With the recent news that new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are the lowest reported since the start of the pandemic*, we find ourselves returning to a normal that looks pretty different from the old norm, particularly in banking. You have likely adapted and adjusted, so has Empeople.
Here are three emerging trends in banking and what you (and Empeople) can do about it…
1. Interest Rates
Interest rates at or near all-time lows – for both lending and savings.
Just when we started to see rates increasing a little, the pandemic knocked us right back into a continued “all-time low” territory. Couple this low-rate environment with ample government stimulus, and we find consumers on a spending spree, unlike anything most of us have ever seen! Have you tried to buy a home or a boat, or a truck in the past six months? Finding a deal is like hitting the lottery! When you do find a buying opportunity, it’s critical that getting financing is fast, easy, and fun. At Empeople, we make access to lending quick and easy. You can get a loan with a push of a button or a simple phone call. Funds can be in your account often within minutes! Finding a deal and completing the purchase quickly… That is fun! And – yes – Empeople does mortgages. In fact, our team funded 2,000 mortgages in 2020 all over the U.S. You can search far and wide and not find a more efficient and experienced mortgage team.
Unfortunately, good news for borrowers is bad news for savers…Or is it?
If you have cash that you don’t want to spend, you prefer to get a high-interest rate of return. Likely, you are feeling frustrated as the national money market rate is around 0.50%APY**. That’s not enough to keep up with inflation! Many savers make the mistake of parking their money in these low-rate accounts waiting for CD rates to improve. We do not recommend that strategy.
Instead of waiting for rates to increase, employ a CD-laddering strategy that will allow you to essentially dollar-cost average deposit rates between now and when we return to a saver’s market. There is not enough space to detail this strategy here. Give us a call or visit with one of our Financial Success Managers . They will be happy to show you how to make extra interest while everyone else is sitting on the sidelines.
2. Digital Banking
The nearest bank branch is resting in the palm of your hand.
The American Bankers Association reports that the use of digital banking channels has skyrocketed since the pandemic. Now, 71% of all Americans look primarily to online and mobile media for their banking needs. Consumers are learning that these digital banking tools are not only easy to use, but they also save valuable time when they use them! Why drive 20 minutes roundtrip to deposit a check when you can do it with your phone in 20 seconds?
As a key strategic initiative, Empeople has made remote banking tools a priority for years. Besides online and mobile channels, we also ensure that our phone channel is well-staffed. At the height of the pandemic, our contact center maintained a service level of answering over 90% of our calls in 60 seconds or less. We take great pride in providing quick access to help when you need it most – regardless of the channel you choose. In support of this promise, we are investing in a significant digital banking upgrade. Our members will enjoy an even better online and mobile experience starting June 22nd! We know we must provide an experience on a level with the best financial services institutions out there, and we will continue to deliver. The new platform will be faster, more intuitive, and very interactive. Whether you need to transfer money to or from another institution or a friend, deposit a check, apply for a loan or instantly chat with one of our representatives, our members will have it all right at their fingertips!
We also meet with our members “face-to-face” regularly using Microsoft Teams technology. Our members know that we have been on the mobile-banking train for years and continue to evolve and improve the experience.
3. Financial Wellness
80% of consumers want their financial institution to help improve their financial health.
However, only 14% of consumers say their financial institution is delivering the help they need. This is according to a 2021 study conducted by The Financial Health Network. Who do you talk to when it comes to your financial journey? It is difficult to talk to friends and family about finances because we are often either embarrassed or reluctant to sound like we are bragging about our success. Talking to our spouses and significant others is also challenging as we often have different attitudes towards finances. As a result, most Americans go through life without a solid financial game plan instead going with a ‘Hail Mary’ approach: Do our best and hope it all works out. Having a plan is a crucial element in achieving financial health.
At Empeople, we heard our members loud and clear and are pivoting our business to meet their needs. Over the past two years, we have developed two specialist positions for employees focused on helping our members identify their financial goals, creating a plan to reach those goals (including finding alignment with family), and – most importantly – serving as an accountability partner to help our members reach those goals! We are transitioning from a credit union with a focus on member financial health to a financial health company where our members will find they can conveniently take care of all their banking needs.
Whether you are financially thriving and looking for ways to maximize your success by making shrewd decisions, financially coping – getting by but worried that you might not be able to weather an unexpected event, or financially vulnerable and trying to get your head above water, we have Financial Wellness Managers. They have helped members through every situation and therefore have the experience they can share and encouragement they can provide to provide the help you need for your journey!
Contact us by phone or text at (309) 743-1078 or email us at [email protected] to learn more about what we can do for you!
*The COVID Tracking Project, CSSE Johns Hopkins University, state health departments.
**According to a search of best money market rates on www.bankrate.com on 6/4/2021.
By guest blogger
Ryan Cannady • Empeople Chief Retail Officer