Meeting the challenge set by incumbents and Big Tech

Kaycee Murray, Senior Vice President, Information Technology, Numerica Credit Union

Without access to big budgets, how can a small organisation rise to customers’ digital expectations which have been set by Big Tech and digitally-savvy non-financial services organisations? Washington-based Numerica Credit Union shows exactly how it can be done, partnering with third-parties and identifying the opportunities Big Tech provide to deliver new, innovative customer engagement and loyalty solutions. KayCee Murray, Senior Vice President, Information Technology precedes her speaking slot at MoneyLIVE Summit with an exclusive interview with the MoneyLIVE team, discussing Numerica’s innovation endeavours in voice technology and financial wellness tools.

Despite its smaller stature, Numerica Credit Union has proved that small financial institutions can compete effectively with the big dogs in banking to deliver innovative services to its customers. What gives Numerica Credit Union the edge?

I don’t think that Numerica has an edge.  What we do have is a clear focus on who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish.  We know that first and foremost we are here to enhance the lives of our members, help them achieve their financial goals, and give back to the communities we serve.  One way my team supports those goals is by making it easier for members to access their money on their own terms.  We certainly don’t have the resources or budgets of the big banks which would allow us to build out new features, so instead we focus on creating partnerships with vendors and being open to trying new things.

 

From offering voice transactions services for Amazon’s Alexa, to now developing mobile apps for parents to teach children about financial wellness, would you argue that future success in banking relies on effectively segmenting customers and offering products and services that genuinely suit them?

I would definitely agree with that statement.  To be successful we need to meet our members where they are and help guide them to where they want to be.  No one wins if the products we offer don’t meet our members’ needs or make it more difficult for members to achieve their goals.

 

Tell us more about this new app you’re developing, why is Numerica taking this step to help parents and what are the business benefits of doing so?

Numerica is committed to enhancing our members’ lives and helping them to achieve their goals.  We believe that financial education plays a key role in doing this, and the earlier we can help our members develop good financial habits the better for everyone.   Late last year we were approached by the CEO of Incent, LLC.  He asked if we had any interest in working with them to develop an app that would help parents teach their children financial management skills.  We jumped at the chance to offer a new tool to parents.  The app is designed to reward positive behaviour, so the child is excited and incentivized to make good choices.   Parents are able to view their child’s account, set debit card spending limits, and easily transfer money to the child’s account.  Children are able to login and see their account, earn money by completing chores, request loans from their parents, and earn trophies for doing the right things. By providing an app like this, Numerica hopes to strengthen and deepen our relationship with both the parents and children.

“We certainly don’t have the resources or budgets of the big banks which would allow us to build out new features, so instead we focus on creating partnerships with vendors and being open to trying new things”

For large financial institutions, it can take a great deal of time to launch new products. In the future, these slow moves to market could mark the downfall of traditional banking providers. Numerica Credit Union launched voice skills for Alexa in just nine short months, what attitudes and culture changes have taken place to keep pace with Big Tech? 

Launching new products always comes with delays and surprises. Big Tech is helping shorten time frames by giving financial institutions tools, rather than building solutions on their own. It is also bringing more options to smaller banks and credit unions. That being said, Big Tech doesn’t take care of everything. It can still be challenging to bring all of the pieces together, whether that’s making sure we’re meeting all compliance requirements, assessing the risk, or just bridging the technology together seamlessly for the members. Big Tech is pushing traditional banking providers to re-evaluate and change how they do business.  While this can be scary, it also brings a lot of really exciting opportunities.

 

There is so much hype around the potential of voice technology beyond banking. What has Numerica learnt since the launch of these new features for its customers and what are the next steps?

Numerica learned that even though we wanted to be early adopters, we still needed to maintain our focus on the member experience while building new. While developing the Alexa skill, we chose to remove some features of our skill because it didn’t meet our expectations for the end-user experience. We refused to compromise the experience, just to get it to market faster or be able to advertise more features. For Numerica, that was absolutely the right decision. We also experienced some unique challenges while working with voice technology.  For example, different users are going to ask the same question in different ways.  It’s important to have a variety of testers, so you get a good mix and better understanding of how questions will be asked.  That way your skill can respond with the best answer.

Numerica knows that while we may be a bit ahead of the competition today in terms of voice banking, we certainly can’t stop here. We plan to launch a Google Home voice app later this year.  We’re also working to include more features and functionality with our voice technology. While we move forward with voice, Numerica is also working to improve its digital banking experience including expanded personal financial management, improved UX, better digital support, and better analytics.

KayCee Murray has worked in the financial industry for nearly 20 years and has held several positions at Numerica Credit Union in IT and Operations while advancing to her current position of Senior Vice President Information Technology.  Numerica is a $2.2 billion financial institution headquartered in Spokane Valley, Wash. They serve over 146,000 members throughout eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

In her role, KayCee oversees digital banking and web development, technology infrastructure and security, business intelligence, and core system operations. KayCee’s strong focus on future technological innovations has allowed the credit union to be front-runners in digital services that make managing finances more convenient for their members.

Kaycee Murray will delivering a case study on ‘Voice as a Channel’ at MoneyLIVE Summit, which will take place on 25-26 November 2019 at QEII Centre, London.

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