Online Banking - 2So, your bank or credit union has a website. You have online banking. You have bill pay, account transfers and maybe even account alerts via text messaging.

Congratulations. Here’s a cigar. Now, guess what?

Big freaking deal.

If your financial institution offers some or even all of the above-mentioned services, you are not cutting edge. In a matter of a few short months or years, offering just what you read above may be considered woefully inadequate. The continued ascendancy of Internet-based banking will play a huge role in how consumers expect to access their money online.

A recent article from TechRepublic.com highlights the Internet bank start-up Simple. Take a moment to check out the Simple website. It certainly lives up to its name. The white space and clean, crisp design could teach a lot of bank and credit union websites a thing or two. But it’s not just the way the website looks. The real power of Simple and other Internet-based banks comes in what they offer consumers. Banks and credit unions would do well to learn from their example.

Simple offers a variety of consumer friendly and online oriented services. Simple customers can utilize an array of financial tracking and budgeting tools. Financial empowerment education is high on their list of things to offer. Their fee-free approach to banking will come as a pleasant surprise to many consumers overtaxed by typical financial institution fee structures. They go right to the heart of banks and credit unions that operate on the branch-centric philosophy, assuring customers they’ll never miss a branch with all the things they can do on their computers, tablets and smart phones.

Simple and other online only banking platforms may well be the wave of future financial services. What can your bank or credit union do now to help keep pace with the changing nature of the beast? How can you anticipate member or customer needs and demands and better position your financial institution to fulfill them in the future?

1) Keep track of what’s going on in the world of online banking. You might assign a technology savvy staff member (or even create a small committee) to research the topic and report back to your executive team. Read websites, trade journals, social media posts and blogs. You could also set up a Google News alert for topics like “Internet banking” and “consumer online banking.”

2) Ask your members or customers what they expect. The best group to turn to for information about online financial services are the people that currently use you. I hate to break it to you, but there’s a real good chance some of them are already using Simple or other similar online banking options. Quiz them and use the information to better
position your financial institution for change.

3) Mystery shop your online competitors. Better yet, open up a test account with them. No, this isn’t betraying your financial institution. Actually getting inside one of these online banks offers you an invaluable first-person perspective into how they do business and why your members or customers are tempted to leave you for them.

4) Buzz, buzz, buzz till people hear you. Ensure that online banking and other Internet-based convenience services are constantly on the minds of your executive team and board of directors. You may have to play the role of Chicken Little here a bit, but as an employee interested in the long-term viability of your financial institution, it’s a necessary job. Also, with the average age of many bank and credit union executive teams and board members rising, your thoughts and opinions concerning online banking offer much-needed generational diversity.

As one of the creators of Simple noted, “We are a startup operating in an industry where change is measured in decades.” Traditional adhesion to the old way of doing things could spell serious trouble for your financial institution. In other words, your bank or credit union could face extinction if it is unable to keep up with the change of pace brought about by Internet banking and online financial services. Start planning now to ensure that doesn’t happen.

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