Unprecedented Change Drives Innovation
San Mateo Credit Union has understood the importance that mobile and online banking holds for its members. Over the years, however, they’ve come to realize that not all digital banking platforms are created equal, and that achieving true digital innovation means embracing change.
In early 2016, San Mateo formed a Digital Services Department, dedicated to improving their digital member experience. “Our new CEO came on board in 2015 and recognized the need for better technology to support our growing digital banking base,” said Ignasio Medrano, VP, Digital Services, San Mateo Credit Union. “This served as the catalyst for our quest to procure and launch a new digital banking platform that better catered to member needs.”
They set a goal of achieving parity in functionality between online and mobile banking and creating an enhanced and robust feature set for members. The road to transformation would turn out to be longer than anticipated, thanks to technology upgrades that had to come first. The journey also led to somewhere unexpected, given that final implementation would coincide with the onset of a global pandemic.
Through it all, San Mateo never wavered from their goal: to create a seamless, secure, integrated, intuitive digital banking experience with the flexibility to support future evolution. The key was finding the right technology partner to support them at all points along the journey.
Seeking uniformity: upgrading to an integrated digital banking solution
Founded in 1952, San Mateo’s mission is to help members achieve financial health. Despite now being home to more than 100,000 members, the credit union will never outgrow that purpose. What they did outgrow, however, was a piecemeal solution that could no longer keep pace with modern digital banking demands.
San Mateo’s original platform consisted of two disparate systems from two different vendors—one for mobile banking and one for online banking. The two systems did not share functionalities, which meant members could complete some tasks in one, but not the other. It also meant call center staff had to first determine which system a member was in before they were able to troubleshoot issues. This resulted in a fragmented, disjointed experience for both members and staff.
It also created a roadblock around accurate data reporting and analysis, preventing the credit union from gathering accurate numbers around total members, popular features and least-used capabilities. This, in turn, prevented them from leveraging data to support future growth initiatives.
Based on app ratings and member feedback, it was evident this two-pronged digital banking approach no longer worked. San Mateo embarked on a search to find a single platform that would allow for the ability to customize, improve the digital experience, and achieve greater banking agility, as well as incorporate more API integrations via a modern, secure, extensible architecture.
San Mateo evaluated a number of digital banking platform providers, seeking a partner who shared a vision of what they were trying to do. In the end the Alkami Platform outshone contenders by exceeding the credit union’s criteria and providing a best-fit solution. Before implementation could begin, however, San Mateo needed to turn its attention to another pressing technology matter.
Bolstering the backbone: strengthening the core to support a modern system
To be certain the credit union and its members could derive the greatest benefit from its new digital banking system, the organization first had to ensure their core could support the innovations and capabilities made possible by the Alkami Platform.
“We recognized the success of our new digital banking platform would hinge on the strength of our credit union’s core, and made the call to complete a core revamp before initializing the platform rollout in order to have the best chance of success,” recalls Medrano.
San Mateo dedicated its efforts to completing an entire core conversion and infrastructure update. Once complete, the credit union was then able to confidently move forward with the Alkami Platform implementation, knowing it was poised to make the most of the Platform’s agility and customization.
With Alkami at its side, San Mateo began the back-end integration process to ensure a smooth platform transition could occur, for both the credit union and its members, from the inside out. However, traversing the technical side of the implementation would only be half the battle.
Maintaining member continuity: implementation support for a successful launch
Having navigated the challenge of an entire core upgrade and having moved ahead with the back-end implementation of a new digital banking platform, San Mateo now faced a new challenge — communicating the change to its member base.
Alkami advised the credit union to take a repetitive, targeted communication strategy to ensure a seamless member transition once the live launch date arrived. Alkami’s dedicated implementation team provided San Mateo with strategic counsel and detailed documentation around what messages to share, how often and in what format, including how to best address a member demographic whose digital comfort level varied significantly by age and technology prowess.
Working together with Alkami, San Mateo mapped out a communication plan. It began with “coming soon” teaser messages, then segued into the creation of a video series designed to generate excitement and familiarity around the features and functionality of the new platform. The credit union then created a detailed series of “how to” guides that covered each facet of the platform in greater detail.
“The goal was to overcommunicate this change,” explains Medrano. “Every two weeks we would send out some type of communication regarding the new platform and important implementation dates, so by the time the changeover would happen, members would understand the new digital banking system and what to expect.”
However, it was San Mateo that soon faced the unexpected in the form of a global pandemic. COVID-19 lockdown measures forced many physical banking locations to close, resulting in a significant digital banking surge. Alkami worked in lockstep with San Mateo to provide additional recommendations around educating its slew of new digital banking members about the upcoming platform switch.
Lockdown measures also impacted the logistics of the rollout, creating a circumstance where all facets of the launch would have to be done remotely. The credit union knew postponement was not an option. Especially given that, more than ever, members were depending on a seamless digital banking experience.
“Alkami had previous experience conducting remote platform launches and provided us with a blueprint based on those other rollouts. They walked us through the process and answered all our questions. We were confident the implementation would be a success and were dedicated to providing the highest quality digital product to every member of our credit union no matter what,” said Medrano. The socially distanced launch of the new Alkami Platform took place in June of 2020, and was indeed a resounding success.
Medrano recalls, “Following the implementation, we were bracing for our call center to hear issues that were occurring or something going wrong. Much to our, and our members’ delight, there were no major issues. We had prepared and tested so rigorously we were able to anticipate and remedy issues before they impacted our members. Alkami’s technology and processes worked seamlessly and solved problems quickly.”
Improving the member experience: deriving benefits from the Alkami Platform
In selecting Alkami, San Mateo chose a digital banking partner that caters to its specific needs, reduces their digital banking costs, and provides a platform that allows the credit union to help maintain its members’ financial health in the midst of a global crisis. The Alkami Platform also effortlessly integrated with San Mateo’s upgraded core, providing a flexible foundation for addressing ever-changing member needs.
Since implementing the Alkami Platform, San Mateo and its members have realized additional benefits from several newly accessible features:
- Software Development Kit (SDK) – San Mateo can tailor their digital experience to meet the needs of their members with their own team. The Alkami SDK empowers San Mateo developers to build custom functionality to maintain a competitive marketplace edge now and in the future while providing personalized experiences for the member community. Feature updates can now be performed by in-house programmers quickly at no additional cost.
- Security Solutions – With multi-factor identification and card controls, San Mateo can mitigate potential impacts of fraud events by providing layers of security that work together to prevent or limit suspicious traffic, and attackers from reaching member accounts. Enhanced reports help San Mateo quickly gather needed data to identify fraudulent actions.
- Account Opening – A quick, simple and seamless experience for current members to open additional accounts with San Mateo. New members can be easily and securely onboarded through the account opening process. San Mateo can even complete enrollment on members’ behalf, so they leave with a user ID and password of their choosing.
- Mobile Deposit and Transfers – Members can deposit checks on-the-go with their mobile device using their existing San Mateo mobile app. Transfers are also seamless and can be done in the mobile app or via desktop.
- Bill Pay – Payments to billers are made on behalf of the user. Payments can be sent electronically or via paper check. This makes it easier for members to organize bills and pay them when they’re due.
- Account Aggregation – Members gain a better understanding of their financial habits and account holdings at other institutions. This allows members to get a comprehensive view of their financial life within San Mateo’s online banking platform.
- Data Management – The Platform’s data management capabilities let San Mateo utilize their online banking data to segment and proactively identify member needs, more effectively market new products and services, and easily configure user lists to prioritize messaging and personalize content.
In addition, San Mateo has plans to roll out additional features to members in the near future:
- Alerts integrates seamlessly to allow for greater member control over card usage and real-time visibility into card transactions to help thwart fraud. This has become particularly important in the era of COVID-19, where scams are on the rise.
- Financial Wellness is a framework that assesses members’ financial health within their everyday online banking experience, helping San Mateo provide a personalized digital strategy that helps each member build credit, achieve budget and savings goals, and promote the overall financial well-being that is at the core of its mission.
- Chat with iPay allows agents to connect with members through additional channels for support and bill pay functionality.
Success by the numbers: San Mateo achieves desirable results
San Mateo has already seen promising changes in member ratings, conversions, and utilization since migrating to the Alkami Platform:
- Improved app ratings: San Mateo’s average mobile app rating rose from 3.5 pre-rollout to 4.5 post-rollout – a 28.5% increase.
- Elevated NPS score: With the new digital banking solution in place, San Mateo doubled its NPS score, which reached 67 as of June 2020.
- Increase in new user conversions: In June 2020 San Mateo converted 52,036 total users, at the end of September 2020 that number rose to 57,079 – a 10% increase.
- Sustained digital banking usage and logins: In September 2020, total combined logins and snapshot views were 965,731: an increase of 46% compared to the same time period in 2019. Of these combined log-ins and snapshot views, 81% of usage came from mobile transactions.
- Steady increase in digital banking engagement: Active digital banking utilization for the month of September 2020 ended at 38,275 and engagement rate (active user count/total user count) is now at 67%.
Given this positive momentum, San Mateo plans to investigate additional growth opportunities and more feature rollouts. “This uptick in user activity and encouraging feedback comes as we’ve barely scratched the surface regarding what the Alkami Platform can do for us and our members. Over the next two years, we’ll expand the limits of what we offer and test new product features in an effort to maximize the benefit members get from banking with us,” says Medrano.
Going the distance: a new vision for the future
As a result of its investment in the Alkami Platform, San Mateo can embrace an iterative path when it comes to evolving industry trends and member needs—allowing them the freedom to add new features and functions on an as-needed basis at any time with an easier, cost effective, and more robust platform for staff and members. At a time when the realities of conducting everyday tasks like banking can change on a dime, San Mateo is positioned to pivot and course-correct accordingly, providing superior digital banking capabilities that both augment and supersede branch interactions based on an unparalleled Alkami technology and support foundation.
As Medrano puts it, “We knew we needed to ultimately create a universal online banking experience that could grow with our members and the times ahead. We’ve done just that. And though the road to transformation took some unprecedented turns, it was the ideal path for our credit union and its many members. We’re now set up with a system that can adapt to our goals, and life’s uncertainty, for untold years to come.”