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The best practices of data driven credit unions

The following is an article written by Trellance’s Vice President of Professional Services, Suchit Shah. The article originally appeared on CUInsight.com

The year 2025 is not far off, and yet that’s when consulting firm McKinsey predicts that in the business world, employees will use data to optimize nearly every aspect of their work.

Credit unions, too, are moving toward becoming data-driven enterprises where humans and technology tools work together seamlessly to maximize the impact of every decision. In fact – some credit unions are already there.

How are these forward-looking credit unions winning the day with data? It turns out, we’ve noticed they have a few things in common. Here are the key best practices any credit union, large or small, can implement to do more with data.

Begin With a Roadmap – or Just One Goal

For success mastering your data, begin with the end in mind.

For some credit unions, this means establishing an organization-wide vision for transforming into a data-driven credit union and building the roadmap for systemic change.

But for many, this is too much elephant for one bite. If tackling data transformation from the top down seems like an overwhelming undertaking, a bottom-up approach can be effective, too. Incremental steps taken by achieving one data goal at a time is a path to continual progress.

When you orient your efforts around a vision and goal, you’ll find many roads to success.

Think in “S’s”: Standard, Simple, Scalable

If you want to boil success with data down to three key principles, keep this alliteration in mind:

Standard. Simple. Scalable.

Standard means establishing common processes and formats for your data so it can be accessed, processed and analyzed universally and consistently.

Simple means eliminating unnecessary charts and KPIs so key takeaways can be understood quickly and clearly.

Scalable means implementing enterprise-wide systems and creating efficient, universal processes that allow a credit union to progress in data maturity quickly.

Be Realistic About Needed Resources

We’ve seen credit unions that are serious about the data journey do not shy away from getting help. Getting started, in particular, can feel difficult and overwhelming. Outside help is not only about overcoming the obstacle of getting started, but getting started right. Building a solid foundation in data management is critical, and without it, every subsequent step of the journey will be much harder.

Identify where you have or can add skills in-house, and where it makes sense to engage partners. As you advance in data proficiency, you can reassess where you have increased competency to bring more things in-house.

Have an Internal Champion – or Three

Success in data analytics is never a one-person show. That said, having a “data champion” who coordinates among stakeholders, establishes processes, and drives progress forward can be instrumental to achieving your set goals. This is easily a full-time job.

In addition to the important role of data champion, there are two other key “personas” we see consistently among successful credit unions:

  • The “Owner,” who is someone at the leadership-level that sets the vision and takes ownership for the overall success.
  • The “Facilitator(s),” who help the staff charged with specific data tasks overcome challenges and maintain forward progress.

Having an internal champion alone is a huge asset – having all three is the “success trinity.”

Remove “Perfect” and “Done” From Your Vocabulary

What is one key cultural characteristic data-driven credit unions share? A willingness to get started – and keep going.

The reality is, there will never be a perfect time, a perfect tool, or a perfect process. Your data will never be as complete or good as you’d like. But data-driven credit unions don’t get hung up on perfection. They know success is achieved through the ongoing process of optimization. Flexibility and creativity are the best partners to travel with.

And continuing that theme, the data journey is one with no final destination. There won’t be a point where you have achieved all the potential of your data. The data maturity curve will always extend as analytics capabilities continue advancing and market conditions change.

Measure Your Success

There’s only one way to objectively know if your analytics roadmap is leading you toward your goals – track and measure! Even the best-laid plans run off-course without regular check-ins and signposts of progress.

Equally as important, be prepared to iterate or pivot based on what the metrics tell you. This is where true transformation happens. Continuous small changes produce powerful forward momentum and compound into incredible results. But, the only way to know how to optimize in the right direction is to measure.

Data is democratic. Though building a data-driven credit union takes time, commitment, and a plan –any credit union can be successful. Follow these best practices, and soon, every important decision will begin and end with data.

Suchit Shah is the vice president of professional services at Trellance.

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Help for the holidays—from chatbots

The holidays bring on a flurry of activity for most businesses every year. Even with the potential of a recession looming over us, there seems to be little to no signs of it slowing down at the year’s end. Both online and retail sales are expected to grow substantially during the 2022 holiday season. During the months of November through December, holiday sales are expected to reach $1.45 to $1.47 trillion. Compared to 2021, e-commerce sales alone are expected to rise from 12.8% to 14.3% year over year.

For call centers at financial institutions, this season can get hectic. Accountholders call in for their balances, some to enquire about an overdraft and perhaps to dispute NSF fees. Also, unconventional spending may trigger fraud alerts, which increases call volume even further. Friendly fraud, in which a consumer demands a reversal of a charge they actually made (because they didn’t recognize it) triggers even more phone calls—39% of consumers have admitted taking part due to forgetting about the purchase or it being made by a family member. Of course, this increase in inquiries is all during a time of the year when many employees ask for personal time off to celebrate.

Today, many organizations use chatbots to free up customer service agents, allowing them to have more time to deliver personalized and focused support for customers with more complex issues. A recent report found that 58% of customers now opt to use chatbots for customer service. This can also apply to banking. Call centers can be relieved and provide better service when there’s a chatbot to answer standard inquiries.

We spoke with Jenn Markus, Glia’s Director of Technology Partnerships, for her take on how chatbots can help financial institutions run smoothly during the holidays.

It’s hard to get customer service right when you’re extremely busy. Do you have an example of a financial institution that you think really got it right?

There are so many examples of financial institutions doing things right, it’s hard to choose! Without calling out a specific financial institution, I would say that the most successful service organizations have common traits: they are proactively meeting customers where they are in their journey and they are balancing automation with personalized experiences.

At its core, Digital Customer Service (DCS) is all about providing a positive customer experience, based on each customer’s unique needs. Successful FIs are meeting customers in the digital channel of their choice—chat, voice, or video—but they are also offering a seamless transition between channels for live support as appropriate. Specialized AI-enabled chatbots can handle more straightforward inquiries, like reporting account balances or routing numbers, but can also transfer the complete interaction to Customer Service Representatives (CSR) for more complex questions. The result is a win-win situation: customers are able to navigate rapidly through your digital properties  while CSRs are freed-up to handle more complex issues.

Considering 32% of all customers will stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one negative experience, what’s a good way for a financial institution to keep the inconvenience and frustration of card denials down, without compromising the integrity of fraud prevention?

While suspected fraudulent activity accounts for a fair share of transaction denials, there are a number of other reasons a card can be declined at the point-of-sale or during an online transaction. Throughout the transaction authorization process, there are various checks and validations occuring behind the scenes by the payment processor. Each one of these validation points present an opportunity for a transaction to be denied. In most cases, the only piece of information the cardholder will receive is a notification that their transaction has been denied and perhaps a denial code, which means nothing to them. Receiving a denial in public can be an embarrassing experience, just imagine a first date or perhaps hosting a business dinner. Additionally, the cardholder is in the dark about why their card was declined and needs to follow a multi-step process to resolve the issue.

As you mentioned in your question, according to a PWC survey, 32% of all customers will stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one negative experience, and 59% will walk away after several bad experiences. This presents high stakes for a financial institution trying to not only retain the existing cardholder accounts, but also acquire new ones and grow transaction volume.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though! While card denials are somewhat inevitable, there are solutions available to financial institutions to improve the cardholder experience. Financial institutions that offer Digital Customer Service (DCS) options for cardholders to seamlessly connect are seeing improved customer satisfaction results. Enabling cardholders to connect in the channel of their choice and where they are—OnScreen —can help resolve any issues quickly.

For those who aren’t tech savvy, what’s the best way to make digital customer service something they can actually appreciate?

Glia’s Digital Customer Service platform is well-suited for users of all technical levels. Customer Service Reps (CSRs) have a single view into the customer’s journey, providing context to the customers’ experience to and through the point of contact. CoBrowsing, or Collaborative Browsing, enables CSRs to guide customers through friction points. Reps can use DCS to demonstrate rather than tell customers how to navigate digital properties and resolve issues. Customers don’t have to download any apps and can choose the communication mode—voice, video, chat— that they are most comfortable with.

Where do you think a chatbot would be of greatest service in banking during the holidays?

During the holidays, there seems to be an increased sense of stress and pressure for customers and members. As they rush to finish holiday shopping or year-end tasks, more time-sensitive questions come up. With virtual assistants, your customers will receive a faster, more consistent support experience and your representatives will be able to easily handle multiple engagements without a decrease in quality. As I mentioned previously, chatbots can be deployed to handle routine inquiries, freeing up your CSRs to tackle more detailed interactions. As a result, there are less wait times, faster and more consistent service.

 We’ve all talked to a chatbot who couldn’t answer our questions and then had to explain the issue again to a live rep or call in. What’s the best way to prevent that friction in the chatbot experience?

Digital Customer Service (DCS) offers a seamless experience for both customers and operators. Glia’s operator interface displays the customers’ interaction as well as where they are on your digital properties so that the CSR can jump straight into the interaction with full context and doesn’t need to ask “How may I help you?” Further, Glia’s platform allows operators to utilize the channel that is most appropriate for the engagement, so they can seamlessly move between chat, video or voice as well as assist with screen sharing and CoBrowsing to efficiently service customers.

 From an end-user perspective, what do you think are the greatest benefits to banking with an institution that offers a chatbot?

The first benefit is meeting the customer where they are—OnScreen. Chatbots are a great entrypoint to understand what a customer needs and provide answers for simple tasks, such as a balance inquiry.

Being able to quickly speak with a live rep from within the chatbot by simply pushing a button is a tremendous convenience and also keeps the digital connection. Plus, reps benefit from seeing the full context when they get connected to the customer. Chatbots that just offer a phone number to speak to a live agent disrupt that digital connection, causing a friction point where many will simply abandon the call. 

The immediacy without having to navigate the dreaded phone tree is yet another benefit, leading to a positive experience. Chatbots free up agents, to the benefit of even those who call in and DON’T use the chatbot. The call center isn’t as overwhelmed and callers are able to speak with someone fairly quickly.

This year, holiday forecasts predict a 6-8% increase in year-over-year spending in November and December. Banks and credit unions can drive spending around two months before the holidays by marketing relevant products and promoting cards so they’re top of mind/wallet. For example, increasing credit lines. And then after the holidays, offer balance transfers or convenience checks to prevent competitors from stealing away cardholders with similar offers. How could a chatbot assist?

First, simply helping to keep CSRs available, and wait times down helps a great deal during busy seasons. Financial institutions might consider deploying microbots that are able to handle specific requests common during the holidays, such as credit card spending limits. In fact, financial institutions should regularly evaluate their chatbot strategy based on seasonal usage data. Lastly, give the chatbots some character. Everyone appreciates a season’s greetings and a friendly ho ho ho in December! 

Read more about chatbots in 4 Ways Chatbots Are Revolutionizing Electronic Bill Payments.

Updated from a blog originally published November 11, 2021.


Alacriti and Glia have partnered to assist financial institutions in providing their members with best in class digital-first service. Glia’s Digital Member Service Platform combines all communications into one unified digital experience. With the partnership, members have access to Ella, Alacriti’s AI chatbot that’s fine tuned to answer bill pay questions and is fully integrated within Glia’s Digital Member Service platform. For more information about Digital Member Service powered by Alacriti and Glia, please please call us at (908) 791-2916 or email info@alacriti.com

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3 Ways to keep your mortgage pipeline full in a volatile market

In the face of impending volatility, like we see on the horizon now, organizations often react by tightening spending and doubling down on the revenue-driving tactics that have worked for them previously. Credit unions are no exception. But the market ahead is affected by an unprecedented mix of factors, and the strategies you’ve relied on to keep mortgage programs profitable in past economic downturns may not be enough to keep you ahead of the competition this time.

If you want your credit union to thrive — not just survive — the forthcoming volatility, it’s important you take steps to prepare for the market ahead before you begin seeing its effects. In late 2022 and beyond, that preparation will mean focusing on and investing in the strengths of the market; namely, strong purchase volume.

Even as other volumes slow, there is always opportunity in the purchase market. While credit unions historically struggle to remain top of mind for home loans, they have an advantage: unique insight into the behavior of their members that can position them to take advantage of purchase volume.

Harnessing, analyzing and acting on this insight, however, is difficult — if not impossible — to do independently. It takes a combination of agility, experience and technology to best harness the potential in your purchase pipeline. One way to do so is by partnering with a credit union service organization (CUSO) like TruHome.

Three ways to support your mortgage pipeline in a volatile market by partnering with a CUSO:

  1. Facilitate proactive marketing. Our technology allows you a window into your members’ behavior that helps you identify those who may be interested in buying a home before they ever apply for a loan. TruHome uses data science and unique infrastructure of custom-developed integrated technologies to create a model audience quickly and securely within your member base. Being able to focus on this segmented audience allows you to target them with precise, proactive marketing campaigns tailored to their needs.
  2. Launch a triggers program. Rather than relying solely on predictive behaviors to target potential homebuyers, TruHome can help you augment a proactive marketing campaign by identifying members who are already shopping for a loan. Get instant alerts when your members begin looking for a mortgage loan, so you can create the opportunity to educate them about your credit union’s mortgage lending program.
  3. Take advantage of a 100% variable cost structure. Recently, volumes have decreased in the marketplace by upwards of 50% … and your staffing configurations may have followed suit. Rather than keeping fixed costs on your staff in an era of rapidly declining volume, a partnership with a CUSO for dedicated expertise to your mortgage program lets you continue your mortgage program with a 100% variable cost structure.

If your credit union has always managed its mortgage program in-house, we understand that partnering with a third-party partnership can feel daunting, especially heading into challenging economic times. We often recommend beginning a CUSO partnership in a smaller capacity and iterating as you get comfortable and see the benefits of working together. For example, you could consider having your full-time staff focus on home equity and other consumer lending and let your partner handle members pursuing a first mortgage. At TruHome, we’ve designed our partnership program to meet your unique needs, help you thrive in a downturn, and build your mortgage pipeline regardless of what’s happening in the market.

Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of becoming a TruHome partner.

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Oceans apart, our mission is the same

Supporting the Credit Union Movement in Africa

By: Molly Walker, VP, Employee Learning, PSCU

The credit union movement began with a simple idea — that by pooling savings and making loans to neighbors and co-workers, people could achieve a better standard of living. This movement has existed for over a hundred years and spans continents across the globe.

In October, I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand the power of the credit union movement in Africa. I was invited to represent PSCU for ClimbAfrica, a fundraising campaign supporting the new African Confederation of Cooperative Associations (ACCOSCA) Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. The ClimbAfrica event included a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a community outreach project in Salima, Malawi, industry workshops and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. In addition to my participation, PSCU made a corporate donation toward the initiative.

The creation of the ACCOSCA Academy will enable employees, board members, regulators and community members of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs, which are African credit unions) to participate in a wide variety of financial education and training. The Academy will increase financial service competencies at all levels, prepare leaders and introduce new ideas and effective problem-solving strategies — all to benefit members.

The workshops focused on the state of the financial industry in the U.S., Africa and beyond. George Ombado, Executive Director of ACCOSCA, shared some of the difficulties SACCOs are facing — with a key concern being the ability to compete with larger financial institutions. Unlike in the U.S., there are few fintech credit union service organizations (CUSOs) in Africa for SAACOs to partner with for scalability. Some of my African counterparts would share,”Why don’t we have an organization like PSCU here? We could offer online banking and other digital services if we had an organization like that to partner with.” As a PSCU employee, I was proud to see and hear firsthand what our organization provides to credit unions. It was also fascinating to discover similar challenges that financial insitutions face across the globe, such as access to digital banking and succession planning.

Just as credit unions in the U.S. form longstanding relationships with their local communities, SACCOs do the same. As part of the trip, we joined United Civil Servants SACCO for a community project in Salima, Malawi. The SACCO has a longstanding commitment and partnership with the Salima School for the Blind, and ClimbAfrica participants supported their efforts by helping with building repair work, painting murals and planting trees on campus. The murals included the children’s handprints, using textured paint so they could feel the completed print on the wall. It was inspiring to work alongside passionate and dedicated credit union individuals and hear the dreams and ambitions of the students at the school. One young man I met aspires to be a journalist and to see more individuals like him in public roles. It was a wonderful chance to give back while experiencing the African community and culture from a different perspective.

My time in Africa was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was an eye-opening reminder that despite being an ocean apart, our mission is ultimately the same — people helping people. I encourage everyone to find out about the community service opportunities that exist with your local credit union and to get involved, especially as we move through this holiday season.

Molly Walker is a Vice President in the Learning & Organizational Development organization. She has been with PSCU since 2018, most recently leading the employee training team, focusing on the importance of learning within our company. She also is a lead and founder of PSCU’s emerging leader BRG, Voice of Tomorrow.

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How to ‘sleigh’ those holiday scams

6 tips for shopping safe this holiday season:

The holidays are here and so are the sales! It was only a few years ago that I would pore over the newspaper inserts to plot out my shopping trips trying to score a great deal. Nowadays, shopping is as simple as a swipe of a finger on my mobile device.

Unfortunately, this digital convenience has provided fraudsters with new ways to try to scam you. As part of our #PayProtected campaign, I’m sharing timely advice on how to protect yourself when shopping online this holiday season.

I host a weekly podcast, Mastering Cyber, and often hear from listeners about different scams they’ve encountered. Last holiday season, one of my listeners shared a story about a gorgeous wreath she wanted. The only problem? It was too expensive. A few days later, she noticed an ad in her newsfeed for the exact same wreath, only this one was for a price she could easily afford. When her package arrived, she excitedly tore open the box, ready to hang her new treasure on her front door to greet her guests.


In short, the wreath she received was droopy and hardly had the same panache as the one she wanted.

As a cybersecurity professional, I have a few things I do to ensure my personal information stays secure – so the same thing that happened to my listener doesn’t happen to me. So, to help you sleigh the scams and #PayProtected this holiday season, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep your devices’ operating systems up to date. Those updates contain more than just fancy features. They contain critical security updates that protect you from vulnerabilities, preventing fraudsters from gaining access to your device and personal information.
  • Don’t shop or complete any financial transactions on public Wi-Fi. Instead, wait until you get home or to a more protected network connection. Public Wi-Fi is risky as there could be snoopers waiting to steal your private data!
  • I use my smartphone’s digital wallet every chance I get. Not only is it a safe way to pay, but it’s super convenient too. But just like a physical wallet, it has to be secured. I protect mine with a unique passcode (that isn’t my address, birthday or phone number) and biometrics (such as face or fingerprint).
  • When shopping online, always look for the lock icon where the URL is located, and make sure the URL begins with “https” rather than “http.” Those two indicators mean the data is encrypted and the website is secure. And never shop on a device you don’t own. Instead, shop on your personal device where you have more control.
  • When making purchases, only interact with reputable, reliable vendors. Before you snag yourself a deal, read the reviews and return policy. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Finally, make sure the vendor has a phone number and physical mailing address that you can verify before you buy!
  • Protect your online accounts with multi-factor authentication, known as MFA. Enabling MFA means you require a combination of two or more authenticators to verify your identity before you are allowed to access the service. Why does this matter? Because even if one factor (like your username/password) is compromised, fraudsters won’t be able to meet the second authentication requirement (like a biometric or text code), ultimately stopping them from gaining access to your accounts and walking away with your personal information, money or worse!

Following these simple tips will help ensure fraudsters don’t spoil your holiday cheer!  

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