FULM Savings House is a credit union with just over $6 million in assets that serves slightly more than 12,000 members through its network of branches in the Republic of North Macedonia. But we don’t use these relatively small numbers as excuses when it comes to digitalization, because we see it as a key component for future success—just as much as any large credit union in the world.
Our journey toward digitalization began back in 2003, when we launched our first web page—becoming one of the first financial institutions in the country with a multilingual website in the languages spoken by our members. The goal was to provide an early introduction for our members to something that would become the new normal in the future.
In 2010, we implemented our first strategy for information and communications technology (ICT) and social media. Back then we asked ourselves—where do we seek support for the strategy? Of course, the answer was: at the board level. So, we introduced members of the FULM Board of Directors to ICT competencies. Then, we "forced" our CEO to start PhD studies in ICT, because if the "boss" can do it, everyone else can too. We have done a lot of training for employees, volunteers and members on how to use the technology, not only for the needs of FULM, but also for their own benefit.
The next stage was to introduce ourselves on social media: Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram. Our goal was not only to present our products, but also our beliefs, through the philosophy of "people helping people" and success stories from the previous years.
In 2016, we redesigned our website and, in 2018, integrated an online chat feature to give members easier access to information about our products.
All of that was a prelude to 2019—one of the most productive years in our process of digitalization. First, we launched an online loan application form through our website, making it possible to submit a complete loan application without the need to visit our branches. In the same year, we provided members with access to electronic banking (E-banking) through our website and mobile application—mFULM.
FULM Members who use E-banking have the opportunity to:
- Check the balance of deposits and loans.
- Make online loan payments.
- Apply for a loan online.
- Get information about our latest products and services.
In order to reduce the contact between FULM employees and members, we also enabled members to electronically submit a request to use FULM E-Banking without having to visit the branches.
FULM Savings House started to develop digitalization for optimizing internal processes in 2016 through the customized software ASPEKT, which offers support for processes related to the entire life of loans and deposits, as well as of certain types of reporting.
In addition, when introducing the possibility for online loan applications, we created customized backend software that allows loan officers to manage and process those applications that are submitted online. We also digitized our internal system for recording and monitoring employee work hours.
COVID-19: Opportunity or Challenge? It is a “challeopporty” 😊, a challenge that was successfully “converted” into an opportunity.
Due to measures related to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, FULM—for the first time in 23 years—held its 2020 Assembly (annual general meeting) online. All materials, suggestions, comments and questions were sent electronically, and thanks to our members, we successfully held our first virtual Assembly.
Since the onset of the Coronavirus crisis, the highest priority of FULM Savings House has been to preserve the health of employees, members, volunteers and their families. In the newly created emergency conditions, we have made our existing digital channels available for maximum use by our members and plan to offer new ones in the near future.
The opportunity for people to find out more about our products through digital channels has become extremely important during the COVID-19 crisis. Our loan officers answer all questions and messages via social media and online chat, which reduces the need for people to come to the branches to be informed about our products. We are accelerating our pace on the path to digitalization not only because there is a growing interest for the use of digital technologies due to the pandemic, but above all, because we believe that through digitalization we will make our products better and more accessible to everyone.
Vision for the future
Our next goal is to prepare a new digitalization strategy for 2021-2026, which will identify a number of opportunities to improve existing offerings and implement new digital processes, such as:
- Integrated business planning and digitalization strategies;
- Digital distribution channels and SEO optimization;
- Introducing new digital channels;
- Digital signatures;
- Digital identity;
- Content resource management (CRM); and
- Electronic wallet and internal payment system.
Our vision—"with our financial services to a better quality of life"—is fully reflected in these goals and fits perfectly into the digitalization process. Digitalization is the right path for a financial institution the size of FULM. But regardless of the size of the organization at the moment, we believe that the most important priority is a vision for a better future! Because size doesn’t matter, vision does!