Mobile banking is coming.
Not that long ago, financial institutions like the Credit Union of New Jersey might have declined to invest much in online operations, citing customer concerns about security and privacy. But times have changed.
President and CEO Andrew Jaeger says the credit union is working on several major initiatives that will increase both services and convenience for its more than 42,000 members, including mobile banking, online account opening and even online loan approval.
“Consumers are becoming so used to being able to do everything instantly via the Internet, whether through their computer, phone or a tablet,” Jaeger said. “So we’re trying to make sure we offer all the accepted and popular retail banking channels to our members.”
Mobile banking through applications for Android or iPhone will enable members to conduct transactions and view balances using their handheld devices. The apps are currently in testing, and Jaeger hopes to be able to make them available soon.
“Global mobile banking is going to be a significant part of the everyday consumer banking preference,” he said. “It’s technology we’re all going to have to have in a few years, but we’re trying to stay current.”
Also in testing is technology that would allow existing members to open additional accounts, or new members to open accounts, online.
“One of the things that is sometimes a challenge for members is we have a limited branch structure, we’re a smaller institution,” Jaeger said. “We can’t be all over the state, all over the county. It allows us to reach more members and potential members who may have found us too inconvenient in the past.”
That’s not all. Jaeger hopes by the middle of 2012, members will have access to online loan approvals, document delivery and funding through Web lending. Members can currently apply for loans through the website, but e-signatures and e-documents would make it possible for the credit union to close loans with members online.
“Because we serve members from Warren County to Cape May County, we’ve had members drive 90 minutes to 2 hours to close an equity loan or an auto loan,” Jaeger said. “We’ll be able to streamline that process and make it much more convenient for our customers in the future.”
Membership in the Credit Union of New Jersey is not open to everyone. Those who are eligible to join include people who work for the State of New Jersey, a state agency, commission or authority or select companies (a complete list is online). Retirees of those organizations and family members related by blood or marriage are also eligible to join.
In addition, people who live, work, attend school or worship in Ewing Township can also join Credit Union of New Jersey.
Assistant vice president of marketing Robin Hickey said it’s actually a misconception that the credit union has only a few branches or a limited network of automated teller machines. Although the Credit Union operates just six branches and 12 ATMs, its members have access to more than 40,000 surcharge-free ATMs through the Allpoint network. Allpoint ATMs can be found in retailers like CVS or 7-Eleven.
Additionally, the Credit Union of New Jersey participates in a shared branching network with other credit unions, including more than 40 in the State of New Jersey.
Though credit unions offer many of the same services as banks, they are not banks. The Credit Union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members, with an all-volunteer board of directors—and no shareholders.
“The board of directors hold me, and the management team, to the standard of providing excellent member service and excellent value to our members, versus creating shareholder wealth,” Jaeger said. “That leads to more value for the member because we’re not focused on the bottom line, we’re focused on building relationships with members and their families and improving their financial lives.”
Jaeger said that means the credit union is committed to doing whatever it can for members to get them the loans they need, even in a time when major banks are clamping down on lending.
“We take the time to sit down with the member, look at their application and look for every way possible to help the member with credit,” Jaeger said. “We make no guarantees, we can’t help every single member, but you’re going to have more of an opportunity here than with a competitor.”
The credit union’s structure and charter also enable it to offer better-than-average rates on deposits while charging lower interest rates on loans, Jaeger said.
“The challenge in today’s market is the shock people get when they start looking at savings rates,” Jaeger said. “For a traditional financial institution, it’s very difficult to offer the type of rates our members are accustomed to.”
The headquarters of the Credit Union of New Jersey are located at 1301 Parkway Ave. Branch services in the headquarters building are available Monday through Saturday starting at 9 a.m. A complete list of all the branches, their locations and their hours of operation is online at cunj.org.