes whether or not they have the vision to move forward fast. Will we wait and see how new products and services perform before we spring into action? Or are we willing to seize opportunity while it’s hot?