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We recently spoke to Rob Mills, Vice President of Technology at Rivermark Community Credit Union to discuss the credit union’s new digital banking experience, how they “fail faster,” and how they continue to evolve with the digital banking world.

In a few sentences, can you tell us about Rivermark Community Credit Union?

Rivermark’s mission statement is “to be the recognized champion that puts the branch in your hands.” Everything we do is focused on providing our members with the most access and convenience, whether that is implementing Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) so that we can be open from 8am to 8pm or changing banking vendors so we can provide our members more services on “the branch in their hands,” that is, their mobile device.

Can you tell us more about your decision to upgrade your digital banking experience and fleet of ATMs?

Everything comes back to our mission and our members.

We’re finding that our members are choosing to engage with us on mobile for transactions they do regularly. Our members are choosing to call us, chat with us or come into our branches when they get into what we call “exception banking” – things they don’t do every day, that they’re upset about, or confused about. Having ITMs and secure chat for online and mobile banking is allowing our members to engage with us on their terms, even after branch hours.

Do you have any insights on how this initiative is going?

We’re only a couple weeks in, but our digital support team is already seeing an increase in new checking accounts among our existing members.

How do you see your relationship with NCR Financial Services, impacting your organization’s growth and goals?

Like us, NCR Financial Services (NCR FS), is very innovative. Their roadmap closely matches ours, and where it doesn’t, we have the opportunity to create and deliver on services that are important to us but may not be for the rest of the market. NCR FS encourages us to take advantage of the tools they provide as well as “Create your Owns,” which gives us opportunity to offer services we’re very proud of, that are neat, new and innovative.

Has this initiative helped to bring in new members/create new relationships with members?

There are two important points on this. First, we’re getting a very strong brand in our market as being a technology and convenience leader. Every time we release a new feature, we’re seeing a big uptick in our member base.

Second, this initiative is giving us the infrastructure to instantly serve our new and existing members online. We believe that due to all of our marketing efforts we have gotten some of our existing members to log into mobile banking for the first time, and with one of our “Create your Own” initiatives that we call Online Account Opening making it so easy for our members to open new accounts, one of the upticks that we are seeing is in new deposit accounts.

In general, how have you had to adapt your product offerings and services as digital banking continues to evolve?

A big part of our success is in overcoming the fear of change. We did this by adopting a work management theory of “failing faster.” That means is its okay to fail, go out and not know everything up front, but have a long-term vision and take it in bite-sized chunks. For example, we learned a lot from deploying ITM’s to our first Member Resource Center (branch) and applied those learnings to a second Member Resource Center. At this point, while we’re continuing to learn and apply past learnings and deploying ITM’s to a third Member Resource Center, we don’t have the fears we had when we first started in the lab environment at our corporate office.

What can other credit unions learn from your initiative and experience?

  1. Look for partnerships, not vendor-client relationships: Learn to recognize the difference. Learn to be a good partner, not just a demanding client, because partnerships not only drive a single financial institution forward faster, partnerships can drive the entire credit union industry forward faster.
  2. Learn to fail faster: The number one thing holding most of our industry back is fear. My favorite example of overcoming this for us was the ITM’s. We didn’t take the ITM’s and deploy them to every branch on day one. We took one, used it as a lab unit, let our employees use it, learned from it, made adjustments and then deployed one in drive-up close by. After learning from that, we then deployed them in our new Member Resource Center model and continued to learn along the way. Now, we are working with NCR FS to be able to deploy them as ITM\Full deposit taking ATMs and will be able to glean insights from that as well.

In addition to your latest offerings, does Rivermark leverage any additional technology to enhance services?

The ITMs were only one-third of what we’re trying to accomplish. We installed a technology bar in each of our Member Resource Centers because members will come into our branches when they are confused or need help with technology.

Additionally, we also introduced privacy rooms. These allow us to sit down and have meaningful conversations with our members without them worrying about who is next in line, or who can hear them. This has helped our services opened per visit. And, in our privacy rooms, we also have video conferencing technology so if a member needs to speak with an expert not in a branch, say for a mortgage, we can use video conference to meet our member’s needs.

We also decided that we wanted our staff untethered and completely free to get up and move around the branch, so we provided them all with laptops and applied best practices to ensure completely secure wireless Internet access to work with our members across the entire resource center. This allows our members to ask our staff questions and ensure their needs are met without having to sit and wait for the next Teller or Account Officer who is available.


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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Brad Strothkamp