Digital transformation slowly taking hold in many U.S. credit unions

FIS 2018 PACE Bank Executive Study finds many U.S. credit unions are not placing enough focus on digital efforts. 

By Keith Nolan, FIS Vice President, Credit Unions & Associations

Digital transformation is more than the latest trendy topic being discussed today in the boardrooms of financial institutions.  Executives across all bank types know that to remain relevant and competitive in an industry that is rapidly evolving, having a well thought out strategic plan and organization-wide commitment to digital technology is no longer a nice to have, it is a requirement for future survival. And, perhaps nowhere are the stakes higher than in the over 5600 U.S. credit unions vying to retain and grow the nearly 110 million members who currently do their banking with credit unions.

However, while bank executives generally agree on the importance of digital transformation, with the top 50 global banks viewing it as more important than other bank types do, the lowest importance view comes from U.S. credit union leaders who are not placing enough focus on digital efforts.  That’s according to findings from the newly released FIS 2018 PACE Bank Executive Study. The study reports that credit unions are lowest among all bank types with only 38 percent of those interviewed viewing digital transformation as “extremely important,” compared to 58 percent of top 50 global bank executives.

Given that credit unions are historically risk averse and resource constrained, they are moving slowly, if not cautiously, on the digitalization journey.  PACE findings show that 8 percent of credit union executives report investment in digital transformation will shrink in the next 12 months which is the highest among all bank types.  Additionally, a startling 28 percent of credit unions surveyed feel they are spending too much on digital initiatives – or about half as much as executives from other bank types.  PACE says the top 50 banks are more comfortable with their investments in digital transformation than other banks, with 63 percent believing their investment is about the right amount.


Despite the PACE findings showing that most credit unions are presently underinvesting in their digital transformations, PACE did uncover good news on the horizon.  Credit union executives have put enhanced digital channel functionality and faster payments/faster payments infrastructure at the top of their investment priority list.


Credit unions find themselves in a position where a wait and see approach is no longer the prudent approach to take when developing and implementing a digital transformation that will be right for the credit union and right for its members.  The success of the credit union movement is built on putting members first by offering very personalized customer service.  But members are getting younger and their needs are changing.  Because of this, there is no time like the present for credit unions to invest in a comprehensive digital operating model that can evolve as new technologies and innovations become available. It will successfully position credit unions as providers of seamless technology solutions that incorporate mobile, the cloud and big data, while offering the convenience and security members now expect from a banking institution.

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