Exploring Technology Without Busting The Budget

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MADISON, Wis.-With the never-ending buzz over what's new in technology, a new paper seeks to help credit unions, which operate with limited IT budgets, to separate the signal from the noise long enough to make smart investments.

"The Future of Member-Facing Technologies," by Aite Group Senior Analyst Ron Shevlin, has been released by the Filene Research Institute and seeks to go beyond specific companies or products to outline how different enterprise-level strategies will drive specific plans in 2011 and beyond.

"Information technology budgets are rising at credit unions, and member-facing technologies already capture a large part of the money spent, which makes it essential to spend wisely," Filene noted.

The report suggests credit unions focus their attention in three places:

• Financial advice and guidance. Personal financial management (PFM) tools like Mint.com and the constellation of similar services are more than juiced-up budgeting tools; they allow members an accessible and intuitive way to see their money, the report states. But more important for credit unions, they can help members make good decisions, they can provide excellent cross-promotion value for the credit union, and they can save on staff time. "Such tools will tie members to the credit union, especially because they offer tailored advice, mobile functions, social aspects, and contextual rewards," according to the author.

• Social networking integration. Social media have become popular at credit unions, but they are not always effective at driving business results, the study observes. "That will change as credit unions zero in on applications that actually encourage desired behavior among members and potential members. The most promising areas include influencing member preferences through ratings and comments on products and services, and providing collaborative support similar to a call center but in more efficient ways."

• Purely mobile apps. Perhaps the most important of all emerging technology areas, mobile apps offer features already in demand by consumers, such as locational awareness for branches and ATMs, augmented reality to help members use and manage their money wisely, and transactional capabilities that can improve on current card, check, and cash-based systems, according to the study.

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