What Credit Unions Can Learn from Apple’s Special Event

In the wake of Apple’s most recent Special Event, one thing is clear: there is no escaping our corporate overlords. Apple, the company that already lives in the pockets of just over 45% of Americans, is undoubtedly hoping to expand that reach to a seemingly infinite degree with this push into entertainment and finance. While I could spend time going over the many advantages and disadvantages of Apple creating space for itself in streaming, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus on the financial side of things and what credit unions can learn from Apple’s latest move toward world domination.

If Apple does one thing better than anyone else in their industry, it’s communicate complex ideas in their simplest forms. From their stark design—void of loud colors and unnecessary frills—to their totally boiled-down slogan, “Think Different”, Apple has been pushing the limits with less for decades. This everpresent oversight on overthought is clear in Apple’s 3 2 1 cash back model. Instead of creating a confusing rewards model with numbers that can only be handled on a calculator, Apple opted to bring us back to the basics with an immediately understandable 3 2 1 cash back system. While intuition may be that people always want what benefits them most in the long run, the reality is that people want what they can understand in the moment. It is paramount that you always keep simplicity at the core of whatever message you are trying to communicate to current and potential members alike.

No one likes feeling stupid or being taken advantage of. Apple is betting on people being fed up with stereotypical financial industry culture, and they are not wrong in doing so. The financial industry, as a whole, does not have a great track record when it comes to putting members first. Keep this in mind in all member interactions. Credit unions—being non-profit, member-owned, and community-centered—are being presented with the unique opportunity to follow the trail Apple forged far away from traditional banking culture. Financial institutions often put people off from the jump with unrecognizable acronyms like HELOC and AD&D insurance. When someone is totally out of their element, they are not going to feel comfortable putting themselves out there further to figure out all their options. Use simple language and keep everyone on the same page.

People like being in the loop and they will go wherever that line of communication between them and their account is most open. To address this issue, Apple elected to color code their weekly and monthly spending reports. This does a number of things outside of just making it easy to categorically check your spending. One of the most interesting being its ability to allow users to set abstract financial goals.

As an example, instead of telling yourself you’d like to spend $200 fewer dollars next month on dining out and entertainment, you can say to yourself, “I’d like to see a noticeable drop in my orange and pink spending throughout this next month”. While more lenient budgeting goals may not seem like the most efficient and useful applications of this feature initially, it provides consumers (consumers who may have traditionally never considered budgeting) another avenue to ease their way into more sustainable saving habits down the line. In short, it is important to make monitoring money as easy and as organized as can be to meet as many members as possible wherever they’re at financially. Setting money aside never comes without difficulty, but by simplifying the process you can lower that hurdle for a lot of people. Lower stress makes for a wider door. Give people the power to realize the impacts of budgeting on their own in a low-stakes environment and reap the benefits of a more stable membership for years to come.

There is a lot to be learned from Apple’s latest excursion into the financial realm. From easy to understand rewards to entirely new budgeting possibilities, the industry is changing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Those who fail to adapt will fall off the map, those who adjust and begin to “Think Different” just may survive.

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