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U.S. Credit Union Sees Online Account Openings Triple in COVID-19 Climate

The following post is provided by Desert Financial Credit Union, the largest credit union in the U.S. State of Arizona, with more than 340,000 members and 47 physical locations in the Phoenix area.

Desert Financial Credit Union reports a triple increase in new accounts opened online compared to this time last year.

While the strongest uptick was in checking and savings accounts, loan applications and other more complex transactions have also increased.

Time and convenience are valuable currencies today and conducting business in the digital space is critical for attracting the tech-savvy. According to Business Insider's Mobile Banking Competitive Edge Study, 89 percent of respondents reported using smartphones to manage banking.

Desert Financial continues to invest in digital solutions and is the first in Arizona to offer voice banking via Alexa and recently, Google Assistant. Contactless solutions also count more now as the pandemic drives new practices around precautions.

Desert Financial, the state's largest credit union, is home to its subsidiary SwitchThink Solutions, a technology consulting company that serves credit unions across the nation. With a robust in-house partner, Desert Financial has the talent and resources to innovate with speed and agility that surpasses most financial institutions.

"The vast majority of new accounts opened online at Desert Financial take place via smartphones," said Wayne Oleksak, VP of Experience & Innovation at SwitchThink. "So it was important to create a mobile-first solution."

Oleksak says some financial organizations use third parties for online account opening. But they often deliver a disjointed experience lacking a personized flow or quick access to support should things go wrong.

He hired a team to design a more robust, customized solution for Desert Financial allowing the opening of accounts anywhere, anytime.

"Before we laid down a line of new code, we hired a user experience expert, then followed up with thorough member testing before launching," he said.

Michael Anderson, Senior Digital Product Manager at SwitchThink, led the team that developed the secure, clean interface inspired by the desert and designed for easy navigation.

"It was important to create a friendly and even playful experience that matches our voice as an organization," said Anderson.

"The system responds with the applicant's first name, for example, throughout the online application process. It's intuitive and easy to navigate on a phone and features a prominent phone number to call for help. It's mobile-friendly like you'd expect and finishes by inviting the user to download the Desert Financial banking app for immediate access to funds," he said.

While finances have clearly moved online like so much of modern living, Oleksak affirms personalized service and relationships continue to attract members to Desert Financial.

"Once an account is opened, new members receive a call two days later, then at two weeks, followed by another two months later," he says. With Desert Financial's new statewide charter, virtually anyone in Arizona can open a new account or apply for a loan at their convenience.

"While a huge percentage of millennials use mobile banking, we designed this for everyone." Anderson says one new member, in their late 70s, reported a feeling of accomplishment in getting an account opened online. "We knew it would resonate with a tech-savvy demographic, but this member's experience really cemented the success."