we can’t wait to start trading Bitcoins with our Vulcan allies

A second look at CU science fiction

Many years ago we wrote a post called “Credit Union Science Fiction” as an attempt at looking into the future. It was a fun, funky mental exercise that let us flex those precognitive muscles a little bit. After all, making predictions and planning for the future is an important part of every marketing strategy. We just took things a bit further than usual.

We haven’t quite reached the 25 year marker we mentioned in the original post, but to be honest quite a lot has changed since we decided to give fortune telling a try. Our first CU science fiction post had some pretty far-out ideas, but some of them hit pretty close to the mark.

In honor of Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!), let’s see what we got down to a science, what’s still fiction, and what else might be coming with that final frontier.

Right on target: Virtual CUs

Nowadays, the idea of a completely virtual credit union seems pretty reasonable. And as of March 17th, 2020 we had our first CU go fully virtual. Northpark Community Credit Union transitioned from having branches to only ATMs and relying on shared branches. We’ll give ourselves a small pat on the back for this one because we were right on the money. But to be fair, this was one of the most-believable predictions we made. CUs across the nation are moving more and more of their services online and making their members’ lives much easier.

Getting closer: Online common bond, global currency, end of paper

There are also a few items where we’re getting close, albeit we remain cigar-less so far. Much like the idea of a fully virtual CU, we talked about a credit union forming from any one of the thousands of online communities. Unfortunately for our predictions, we’ve not seen anything like a gaming community CU pop up as of yet. The possibility is still there, however.

Another ‘getting-there’ idea we had was a global currency, playing off of how many sci-fi stories have some form of universally-accepted currency available. We’re not too much closer to this idea, but we have started to develop new currencies such as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. These could end up being a step in the direction of a global currency. Right now, though, there are still a lot of unknowns.

We also projected the end of using paper in credit unions. As more CUs move their services online, we are hopefully seeing less paper waste. In our own experience, we’re seeing less people use cash and writing a check has become a rare ocurrence. How quickly this is happening across the nation, it’s hard to say. While we’d still really like to say goodbye to paper waste and checks, it might take a while for some people to get on board.

Still just fiction: Interplanetary finance, alien finance, intrinsic value, and extended longevity

These are fun ideas to brainstorm, but the advancements we’ve made in space travel and medical science haven’t had much of an impact on the way we run credit unions, and probably won’t for quite some time. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be getting as close to interstellar travel as we might have hoped. Personally, we can’t wait to start trading Bitcoin with our Vulcan allies, but that dream will have to wait.

New predictions: Virtual reality branches and artificial intelligence that really works

With the emergence of new technologies come a lot of new possibilities. For example, why stop at virtual credit unions when you could have Virtual Reality (VR) Branches? When Meta (nee Facebook) first announced it would focus its efforts on a new “Metaverse” VR social platform, it sparked a lot of imaginations. We could totally see a virtual CU developing a VR branch for its members. Multiple CUs might even band together to develop a VR shared branch system.

The high-tech credit union of your dreams wouldn’t be complete without it’s own Jarvis, Cortana, or Siri. With so many new online financial services and the plethora of apps and e-commerce options, it won’t hurt to have someone with a supercomputer for a brain on staff. Imagine how efficient your Tellers and Loan Officers could be with an intuitive AI assistant helping them out. “Hey Jarvis, can you pull up Mr. Smith’s information?”

We could also see trainable AI incorporated into online banking. This would help to actively serve members by making suggestions, interpreting natural language questions and commands, and even learning so that it can be trusted with automating complex decisions and actions. For example, if you were in France and forgot to make your Visa payment or pay your car insurance, the AI could go ahead and take care of that and help you avoid a late fee.

To infinity, and (likely) beyond!

As we keep developing new technologies and making strides toward interstellar travel, the possibilities are endless. Besides, if credit unions want to start opening branches throughout the solar system, they can’t be afraid to pursue some ideas that seem far, far away.

[Author’s note: This article revisits a fun topic we’d like to return to in the future. If you have feedback or suggestions, email us at [email protected].]

Sam Dicken

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