The War to Transform Credit Union Web Sites from Brochureware to E-Commerce Sites: Project E-Branch 2020

Guest post written by Jeff Chesky, President and CEO, Insuritas

Insuritas is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for Outsourced Insurance Agency Solutions.

Credit Unions are the only businesses on the planet that get high levels of repeat visitors to their web sites, day in and day out, for free, without ever having to pay for Google AdWords. They are also the only businesses that get this continuous, high quality repeat web traffic for free, but never try to sell anything online. You ask a credit union CEO if he is monetizing his online traffic to his web portal, and his eyes glaze over. Online banking generates millions of visitors every day, but credit union web portals are still just an expense item; a placeholder for brochure ware, celebrating a new branch, your support of the local Girl Scouts Troop, or a new loan product.

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Secrets of the Online Retailers, and What It Means for Credit Unions

Originally posted on CUInsight.com

Three simple questions:

  1. Do you want your website to actively drive revenue growth, or to simply be an easy place for Members to read about your solutions, check balances, pay bills and find branches?
  2. Does your website engage members and generate revenue by using cutting edge web strategies like Amazon.com and Overstock.com do?
  3. If not, why not?

The first generation of business websites were what we like to euphemistically (and somewhat derisively) call ‘brochureware’ – companies spent a fortune on very talented graphic designers to put up web versions of their static brochures. Even though they sometimes built in animation or videos, the level of interactivity available to a visitor was pretty much the same as the level found when watching TV.

With interaction at best minimal, you still had to call or visit in person to actually buy something. Part of this represented technology limitations in the browser platform, but some of it was a lack of vision and established business models to point the way.

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Insurance – The Best Defense is a Great Offense

It’s nearly football season, which gives me license to use whatever football metaphor I choose – at this stage of the pre-season they aren’t stale yet!

A football metaphor is also appropriate because of what you are likely to see when you’re watching a game on TV – commercials, and lots of them.  Among them you’ve probably noticed ads from State Farm – but how many of you noticed a very important change in their positioning, one that has tremendous implications for credit unions?

If you look closely, the ads stress three things – Insurance, Mutual Funds and ‘State Farm Bank.’  We certainly count on State Farm to be selling insurance. But full-fledged banking solutions (mortgages, car loans, home equity loans) are not something most consumers expect from an insurance provider.

Remember when H&R Block made a strategic move into banking a few years ago to capture a larger share of client refund dollars? Now they offer checking and savings accounts, IRAs, CDs, lines of credits, and even their own debit and credit cards.

Just as this move from H&R Block threatened credit unions by providing competition, so too does this change in positioning from State Farm. Just like paying taxes, buying insurance is another thing that your members do each year.  In fact, you bring insurance agents in town direct business by making insurance a prerequisite for receiving a car or home loan (and they thank you for it, believe me!).  The entry of a firm like State Farm into the business brings scale and national brand equity to the table, which means that you’re now facing a well-funded and formidable competitor in the banking landscape that wants a larger share of your member dollars.

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Nine Credit Union Industry Experts Tell Us What To Watch For In 2012

I like to say that one of a visionary leader’s most important functions is seeing over the horizon and recognizing opportunities and threats before anyone else does, and then shaping the strategy and tactics of the organization accordingly.

So for our year-end blog post I asked our Preferred Partners to tell us what they see coming over the horizon, from their perspective, that credit union executives need to be focused on and/or prepared for as we head into 2012.  Here is what a few of them said —

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The Best of the Best – 2011 NAFCU Services Innovation Awards

Innovation can be hard to define, but you can think of it as “the successful application of new ideas.”  ‘Application’ is the key word there – new ideas are the easy part – figuring out which are the good ones, and then applying them successfully, is more difficult.

So innovation is more than just an academic exercise or a tally of patents. The application of a new idea in the real world leads to new products, services, processes, systems, or attitudes that improve something or add value. With all of the changes that are occurring in financial services generally, and in the credit union business model specifically, being (and staying) innovative is more important than ever.

Every year at the NAFCU Annual Conference we recognize the very best innovations among our Preferred Partners that help credit unions thrive in an increasingly crowded financial services marketplace with the 2011 NAFCU Services Preferred Partner Innovation Awards.  No surprise this year, two of the three winners focus on opportunities for credit unions to generate revenue, while the third represents a quantum leap in productivity, leading to significantly lower costs.

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