For decades, financial institutions have focused on placing their branches in locations that balanced the institutions’ needs and convenience for their customers. Over the last several decade, we’ve seen financial institutions focus on the customer experience in their branches; re-designing the interiors and making their customers feel more welcome. While customers have enjoyed all the extra special touches their branches provide, even the best branch design won’t meet all the needs for busy consumers. Many financial institutions have lagged behind in technology meant to make a user’s experience more convenient and are now playing “catch-up” in the digital age. Innovation, for the most part, has come from larger financial institutions and it has been slow. Community financial institutions have been even slower to adapt to these changes because of the uncertainty of where to start.
There are a few notable exceptions of banks which realized this trend and identified it for what it is: consumers are demanding convenience through every channel they use, and they are raising the bar for financial institutions who want to be competitive in the future. If you ask Jennifer Ventimiglia, Executive Vice President and COO at Fortera Credit Union, about her digital preferences as a consumer, she will tell you that they evolve as the technology evolves.
“Fifteen years ago, it used to be the convenience of bill-pay, then it was the convenience of mobile check deposit, then it was the ability to pay a friend for lunch by sending them a text.” Jennifer said. “Now, it’s credit score updates, budgeting tools, it’s viewing every account I have - no matter where I bank – with one single log-in. Tomorrow, we might be texting a question to your institution’s artificial intelligence queue or asking Alexa to ‘transfer funds’ instead of waiting on hold.”
Jennifer has been a leader in the Credit Union space for over a decade and has used her diverse background to understand and deliver products and services that meet the ever-evolving expectations of Fortera’s members. Fortera is a member-owned not-for-profit financial cooperative. The 55,000 members in their five-county market are the owners of the institution.
“Our team sees themselves as stewards of our member’s investment in us,” Jennifer stated. “We are responsible for them in that we have to show how their faith and commitment to our team is reflected in the decisions we make on the members’ behalf.”
2017 was a pivotal year for the 63-year old institution. Not only did Fortera have one of its healthiest financial years, it also invested in the digital experience for its members. “Providing a world-class online banking and mobile banking platform is just the start for us”, Jennifer said.
“We look forward to expanding our digital offerings, providing members with a choice as to how they want to interact with us.”
Understanding the need for change and actually driving that change are two very different tasks. At Fortera, the executive mandate has been to drive the institution into the future. “We have been charged by our volunteer Board of Directors to move the institution forward in to the digital age”, said Tom Kane, Fortera’s President and CEO. “Jennifer has assembled a team of forward-thinking innovators who listen to our members, understand their needs, and focus on how to deliver.” Both Tom and Jennifer believe that the institution is positioned to evolve even further in 2018.
“Our industry is changing every day, not just from the institution side, but the needs of our members and our employees.” said Jennifer. “We are making every effort to anticipate our members’ needs and design an organization that fulfills each of them. Otherwise, we lose our competitive edge”.