Financial Intuitions: Changes and Growth in Tune to it
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Financial Intuitions: Changes and Growth in Tune to it

Danielle Juarez, Assistant Vice President of digital strategy at SAFE Credit Union

Please provide our readers with detailed insight into the SAFE Credit Union?

We are a Sacramento-based credit union with almost 235,000 members and 150,000 active online bankers. Our partnership with NCR—an Atlanta-based technology leader for restaurants, retailers, and banks and a POS software provider—started about 18 years ago. Being in close contact with NCR for a long time, they often seek our inputs on new ideas. Certainly, it provides us with an opportunity of leveraging new technologies and at the same time, enables us to have the desired edge in the market.

Could you tell us more about the challenges and how your solutions are mitigating those?

To provide an overview of the solution, I'd like to state that today, we work with NCR Digital Banking’s Promotion Suite Premium solution and we rolled out our first member-facing promotion by the middle of 2018. Undoubtedly, it has enhanced our capability of communicating with members. Today, we are able to harness real-time geofencing information based on a person's location or individual needs and offer fully customized digital experiences to SAFE members. This has created an opt-in rate of almost 98 percent. Also, we can send out reminders to members for using a SAFE credit card to earn rewards during a certain time frame and can encourage them to visit a SAFE branch during a member appreciation program. This has sharpened our ability to increase the conversion rate and ensure higher engagement and card spends.

In essence, it is a phenomenal tool, but we are very careful about the types and frequency of messages because often, massive burden and constant notifications irritate users. So it's really important to be thoughtful about how many messages are going to the same member at a certain period of time.

Please shed light on key trends and advancements in this space in terms of technology and how those are leading to the enhanced digital experience for customers?

In my opinion, the digital space for financial institutions is witnessing a drastic change. It's important for financial institutions and credit unions to keep a keen eye on these changing facets. At one instance, I can mention huge potential of artificial intelligence (AI). Currently, we are working on a pilot project with NCR Digital Banking to leverage Alexa banking and expecting it to roll out in the market this year. Thus, the virtual assistant is going to a different level, and certainly, it will shape the future.

On a long note, I would tell that credit unions need to be more comfortable in partnering with FinTech firms as they promise to offer better and faster solutions. Even today, credit unions or financial institutions feel hesitated and scared about the speed of out-of-the-box FinTech solutions. But, I believe that they need to learn the right way to do that and train the internal team accordingly.

What should be the process of sorting out the right FinTech partner? And, please tell our readers about your approach.

I believe that proper market research and attending FinTech conferences are the two crucial factors in doing this. We attend Finovate—a FinTech conference to showcase innovative banking and financial technology through short demos and valuable insights from leaders—every year. This allows us to meet an array of solutions and FinTech companies which is a key aspect of maintaining a distance from others in the market.

What are the challenges that you are currently observing in the market and how your partnership with NCR is going to play a vital role in mitigating those?

The growing demands for offering customized solutions and better experience to customers are the key drivers of today’s FinTech realm and it is also the biggest challenge. We are eagerly waiting to see NCR Digital Banking partnering with a real-time payment tool provider and a chatbot vendor. But, we are making our market research also to have a better understanding of the solutions available in the market and while doing that we are keeping close contact with them, to make sure that our visions are aligned.

What would be your piece of advice to your fellow members working in this field?

I think that it is extremely important to build relationships with multiple vendors and solutions and people should not be afraid of hard work. None of these solutions come easy. Secondly, one has to be confident and aware of the solutions that they are choosing because at the end of the day, creating the best experience for members matters the most.

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