By Laurie Winger
CUNA Mutual Group
At their core, effective insurance products and financial services must be customer-centric, benefiting both credit unions and their members. Offerings need to be easy to understand and simple to apply for and administer. Most importantly, coverages need to protect customers in their time of need. We know that credit unions work hard to ensure the products they offer are the right match for the members they serve. And the events of this year have made the need for that focus even more clear: To serve members best, we must further emphasize a consumer needs-based approach to developing the solutions we offer.
As chief financial and product officer at CUNA Mutual Group, I’m charged with leading a diverse product portfolio. Through what we’ve learned in today’s environment, we must ask ourselves, “How do our products level the playing field?” “Do we provide access and opportunities to protect all families and individuals, regardless of their backgrounds?” and “Where can we break down the barriers that prevent us from serving more members, and making financial security accessible to all?”
A consumer-needs approach tells us that as more members face financial barriers, we can help credit unions serve them with a solution that helps them overcome those challenges. It tells us that the increasing demand for seamless online experiences means accelerating digital projects for credit unions is essential. And it tells us that we must find more ways to provide access to a brighter financial future for all, through all stages of life.
This is critical work that I believe CUNA Mutual Group must help lead to strengthen our collective future – for credit unions and for members. Three essential areas where we are guided by consumer-first design principles include home ownership, life insurance and retirement.
- Home ownership remains a primary avenue for people to achieve financial security and build the lives they desire. In fact, 78% of non-owners believe homeownership is a good financial decision. (Source: National Association of Realtors, “2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers”) And, 81% of non-owners want to own a home in the future. (Source: National Association of Realtors, “2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers”)
But, prior financial commitments like student loans, credit card debt, or auto loans can slow the path to home ownership. To help more Americans achieve their dreams, we recently teamed up with MGIC to provide private mortgage insurance to credit unions. Private mortgage insurance helps members purchase a home sooner by eliminating the need for a 20% down payment. In turn, the program protects lenders with a financial guaranty against defaults on mortgages with loan-to-value ratios greater than 805.
- Life insurance is another key aspect to achieving financial security. And while it shouldn’t come as a surprise that expectations for seamless, digital-based interactions are no longer new to financial services, the move to an entirely digital life insurance enrollment process is still relatively new. One result we’re already seeing in response to the pandemic is an even greater emphasis on online experiences as the primary channel for customer connection. A smooth user interaction – or one that’s not – can determine whether a customer chooses your solution, or a competitor’s.
While it was already under development prior to the pandemic, our fully revamped consumer-facing TruStage website focuses on providing unbiased education, transparent life insurance coverage options and quotes, and a quick, simple application and enrollment experience for all consumers.
- Finally, when the initial shocks to the financial markets hit in March, many investors worried if their hard-earned retirement savings would all be lost. While the markets have since rebounded, the consumer-first design of our annuity products helped plan participants maintain peace of mind through the swings. Easy-to-understand, consumer-based language is a consistent feature across our annuity portfolio.
- A variety of features – ranging from downside risk protection with upside market growth potential, to guaranteed lifelong income streams – allow consumers to select the retirement solution that is right for their unique financial situation
These are just three of many areas where, throughout the credit union industry, we can work together to break down barriers to financial security. I am confident that consumer-first insurance and financial service product design will continue to accelerate in the future. Our industry has a tremendous opportunity – and responsibility – to ensure that the next chapter in our evolution will focus on making brighter financial futures accessible to all.
Laurie Winger is the executive vice president and chief financial and product officer for CUNA Mutual Group – an insurance and financial services company headquartered in Madison, Wis.. Winger leads the financial management of the organization and oversees the company’s domestic product portfolio, along with the CUNA Caribbean business.