Darrick Weeks, Chief Operations Officer at Wright-Patt Credit Union, has worked with credit unions since 1995. He has been instrumental in helping Wright-Patt expand their digital offerings — including a network of video tellers, which he talks about below.
You’ve been in the credit union industry for quite a while. What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed over the last few years?
In the last few years two things have dramatically driven feature changes. One is the rapid shift in the payments space, and the second is branch transformation. We spend a lot more time discussing what to do in these areas than we used to.
How have payments changed?
First, mobile is becoming more and more prevalent, which has forced us to rethink payments at a point-of-service level. Second, we're starting to see fragmentation in the card arena. We've always had the big networks — Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express — but we increasingly have the ten major debit networks playing in that same realm. All of these changes will bring competition and will be good for consumers in the long term, but they’re currently impacting interchange rates in the marketplace.
The situation reminds me of the VHS versus Beta debate that happened decades ago. People placed bets that Beta would win, but ultimately VHS became the standard. Those who made bets on Beta went away or were bought up. And eventually the DVD came out and trumped VHS. I look at what we're going through in payments as a little bit akin to that scenario. There's a lot of change, and we have to figure out how to remain relevant in the payment streams of our members.
The other change you mentioned has to do with branches. How has the branch evolved over the last few years?
From a service delivery perspective, branches will remain relevant for the foreseeable future. However, what occurs within them and why people use them has already changed dramatically. Branches used to primarily be a transactional point, but now many transactions occur electronically. This means that the branch will increasingly be used for more complex/advisory interactions such as answering questions about owning a home, discussing financial health, or preparing for retirement.
As part of this vast transformation process, we've implemented innovative tech on video banking side and eleven of our thirty locations now have video banking machines to handle transactions. All the tellers for these transactions are centralized here in Dayton. There are still senior financial solutions coaches at the branches to help our members with those more complex things where you might want to sit face to face with someone, talk about getting a loan or mortgage or helping your small business grow and succeed. That's the direction we've gone on branch transformation.
Are these video bankers part of your contact center?
They’re actually part of what we call the personal experience center. They don't take calls. They solely handle transactions through the video-banking terminal. We do about 8-10% of our transactions through these video banking terminals. And we'll see that continue to grow. We primarily use this in new markets, although we've completed a few retrofits. We launched the program about two years ago, and we're really quite pleased with the results.
One thing we’ve noticed while doing interviews for MoneySummit is that many bankers are seeing roles in the branch and contact center shift from being purely transaction to also having an advisory component.
We absolutely are doing both of those things. Last year we developed a three-year plan in our contact center and we're in the midst of executing on it. We really want to cater to whatever our member's chosen channel is and have been moving toward what you would probably describe as the universal banking model. We're at a point where about 50% of our member center staff can do transactions, accounts, and loans, and we want to get that to 60% over the next year and keep driving change in that direction.
What is one area where financial institutions could be doing better than they currently are?
If you look at the nation as a whole, there are two numbers that blow me away. The first is that over a third of all Americans haven't even started saving for retirement. The second is that 47% of Americans — and I’m sure our members aren’t any different — cannot come up with $400 in an emergency unless they sell something or take a loan.
I think credit unions are very well positioned to be part of that solution. We spend a whole bunch of time figuring out how our members can be better off financially. I think we do a good job in many respects but we can probably do better.
Would you say that profit factors into this impulse to help account holders with their financial health, or should financial institutions do it just for the cause?
Well, we can't ever ignore profit, and I do think that raising the tide raises all boats. Our strategy is to first make sure that our members can interact with us however they’d like, whether they come into a member center, call us, visit our website, use our app, or download our watch technology. We want to make sure we’re completely accessible to our members’ needs. I believe that if we do these things and think about what is best for our members, partners, and employees, things like profit will come.