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How to instill trust in every transaction – and every interaction

By Ajay Bhalla

“We can only make delivery of your next shipment if you pay your outstanding balance of $102.02; please download the attached invoice.”

“The password for your email account has expired. Click here to change your password.”

“You can receive your tax refund faster — all you have to do is share your bank account information.”Seemingly every day, each one of us is barraged with a never-ending stream of urgent requests and so-called “opportunities” across an ever-expanding network of apps, platforms and IoT devices. These examples are only the most obvious threats, ones we can — hopefully — easily identify and defuse. But in our hyperconnected world, we may not always be aware of where we are vulnerable.

The small businesses we support are under increasing threat, with cybercriminals exploiting the rapid transition to e-commerce during the pandemic. So too are local governments — a forthcoming report by RiskRecon, a Mastercard company, reveals that 41% of American cities do not have information security programs strong enough to protect their data assets, making them vulnerable to data breaches and ransomware attacks that could upend essential city services.

Even larger companies with more cybersecurity resources struggle to properly safeguard their businesses when employees work from home over less secure connections, or find themselves at risk from bugs in ubiquitous pieces of software. They also fail to appreciate the risk posed by third-party vendors — or vendors of those vendors, often many steps removed from their core business.

A decade ago, mobile banking and digital payments had just begun to take off, but the connections within the ecosystem were still clearly defined and well protected through industry standards and protocols, limiting the risk of large-scale fraud and cyberattacks. Today, the digital explosion has created exciting opportunities for people and businesses of all sizes — and many more points of vulnerability for all of us.

It’s not enough to protect each transaction. We must work together to protect trust in every interaction, taking what we all have learned in managing individual risk and bringing those best practices — and developing new ones — to the rest of the cyber realm.
“A more proactive, forward-looking attitude toward cybersecurity will support innovation while infusing trust across the digital economy.”

That means continuing to set the digital standards to fortify trust, and collaborating with government agencies and other private-sector companies to quickly identity emerging threats.

It also means evolving our focus on risk, taking an outside-in approach to assessing and guarding against the vulnerabilities of our vendors, suppliers and partners, as we do our own. These “third-party risk” attacks are projected to account for 60% of cybersecurity incidents this year. We are only as strong as our weakest link, but companies large and small may not have a full understanding of who is participating in their ecosystem and being trusted with access to sensitive data and operating functions — or if they do, is that information current? Could it change tomorrow? Would they be ready if it does?

That’s why we launched the Global Cybersecurity Alliance Program earlier this year, which provides user-friendly APIs to extend cyber-risk monitoring and scoring to our partners’ customers — and why we are excited that Interos, an industry leader in systemic risk management, will be joining the alliance.

This holistic view of risk can save time and resources, reduce potential financial losses and give companies and governments the opportunity to focus on what they do best — serving people.

A more proactive, forward-looking attitude toward cybersecurity will support innovation while infusing trust across the digital economy. A systemic approach to risk makes us all stronger.

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Constellation and Bonifii enable simple, secure authentication for credit union members

April 13, 2022 – Constellation Digital Partners announced today that it will launch a new certified service for Meritrust Credit Union that will provide privacy-preserving, verifiable digital identity credentials through its platform. The innovative solution to authenticating membership identity, MemberPass™, is enabled through the strategic partnership with fintech industry veteran Bonifii.

“MemberPass is a breakthrough identity technology that provides credit unions and their members with a myriad of security benefits,” said John Ainsworth, CEO, and President of Bonifii. “It upgrades security authentication protocols and helps credit unions move beyond knowledge-based authentication questions. Instead, a MemberPass digital credential allows Meritrust members to authenticate who they are using new blockchain-based identity technology. This allows them to control their personal information and use it in a safe and private way to access financial services.”

“Meritrust is working to improve members’ financial well-being by staying connected not only through these extraordinary times but beyond,” said Holly Terrill, Director of Member Support Services, at Meritrust Credit Union, “Even before the pandemic created an urgency for digital banking, Meritrust made it a priority to offer a range of services that make it easy to bank on members’ personal time. With the launch of MemberPass, we can now reduce friction while delivering the control and security over personal information that our members need to interact with us when it’s most convenient for them.”

Through Constellation and its roster of other credit unions planning deployment, Bonifii can connect and deliver benefits to more credit union members. With this type of strategic collaboration, Bonifii enables credit unions to drive and improve engagement with their members and provide them the privacy and security they need while using digital banking and financial services.

“The value of Constellation is the cutting-edge safety and industry-leading fintech innovation provided by Bonifii,” said David Lindner, SVP of Sales and Marketing. “Credit unions that deploy on our platform with either full digital banking or even stand-alone services will have the capability to provide MemberPass to members. Our credit union partners can feel confident in the simple integration and superlative data security.”

To learn more about Constellation, visit www.constellation.coop. Connect with Constellation on TwitterInstagram (@ConstellationDP), Facebook and LinkedIn.

About Constellation Digital Partners, LLC

Constellation has created the first open development platform dedicated to credit union and fintech app development. This patented, secure, and flexible cloud-based ecosystem provides credit unions and innovative app developers the ideal platform to deliver safe, reliable, and next-generation digital financial service experiences. Credit unions now have the freedom to compete, innovate, and thrive in the financial services industry. First, by redefining what they offer, and second by delivering digital financial services in a way that places members squarely at the center of their business strategy. Visit www.constellation.coop to learn the latest innovations. Connect with Constellation on TwitterInstagram (@ConstellationDP), Facebook and LinkedIn.

About Bonifii

MemberPass™ is provided by Bonifii®

Denver-based Bonifii is the financial industry’s first verifiable exchange network designed to enable trusted digital transactions using open standards and best-of-breed security technologies. Bonifii empowers credit unions to change the way they interact with their members by enabling a seamless user experience in every financial transaction through a secure, private, trusted, and transparent resolution of the entities’ identity. To learn more about Bonifii, visit www.bonifii.com, email us at sales@memberpass.com, or follow the company on the Bonifii blog, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

 About Meritrust Credit Union

Meritrust Credit Union has been helping its members do more with their money since 1935. The credit union now serves nearly 107,000 members with $1.3 billion in assets. Meritrust is headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, with 16 retail branches providing expert, advisory experiences, complemented by online, mobile and eATM technology allowing members to bank on their time. It’s easy to join Meritrust, and membership is open to most anyone. With a mission of improving the lives of members and the communities it serves, Meritrust offers consumers and businesses the products, services, tools and education they need to achieve their financial goals with confidence. For more information, visit meritrustcu.org. Federally insured by NCUA.

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True North Federal Credit Union partners with PSCU for credit and debit processing support

April 13, 2022 — PSCU, the nation’s premier payments credit union service organization (CUSO), has announced that True North Federal Credit Union (True North) has selected the CUSO for credit and debit processing support and services.

Headquartered in Juneau, Alaska, True North has been serving its members since 1948, guided by its mission to improve the economic well-being of the members, employees and communities it serves through quality financial solutions. Today, True North makes contributions to civic and nonprofit organizations, as well as recreational and charity events that serve local communities across Anchorage, Juneau and other parts of the state.

With more than $205 million in assets, True North was looking for a partner committed to quality and communication. The credit union was also seeking a provider that would uphold the superior level of service its members have come to expect from their credit union.

“Our team has been watching PSCU closely, and we were impressed with everything the CUSO has accomplished over the past several years, as well as how dynamic it has become,” said Lauren MacVay, president and CEO of True North. “We are pleased to partner with an organization that demonstrates such a consistent commitment to credit unions, as we feel confident PSCU is well-positioned to best lead us into the future.”

PSCU will begin providing credit and debit processing services and support to more than 12,600 True North members in October 2022.

“True North’s dedication to the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people’ is a value shared by PSCU,” said Scott Wagner, EVP, chief revenue officer at PSCU. “We are pleased to welcome True North to the cooperative and look forward to putting our industry-leading solutions to work to deliver an unparalleled experience for their members.”

About PSCU

PSCU, the nation’s premier payments CUSO, supports the success of 1,900 credit unions representing nearly 7 billion transactions annually. Committed to service excellence and focused on innovation, PSCU’s payment processing, risk management, data and analytics, loyalty programs, digital banking, marketing, strategic consulting and mobile platforms help deliver possibilities and seamless member experiences. Comprehensive, 24/7/365 member support is provided by contact centers located throughout the United States. The origin of PSCU’s model is collaboration and scale, and the company has leveraged its influence on behalf of credit unions and their members for more than 40 years. Today, PSCU provides an end-to-end, competitive advantage that enables credit unions to securely grow and meet evolving consumer demands. For more information, visit pscu.com.

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March Spending Trends: Return to Seasonality

April 13, 2022 –  As unremarkable as it may seem, seasonal predictability has been largely missing over the past two-plus years, thanks to the pandemic and its associated economic volatility. The big news this month is that, according to Co-op credit union card portfolio data, consumer spending is returning to historically typical behavior patterns and showing robust increases across every major category.

March’s economic data continued the mostly positive trend of the past few months, as nonfarm payrolls grew by 431,000 in March and the unemployment rate declined once again to 3.6%, barely above the 50-year record low just prior to the pandemic.

Inflation is high, and though gas prices have started to trend down in recent days, they are still at historical highs and expected to remain volatile with Americans paying an average of $4.16 per gallon, $1.30 higher than a year ago.

Economists are expressing concern around a potential recession later this year or into 2023, as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises its benchmark interest rate to counteract inflationary pressures over the next several months. The Fed raised rates by .25% at its March meeting, and has signaled its intention to implement further increases of as much as half a point at its next three meetings in May, June and July.

Here are some key spending trends the Co-op SmartGrowth Consulting Team are watching this month:

#1: Every Merchant Category Grew Month-over-month

Co-op’s March credit union spending data showed double-digit month-over-month increases in every major category across both the debit and credit portfolios. The Dining & Entertainment, Gas, Lodging, Medical, Retail, Travel Campers & Camping, Home Improvement and Sport/Recreation categories were all particularly strong.

The challenge for consumers – which may be the fly in the ointment for a while yet – continues to be supply chain disruption, coupled with long waits for goods and services due to deferred demand over the past two years.

A case in point is the wedding industry. According to NPR, spending per wedding is expected to jump 15 to 25% this year due to pent-up demand, inflation and higher costs of labor and supplies.

“Spending patterns are stabilizing, and seasonality is back,” said Beth Phillips, Director at Co-op Solutions. “At the same time, consumers continue to feel the aggravation of supply chain demand and the long wait times for receiving goods like furniture, vehicles and home appliances. It will take time for those supply bottlenecks to be course corrected. We’re still battling the pandemic from that standpoint.”

#2: Credit Shows Strong Year-over-year Growth As Well

 With the exception of the Campers & Camping merchant category, consumers are spending more on credit now than a year ago. In certain categories, such as Gas, Grocery, Retail and Computers the growth is significant – in the high double – and even triple digits.

Home Improvement is one area where, although month-over-month and year-over-year increases have been comparatively modest compared with categories like Gas, Travel and Computers, Co-op’s SmartGrowth experts expect spending to take off this spring.

“Home prices are still very high, and people are getting priced right out of the market,” said John Patton, Senior Payments Advisor at Co-op solutions. “So rather than try to sell their current residence and move into a more expensive home they may not be able to afford – and potentially lose all the equity they’ve built up over the years in selling and buying costs – many homeowners are choosing to stay on the sidelines and focus on renovation and remodeling projects.”

#3: Credit Balances Are Beginning to Bud

 While the pandemic period was marked by relatively conservative spending and a decline in consumer debt, the last few months have seen consumers grow more at ease with once again carrying credit card balances.

According to Co-op credit union credit portfolio data, while balances declined slightly in November and December of 2021, since the turn of the year they have started to grow. January saw 1% balance growth, in February it was 3%, and March saw 5% growth year-over-year.

“As consumers begin to revert to pre-pandemic spending behaviors, they are becoming more comfortable carrying some revolving debt,” said Phillips.  “Our assumption is credit balances will continue to slowly build as we move through the year.”

What CUs Should Do Now

 With credit balances blooming and the Fed signaling increases to its benchmark lending rate, the Co-op SmartGrowth Team advise that it’s a great time to dust off balance transfer campaigns. Members are getting concerned with rising rates, so reward them with a low introductory rate balance transfer offer while reminding them of the credit union difference of competitive rates, low fees and exceptional service. A well-timed balance transfer campaign will help to grow a credit union’s portfolio balances and burnish its primary financial relationships.

As spending picks up across every major merchant category, rewards become increasingly important. The SmartGrowth Team also advise credit unions to make sure their loyalty rewards program is competitive with the leading programs. And, dig into cardholder data to make sure spending is being incented in the categories members prefer in order to stay top of wallet, and top of mind.

Month-Over-Month Category-Level Spending (Comparing March 2022 to February 2022)

Please note that the category spending below reflects month-over-month comparisons (rather than year-over-year) – i.e., compares March 2022 with February 2022, rather than March 2022 to March 2021.

Credit Debit
Count Amount Interchange Count Amount Interchange
Category Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change
Amazon/Bookstores 13% 19% 17% 12% 16% 14%
Digital Goods 13% 12% 11% 11% 10% 11%
Dining and Entertainment 19% 21% 20% 18% 18% 18%
Education 10% 13% 13% 15% 19% 18%
Gas 17% 29% 25% 17% 27% 23%
Grocery 11% 12% 12% 11% 10% 11%
Lodging 31% 32% 31% 25% 29% 29%
Medical 20% 21% 20% 20% 22% 22%
Retail 16% 21% 21% 15% 20% 19%
Travel 27% 37% 36% 22% 33% 32%
Computers 16% 19% 20% 14% 18% 16%
Office 17% 17% 17% 16% 14% 16%
Campers & Camping 24% 28% 26% 30% 29% 36%
Home Improvement 26% 31% 31% 24% 31% 29%
Sport/Recreation 24% 27% 28% 23% 27% 27%

More information on the Co-op SmartGrowth Consulting Team can be found here.

About Co-op SolutionsCo-op Solutions is the market-leading financial technology platform whose mission is to connect credit unions to the technology, strategic partnership and scale they need to best serve their members now and into the future. Co-op partners with credit unions to unlock their potential so they can compete; does the hard work of innovation, creating a one-stop opportunity to help credit unions grow; and offers knowledge and expertise in a world where everything must be integrated. For more information, visit coop.org.

Contact:
Bill Prichard, APR
Director, Public Relations
Co-op Solutions
(909) 532-9416
Bill.Prichard@coop.org