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How Many Apps Does a Credit Union Need?

Financial technology can be complicated stuff- and anyone who claims there are easy answers to the challenges facing credit unions probably hasn’t analyzed the issues closely enough.  Faced with complex problems, well-informed people can reach different conclusions. A great example of this came recently when BIG’s leaders traded thoughts on how credit unions should approach their mobile app strategy.

John Best and Kevin Sarber are both fintech thought leaders and longtime credit union management veterans- yet they came out on different sides of a discussion of how many apps a credit union should offer its members in the app store. Or so it seemed.

John believes that a single, all-inclusive app covering the countless aspects of a banking relationship tends to become a bloated, convoluted mess. He argues that a “lean and mean” app focused on the most frequently accessed services and queries is the way to go.  After all, how often do you apply for a new mortgage or credit line? When those needs arise, members will be motivated enough to download a separate app tailored for that express purpose- which they can delete from the phone once the loan closes, freeing up valuable storage space and keeping the core functions humming along at peak performance.

On the other hand, Kevin believes that listing multiple apps in the store will merely confuse members, many of whom won’t know which one to select. After all, the objective for mobile is to make life simple for mainstream members who don’t geek out on the latest tech trends and have no desire to spend their precious time sorting through app store options- nor should they need to. If the basic premise of mobile banking is to make life more convenient, when a member can’t immediately figure out which app to download the credit union has already failed that test.

John also points out that credit unions need to develop agile skills to continually upgrade their core banking apps, in order to match the mobile offerings of the big national banks and offer members the best possible experience. Dealing with monolithic apps and their myriad touchpoints to various internal systems hinders such flexibility.

Kevin counters that this is a problem best solved by improved architecture and testing techniques, not a “single app or many” ultimatum. Both sides agree that “ride-along” functions like credit applications don’t require nearly as frequent updating as “top of menu” items like balance queries and account transfers. The question becomes whether those modules can be sufficiently isolated to avoid bogging down the rapid release process.

The more I heard Kevin and John dissect these competing points of view, the more I came to believe the distance between them isn’t that great. We’ll follow up with more thoughts on this topic in a week or two, and see if our two tech combatants can reach some sort of truce. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts on which approach you prefer, and/or which has (or hasn’t) worked well for your credit union.      

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