Keeping member service No. 1 drives the success of SAFE Credit Union’s technology enhancements
For SAFE Credit Union, the notion of digital transformation is not a one-off reaction to the pandemic. It’s a constant process of improvement that maintains SAFE’s long tradition of providing the best banking experience it can for its members. Adherence to that mission has made SAFE one of the top 100 credit unions in the U.S. while managing assets in excess of $4.5 billion, so they must be doing something right.
The latest development has been a complete overhaul of the credit union’s core banking platform, with the upgrade going live in April after a process of more than two and a half years. It’s been a long journey, but one that will revamp the way SAFE operates. CIO Mike McCarthy spoke with BOSS to detail how the new DNA core banking platform from Fiserv will give SAFE a 360-degree view of each member relationship to help customers assess their financial health and strive toward their life goals. He also looks to the next big changes that will keep SAFE moving forward rather than resting on its laurels.
“We can’t remain stagnant,” he said. “We want to keep evolving in the digital space and we want to keep pushing member experience, convenience, and value.”
It’s one step, albeit a giant one, in a continuous evolution for the 82-year-old institution that will keep members at the center of everything it does in a new era of digital service.
The new core banking platform gives a complete view of every touchpoint a member has with SAFE, each product and service they use. Rather than having to review each account a member has one by one, the new core shows every interaction with the credit union, allowing SAFE to recognize what a member’s financial needs might be in any given time period.
“That in turn will provide more personalized member service,” McCarthy said.
The core conversion has necessitated a heavy operational focus on the part of the IT team that has yielded tremendous advancements for the future of SAFE, with great tools to drive future success.
“Beyond the member relationship in the core banking platform, we leveraged Salesforce CRM and Salesforce Marketing Cloud to provide employees a better view of our member interactions in different business channels,” he said.
McCarthy and his team are now evaluating their CRM capabilities and a data warehouse replacement to see how they can drive a 1:1 marketing experience.
“Every member has different needs and desires. We want to be their institution of choice. We think we can get there by continuing exceptional experiences but also by helping them achieve their financial goals,” he said. “These tools help us achieve that goal more and more every day.”
Make It Personal
SAFE takes great care to ensure that each technological advancement works to benefit the people behind the data points.
“Human-centered design is still paramount,” McCarthy said. “You have to develop or select technology solutions that really provide people with the services and functionality they need and want.”
If your solutions don’t add value with minimal friction, he said, you’re lost before you’ve started. His aim is to make it worth members’ while to switch over to new systems and make use of all their features. When they see how new tools make it easier for them to track and achieve financial goals, they’ll be quicker to adopt them.
More advanced business intelligence capabilities will also allow for a more personalized banking experience.
“We need to know more about our members’ preferences and their needs beyond what the core will give us, which is financial services and products,” McCarthy said. “We have to go beyond that.”
To that end, SAFE is replacing its data warehouse with Trellance M360, to leverage its financial institution-focused data model and to accelerate data analytics maturity.
“If we can get there, which is the path we’re on, we’ll know even more context about each member,” he said, “which can only add to better member service.”
The more SAFE knows what members want out of their money, the better the credit union can deliver member convenience and financial management advice. At any stage of life, members have something they’re planning for, and no two members’ goals are exactly alike, so personal insights are critical.
Up to Speed
After several years of offering members debit/credit card instant issuance and replacements in branch via the Matica Cards on the Spot solution, SAFE is replacing their card printer fleet with Matica’s latest high print quality models. Beyond faster in-branch card printing, , SAFE is adding an even a more convenient wrinkle with digital instant issuance. Members will soon receive a new or replacement card in near real time with digital wallet integrations with likes of Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. With another layer of friction removed, new members or members who lost their cards can make contactless payments via their smart devices in no time.
Near field communication readers have also gone on each of SAFE’s ATMs, bringing the contactless experience there as well. Later this year, the credit union will begin replacing all physical credit and debit cards with NFC cards. While each member is different, we can all appreciate speed and convenience.
“We spent a lot of time analyzing, upgrading, and tuning our existing ATM fleet to provide a faster transaction,” McCarthy said.
More software upgrades to ATMs are coming this year. Beyond speed, SAFE wants to upgrade the products and services it can offer at the touch of a button. Over the next few years, SAFE plans to replace its existing ATM fleet with more robust, high-performing systems.
After the work that went into retrofitting those ATMs with NFC readers, SAFE refuses to grow complacent, instead spending this year plotting out making the entire fleet even more user-friendly.
The Long Game
With the core conversion having been a major focus for two and a half years, SAFE’s leadership is shifting back to a more strategic approach with an eye on the other technology shifts and trends coming down the pike. If it improves member experience, SAFE is open to it.
“We believe that by doing that and staying on pace or ahead of the game, it’ll lead to increased member loyalty and even more growth than we’ve already experienced,” McCarthy said.
As rapidly as SAFE has grown, member service remains at the core of everything it does. SAFE has overcome the inevitable growing pains by keeping key personnel focused on service while others handle expansion and plans for the future. About 50% of employees are member-facing. While that illustrates the member-centric operations, it also means those employees need to feel happy and fulfilled in their jobs to keep smiles on their and members’ faces.
SAFE has been doing plenty of that, earning Best Place to Work accolades from the Sacramento Business Journal four years running, including three selections as the No. 1 Best Place to Work in the very large company category.
“We plan to keep that streak alive,” McCarthy said. “We strongly believe that happy employees deliver exceptional service.”
As the technology is ever-changing, SAFE will continue pursuing those incremental improvements that have driven its eight-plus decades of success, taking a long-term view.
“We spent the last two and a half years doing this core conversion to lay a technology foundation that allows us to integrate third-party solutions to be more nimble and faster to market as we go beyond,” McCarthy said. “SAFE’s had a great history, but I think with all the technology changes and the plans ahead, we have an even brighter future.”
The creation and integration of an entire new core banking platform was not the end of SAFE’s digital transformation. In fact, they might be just getting started.
Established in 1940, SAFE Credit Union has a long and proud history of providing the best solutions, exceptional experiences, and professional experts.
SAFE has delivered on its commitment to improve members’ financial well-being and, in doing so, has experienced remarkable growth.
From a modest beginning as a small credit union serving civilian and enlisted Air Force personnel, SAFE has evolved into a financial leader serving individuals and businesses throughout the region.
Today, maintaining assets in excess of $4.5 billion, SAFE is the third-largest credit union in Sacramento, in the top 25 in California, and among the top 100 in the United States.
With a reach spanning 13 counties in Northern California, SAFE serves more than 242,000 members through 21 branch locations, a local Call Center, and a mortgage lending office serving Contra Costa County, as well as innovative mobile and online solutions.
SAFE’s success is a compendium of the vision, trials, and achievements of numerous dedicated board and committee volunteers, credit union employees, and active members.
We invite you to take advantage of our wide variety of products and services to help you grow and prosper.
Visit safecu.org to learn more.
Federally insured by NCUA | Equal Housing Opportunity
SAFE Credit Union
2295 Iron Point Road, Suite 100
Folsom, CA 95630-8765