In 2020, we experienced not only a health crisis caused by COVID-19, but also the economic fallout of the pandemic. Everywhere around the globe it has accelerated change in the credit union paradigm. It does not change our credit union values. It does change how we serve our members.
One of the results of the pandemic is that the call for digitization became an urgent need for digital transformation.
For a long time, the number one challenge among credit unions has been regulatory burden. In 2020, digital transformation became the number one priority.
Before 2020, digital transformation—the offering of core services via online and mobile channels integrated with the national payments ecosystem—was about being competitive and meeting members’ demands for convenience. With COVID-19, it was no longer about convenience; it was about member and employee health and safety. In some countries, we have seen 75% of lobby transactions shift to mobile transactions.
Our values did not change, but the financial service delivery paradigm changed overnight—and for us, it changed as well. Members expect access to services via digital channels and they expect those channels to integrate with other payments and commerce channels they use as well.
This requires investment in constantly evolving technology services at a time when credit unions are experiencing reduced income from delinquency, restructured loans, lower market interest rates and reduced loan demand in a period of uncertainty. At a time when credit unions experience increased costs from increased provisions and increased write-offs, there is an urgency to invest in order to meet the needs of members who are suffering economic hardships as well.
This enhances the need for cooperation and collaboration among credit unions to create shared platforms for back-office functions and digital payments systems.
As credit unions are called upon by their members and communities to help build a future of economic recovery and prosperity, a key path to deliver on that promise is the ability to respond to members’ digital demands.
Challenge 2025, the digitization of the global credit union system, was started before COVID-19 shook our world, because it was apparent the potential of our industry and movement would be limited without it. It was the right thing to do then, and it has become a worldwide imperative now.
Brian Branch retired from World Council of Credit Unions in August, ending a career that spanned a total of 31 years, the last ten as President and CEO. He is succeeded as President and CEO of World Council by Elissa McCarter LaBorde, who assumed her duties on August 16.