Thursday, August 31, 2017

The biggest digital banking trends we've seen so far in 2017

Digital banking continues to change the way people manage their finances, and it is increasing in capability and adoption. Digital banking platforms are no longer an emerging trend in the financial industry – they’re becoming the norm for conducting transactions. They are, however, becoming increasingly sophisticated and accessible.

Here are the biggest trends we’ve seen in the digital banking space this year:

Cutting-edge data analytics. Credit unions are using member data in powerful ways that benefit both the credit union and member. By leveraging existing data, credit unions can analyze member behavior and tailor the products and services they recommend, which deepens relationships and increases revenue. Analysis of “big data” is becoming more advanced, allowing for personalization that members desire from their credit unions. 

Digital payments and mobile wallet. According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans own a smartphone. Although branches are still important in building member relationships, the reality is that customers expect to be able to complete their banking transactions online. Mobile wallet is also increasing in popularity. People expect to be able to make payments with the click of a button, not with a credit card or check. Demand for these services will only increase.

Streamlined digital banking experience. A consistent, easily accessible digital banking expense is a must. According to the 2017 Digital Banking Report, improving the digital banking experience is a top priority for financial institutions. Customers expect to conduct transactions seamlessly across devices anytime, anywhere from an intuitive platform. They also expect access to help should they need it, in real time (e.g., a chatbot). 

Gamification. Many financial institutions are implementing game-like activities to incentivize their members toward certain behavior, as well as educate them on financial literacy. Relationship pricing (or loyalty programs) use gamification to inspire loyalty (think: points toward a reward like a lower loan rate for adding on additional services at the credit union). It can also be used to encourage behavior like depositing into a savings account or making a loan payment on time.

Prevalence of open systems. Legacy systems are being phased out to make way for open architecture systems that can be updated more easily and efficiently. Open systems allow for new software to be applied at a quicker rate, which is essential considering the rapid pace at which new technologies are developed. Open systems continue to replace outdated models. Customers want to be able to manage all of their finances from one interface – adaptability and integration with third party software are key.

When thinking about adopting new technology at your credit union, consider implementing these measures – they create a better experience for your members, and in turn inspire loyalty and engagement. Staying ahead of digital banking trends will help you outdo the competition and attract and retain the membership you want.

David McCullough

Senior Solutions Manager

EPL, Inc.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Legacy vs. Open-Architecture Core Systems – When is it time to Migrate?

Financial institutions often operate from software systems that have been in place for many years. While the “old” technology may still work, legacy systems that aren’t compatible with changing technologies can cause big headaches for those that must work in them every day, as well as their customers and vendors. If you’re operating on a closed system, you might consider upgrading if:
  1. Your software can’t keep up with new technologies. Legacy systems simply aren’t designed to be compatible with new technologies. Considering the pace at which innovation occurs in the tech sector, this is a big problem. If your system is closed to future development, you will be stuck behind the curve of innovation. An open-architecture system allows you to connect with current technologies and be prepared for inevitable future developments.
  2. Upgrades are cumbersome and time-consuming. Updates on legacy systems are often time-consuming because a “small” change to one component affects many other aspects of the system. You can’t apply a simple patch and move on – everything must be reworked. Open systems are adaptable and can be modified incrementally over time with quicker updates.
  3. Costs of maintaining your legacy system are too high. Upgrading and maintaining a legacy system is typically more expensive than adding capabilities to an open platform. Adding on new technology to a legacy system creates a disjointed patchwork of components that become more complex and therefore more difficult to operate over time.
  4. You are experiencing cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Hackers and other malicious actors are constantly looking for new ways to exploit systems and steal valuable company information. Legacy systems cannot address these threats in the same way that an open, flexible systems can. Because changes take longer to apply to legacy systems, company data can be exposed for a longer period of time.
  5. Your software can’t evolve with your business. Software that is customizable to changing company needs is critical to ensure efficient work. An open core allows you to be more flexible with your technology and update it as the business landscape changes. You must be able to meet your customers and vendors where they are in the digital realm.
An open-architecture system allows for seamless integration of the latest technologies. Your credit union needs the capability to add on future technologies and products to stay relevant and engaged with your members. Legacy systems are a thing of the past – it’s time to be out with the old and in with the new.

Rhiannon Stone

COO

EPL, Inc.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Product Spotlight: How EPL's CUe-Branch Integrates Design with Functionality

EPL has been constantly evolving our leading-edge, online and mobile banking solution, CUe-Branch, to stay ahead of the technological curve and meet the demands of our credit union clients. CUe-Branch provides credit unions with innovative, personalized ways to display their offerings, enriching the member experience and creating efficiencies at the branch. The intuitive design and seamless user interface of our online and mobile banking platform allows credit union members to access the data they need anytime, from anywhere.

Here are a few ways CUe-Branch allows credit unions to enhance the member experience:

  • Intuitive Design. The design of CUe-Branch makes transitioning users (including new members) to the product much easier for credit unions, requiring little to no staff involvement. The design was created after in-depth research on usability for both the credit union member and staff. The widget-based dashboard makes the software easy to use and provides a clear visual on members’ financial status – they can view all accounts in one place from a single login.
  • Member-to-Member Transfers. This feature allows users of CUe-Branch to transfer funds to other credit union members quickly and efficiently. They can schedule transfers or transfer funds immediately to another member of the credit union.
  • Built in Person-to-Person Payments. Person-to-Person Payments (P2P) allows members to transfer funds to people outside of the credit union, regardless of where the account is held. The recipient doesn’t have to be a member of the credit union to receive the transfer. The transfers are easy to initiate via email or cell phone, and are safe and secure.
  • ACH Origination. ACH Origination allows members to move funds to and from their account at the credit union to an account outside the credit union. For example, they can make a loan payment at another financial institution from their credit union account.
  • Credit Union Customization. Each credit union has a custom look and feel for their CUe-Branch. Credit unions are able to create a branded theme for their CUe-Branch, and use it to market their products and services to their members. Each credit union can generate new revenue streams through targeted marketing initiatives. 

The features and intuitive design of CUe-Branch allow credit unions to provide a personalized experience for their members, which deepens relationships, increases engagement and drives revenue for the credit union. CUe-Branch is backed by our support team at EPL, who is available at any time to provide training on the product and assess its functionality to ensure optimal performance. This solution is ideal for credit unions looking to drive growth and increase profitability.

If you are interested in learning more about CUe-Branch, please give David McCullough a call at 205-408-5300.

David McCullough

Sr. Product Manager

EPL, Inc. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

4 Ways Core Technology Can Enhance the Member Experience

Your credit union’s core technology intrinsically is tied to the member experience. It’s also an essential element in building and sustaining your membership base. If your technology isn’t accessible, intuitive and innovative, you might lose members to another financial institution that is more focused on developing cutting-edge, dynamic solutions that add value to the member relationship.

If you want to retain members and spur growth at your credit union, ensure your core:
  1. Seamlessly integrates proprietary and third-party solutions. At EPL, our technology solutions are built on a modern, open-architecture system. Our proprietary products provide a streamlined experience for your members, creating efficiencies for them as well as your credit union. Both our robust selection of modular proprietary solutions and ability to connect seamlessly to third-party solutions allows you to provide a custom and unique solution for your members and boost your suite of products. As a credit union, you must remain cognizant of industry and technological trends to stay ahead of the curve. Giving your members access to the best tools the marketplace has to offer is key. 
  2. Empowers members with a comprehensive view of their finances. Core software should allow members to access a clear picture of their current financial state, as well as provide the tools to decide how to budget and spend their hard-earned money, take out loans, etc. Members choose credit unions because of the personalized experience they provide. It’s up to you to give them the data they need to make informed decisions and help guide them on their way. 
  3. Educates members on products and services that meet their needs. Your software should be used as a tool for your credit union to cross-sell your suite of products and services to your members. Leveraging data from your core solution to tailor recommendations and service offerings keeps them engaged and aware of what your credit union can provide. The first step in getting members to utilize an additional product is education. Data that analyzes member spending options, and this behavior can help you discover new ways your credit union can serve them. 
  4. Recognizes and rewards your members. EPL recently implemented a new Relationship Pricing model, which is mutually beneficial to the credit union and its members. Loyalty programs increase customer engagement with financial institutions by providing incentives for them to utilize more services and get involved. At the credit union level, a loyalty program can build a sense of community. You can leverage these programs to reward your members for their business and educate them on different products and services, helping them achieve their financial goals and increasing overall satisfaction. 
Does your core software enhance the members experience at your credit union? Make sure you have the technological systems in place to keep them coming back. Your credit union’s vitality depends on it. 

Robin Kolvek

CEO

EPL, Inc.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

2017 PAT Conference in Review - 5 Key Takeaways

Our Product Advisory Conference, which took place in Denver last month, gives us the opportunity to share new products and initiatives that demonstrate how we are staying on the cutting-edge of software development. It is also a platform for our customers to give feedback and acquire knowledge from their credit union peers. This year’s theme was “Evolve Constantly. Perform Exceptionally. Lead Boldly.” These three tenets represent the core of what we do at EPL as an industry-leading software development and services company.

While many great achievements were covered, new initiatives planned and wonderful experiences shared, we simply don’t have the space to recap it all here. So, here are EPL’s top five takeaways from what was surely the best conference yet!
  1. Progress on the product roadmap. We were pleased to show substantial progress on our product roadmap, which will provide our customers with the solutions they need to remain competitive in the marketplace. Together with Dedagroup, we are developing innovative software solutions and unlocking new opportunities through partnerships with organizations like Juniper Payments, LLC. Our new, innovative General Ledger, robust Relationship Pricing package, new In-House Credit offering, CUe-Branch online and mobile banking upgrades, Teller Operational efficiencies, User Interface enhancements, OFAC/FinCEN and our new EPLOS lending solution are just a few examples of the latest and greatest things happening at EPL. We shared even more robust i-POWER® and proprietary solution updates, including a 188% increase in development!
  2. Client responsiveness. We are actively listening to our clients’ needs and responding accordingly. We evolve our products and services constantly to meet the demands of our clients and the marketplace. EPL is dedicated to developing solutions that empower credit unions of all sizes with software that improves member experiences and drives real growth.
  3. Culture of collaboration. We are focused on a culture of collaboration within EPL, as well as with our customers. The Product Advisory Conference provides a unique opportunity for credit union leaders to share ideas and gain new insights on what is working for them in the industry. By working with our partners at Dedagroup, we will continue to enhance our software, expand our services and create new efficiencies.
  4. Security and compliance agility. We provided a security and compliance update that informed our customers how we are staying abreast of compliance issues in the industry, including the Credit Bureau Furnisher Data Reporting changes. We want our clients to know that we are anticipating industry shifts as well as security concerns by sharing key initiatives and actions we are taking to comply with industry regulations.
  5. Position as a global company. Finally, we shared how we – EPL and Dedagroup – are driving a collaborative, inclusive, take-action culture. We are leveraging expertise from our organization and partners to develop comprehensive solutions for EPL’s clients. This effort spans across the globe, from our resources in the U.S. and Mexico to Italy. Along with our partners Dedagroup, Juniper Payments, LLC, we are accelerating the delivery of quality solutions.
EPL is excited about the positive impact we are making while serving our customers and their members. We look forward to continued collaboration as we develop software solutions that meet emerging needs and position ourselves for an extraordinary future together.

Robin Kolvek

CEO

EPL, Inc.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spring Cleaning Your Credit Union’s Technology - What’s Working and What’s Not?

Spring is in full swing, which means it’s time to clean out the closets, discard what you no longer use and get organized. This same principle should be applied to your credit union’s software — now is a great time to assess what is working well and what “clutter” lies in the path of progress. Remember, technological efficiency is closely tied to success in our industry. 

When analyzing what is working for your credit union, consider these four questions:

1. Do your digital platforms make transactions easier for members?
Members expect to have the data they need to make informed decisions at their fingertips. Transactions should be easily made online or via mobile apps. Did you know that the biggest obstacle for credit unions in mobile banking usage is getting members to sign up? Consider ways in which you might incentivize members to utilize your digital platforms and educate them about their benefits. If members aren’t using your digital platforms, it doesn’t matter how user-friendly they are.

2. Does your technology inspire loyalty and retention?
Your credit union’s technology should be your key to unlocking insights on member behavior and trends. These insights can be used for cross-selling opportunities that keep members engaged with the credit union and encourage them to add on more products and services. Your technology should be central to your credit union’s retention strategy. If it’s not giving you the data and insights you need, it’s time to consider an upgrade.

3. Is your software up-to-date?
According to a recent survey, most credit unions are operating with software that is more than five years old. While this is not uncommon, not all core providers regularly update their software with new features and efficiencies. When was the last time your core provider put out a major software release? Are they routinely meeting product development promises or obligations? Ensure you remain on the cutting edge by choosing an innovative core provider who evolves and delivers in anticipation of customer needs, not to catch up to them.   

4. Is your data secure?
Cybersecurity remains a hot topic and large threat to credit unions and other financial institutions. Consistent updating of your security software is non-negotiable. Computer updates as well as application updates must be applied as soon as possible upon release, so that necessary patches are installed to prevent any cybersecurity weaknesses. Also, make sure any former credit union employees have been removed from access to company systems.

When looking at your core software, are there any components that are outdated, clunky or inefficient? If so, it might be time to upgrade to a more streamlined solution. Your credit union is only as strong as the software your employees and members use daily — make sure it’s working effectively for you and your members.

Shairaj Shaik

Vice President of Software Development

EPL, Inc.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

So, what is it like to work at EPL?

In February 2013, EPL opened its doors to my wide-eyed and nervous self. As a 23-year-old, the chance to not only work in a more corporate atmosphere, but to also in an environment like EPL’s was an unbelievably exciting opportunity for me. I was set on making a positive impression at my new “work home.” What I didn’t realize at the time, however, was how much EPL would also make an impression on me.

I could speak extensively about the positive aspects of working at EPL, but wanted to highlight a handful of attributes that make EPL stand out as a distinct employer:

Our Customers. We at EPL feel privileged to have such valued relationships with our customers. The ability and willingness of our team to provide one-on-one, customized assistance to each of our credit unions is unparalleled. Our friendly and highly dedicated customer service allows us to get to know our customers on a personal basis and simultaneously position them for success. Our customers trust us to make sure their credit union and its members achieve their highest ambitions, and we do everything we can to make sure that success is delivered. We truly do have a wonderful group to work with – both here at EPL and at the credit unions we serve.

Open Door Policy. The constant exchange of information and knowledge I witness every day is both energizing and fulfilling. No matter the role or title, every person on our team serves as a mentor to others. Have a question? Call a coworker and they will pause their task to help walk you through your issue until you reach a resolution. Managers here are also keen on ensuring each employee’s success and happiness. The fact that I can walk up to my supervisor and ask, “Do you have a minute?” and have an impromptu conversation is both invaluable and instrumental in fostering a culture of collaboration, cooperation and caring — a culture that unmistakably trickles down throughout the rest of the company.

Flexibility. EPL employees are given the opportunity to work remotely, which symbolizes management’s trust in employees to remain productive and responsive. It also gives employees freedom and flexibility in their schedules, while still providing excellent customer service.

Growth Opportunities. Employees here are also encouraged to explore and learn about all departments of the company. This cross-training creates limitless learning opportunities for an employee, which, in turn, allows the individual to grow and flourish in both knowledge and skill and gives them the ability to expand their role if they wish to contribute their talents in other areas.

Our Future. Since 1977, EPL has experienced many transformations in order to continue to effectively serve the credit union industry. I feel incredibly lucky and thrilled to be a part of a new evolutionary period of our company. With the investment from Dedagroup NA in 2015, and our recent strategic partnership with The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, we now have the ability to expand our collaborative efforts with larger, international organizations and serve a wider audience for the advancement of the credit union industry. Not to mention, we have the pleasure of getting to collaborate with a highly motivated team in both the U.S. and abroad, as we share the collective purpose of applying innovation and efficiency to everything we develop!

As is inevitable for any business, our team will sometimes encounter challenges. But beyond any difficulties and growing pains we may face lies EPL’s wonderful team members, who possess an unwavering dedication to serving our customers and the fundamental belief that only together can we achieve the greatest success.

Ashlyn Fogg

Sales Operations Specialist

EPL, Inc.