Keep Your Bank Relevant: Rapid Changes in How Customers Bank Threaten Traditional Banking. It Doesn't Have to Be That Way, Say Three Community Bankers and Brett King, Author of "BANK 2.0"
Cocheo, Steve, ABA Banking Journal
Jeff Smith has as much invested in the status quo of community banking as any other CEO. He's been with $826 million-assets Ohio Valley Bank, Gallipolis, for nearly 38 years, and now serves as chairman and CEO. He's a strong believer in community banking.
Yet Smith has been wrestling with a conundrum: Will banking as practiced by Ohio Valley Bank and thousands of others remain relevant? He's had some recent matters bring that to mind.
First, his own behavior. "I am certainly, by no means, a technocrat," said Smith. "But I recently realized that, while I'm in a bank every day, I do not conduct my own banking at the bank. I do my banking on the internet, using our online banking service, from home."
Second, a conversation with his 24-year-old daughter. "She's the daughter of a banker, and, at her age, she's written three checks in her life," says Smith. "And she recently commented to me, 'Dad, checks are archaic'."
Author Brett King also has a daughter, age 10. "She's a 'digital native'," says King, who is also a consultant and futurist. "She will never in her life write a check."
Now, if this was a matter only of checking, one could shrug. Debit cards and online billpay have been replacing checks for years.
But that's only part of what's going on. Rapid technological advancement has been reshaping what retail and business customers want from their banks. King summed up the challenge recently in his book "BANK 2.0: How Customer Behaviour And Technology Will Change The Future Of Financial Services":
"A staggering 90% of daily transactions are executed electronically today. Institutions that hold on to the belief that physical branches remain at the core of what the brand does, will not adapt easily to the customer of tomorrow who rarely visits a branch or the customer who sees no need for an over-the-counter transaction with cash or checks. Those who still classify the internet, ATM, and ..... iPhone applications as 'alternative' channels will be playing catch up for the next decade, while intermediaries will increasingly capture niche service opportunities .... "Understand one thing. Customers are not going back to the old ways of banking. They are moving forward. If you are not moving forward with them, then they will pass right by you--at warp speed."
King speaks of the need for banks to become "channel agnostics," meaning that "every channel is equally important, branches are just one." His perspective is also about abandoning the notion that banks are in charge. The customer is. And if the bank doesn't choose to serve the customer as they like, other players will weigh in. King writes of MoBank, a United Kingdom service operated by a nonbank third party that permits users to check balances and recent transactions with their banks and to make payments to certain retailers, all using their mobile devices. As King describes it, "the bank is just the back-end, the processor of the transaction."
Ultimately, customer behavior is evolving. "It's not about mobile apps, it's not about mobile payments, and it's not about remote deposit capture," says King. "It's about a progressive behavioral shift. Yes, the Gen Ys like this stuff because it's on the move and it's fast. But the fact is that all of us really like it. So it's not about the devices themselves, it's about how the devices are changing behavior."
Often, futurists are interviewed in a vacuum. But we invited Jeff Smith into the interview along with two of his officers, Jodie McCalla, project manager for Ohio Valley's research and technical applications department, and Bryna Butler, assistant vice-president and director of e-services and corporate communications.
King has worked with some of the largest banks in the U.S. and the world, but he doesn't think community banks need to concede the field.
"The big banks actually have the biggest challenges ahead because they are very large and unwieldy, and trying to change will be difficult. For community banks, the challenge will be how to grow beyond their immediate community. The answer to that is, look at the core strength of community banks in the U.S." They get 'community.' The key challenge for them is understanding how to leverage their community capability beyond the physical community into the digital community."
Indeed, a point of common ground between banker Smith, who read BANK 2.0 prior to the discussion, and futurist King concerns the need to think in terms of relationships.
The common element with community banks is the desire to build relationships, according to Smith. Those relationships do not necessarily need to be face-to-face, he adds. They can begin that way, but then they need to grow, and be enhanced in whatever means the customer wants. "The key is getting that primary account," says Smith, "and after that, banking them is limitless."
The following section represents highlights of the conversation. You can hear the entire discussion at www.ababj.com
ABA BJ Community banks have long thought that what they bring to the competitive table is service. Brett, how would you capsulize the old definition of service versus what the new definition of service may turn out to be?
King Most banks measuring customer experience look at only one or two channels--the primary channel being the branch, and then maybe call centers. But there's a whole bunch of other channels that are involved: Customers in most developed economies are five to ten times more likely to interact with your bank via an ATM machine, for example. Today banks still think, "As long as we get the experience in the branch right, then our customers are going to be happy." But these clays service is a lot more complex.
ABA BJ Ohio Valley was an early adopter of mobile banking. What motivated that?
Butler Brett spoke of the need to leverage traditional community banking and this is an example.
Southern Ohio and western West Virginia don't have the broadband lines they do in other areas. When mobile devices hit this area, that became the major mode of getting onto the internet. So when we were afforded an opportunity to be a beta site for mobile banking, we jumped at that.
We see lots of Gen Y'rs using it, but we also see a lot of Gen X and many older customers as well. The Ys talk to their parents and get them on Facebook so they can see their pictures. So they begin adopting the technology.
King As we get richer and richer experiences with customers through these digital devices, we're shifting transactions out of the branch. Essentially what we're seeing is that the need to come into a branch to do a transaction is becoming redundant.
This will require adjustment. Traditionally what bankers have relied upon is if someone comes into the branch to do a transaction, a cross-sell opportunity will present itself. Yet banks don't really want customers coming into the branch to do transactions, because they're quite expensive to handle. So branches ultimately have to become a selling environment on their own. And so, increasingly, we'll move to an environment where customers will come in and engage, because they will still want face-to-face advisory that the branch permits, on occasion.
Smith We had a meeting with the board recently and the topic of service came up. I said, pointing to Bryna Butler, "We have a Gen Y'er right here." So we asked her, "What's important to you about service?"
Buffer And I said, "I just want to be able to find things fast."
King It's all about speed. Service is speed of delivery. The faster you can do it, the better they perceive the service delivery.
Smith Brett, something I face as a community banker is the regulatory wall. Nonbank providers like MoBank in the U.K., they don't face that kind of thing.
King U.S. regulators are going to have to think differently. It may take a generational change. But financial services is innovating so fast these days that the regulators are going to be constantly playing catch up.
ABA BJ Brett, you wrote about innovations in branch design and purposing--about "bank shops" and "pop-up branches"--less permanent structures than the traditional granite branches that have been there 100 years.
King Banks have to be about pervasiveness--being wherever the customer needs his bank to be at that point in time. An easy example is when you walk into a car dealership to buy a car. That's the time you need information about a personal loan. Now you might do that through your mobile phone, but if there is an advisor from your bank at the car dealer or if one of the car dealer employees was trained by the bank to offer loan advice, that's an advantage. The principle is anticipating behaviors and trying to embed the banking functionality.
"Branches" may be very temporary structures. For larger business customers with a relationship with the bank, the bank might give them a "branch in a box," which would be a screen that provides access to the bank's products and services for their employees, rather than being at a physical branch. So it's not so much about the branch per se as taking the functionality and the physicality of banking to the best location where it's needed for the customer.
Butler One of the ideas that we've been playing with is an unmanned, express branch.
King There are two concepts, in that regard, that I think are promising. One--particularly well-suited to a shopping-mall type of environment--would have a virtual teller. In another concept, your branch officer essentially becomes very mobile and he may have an iPad, which is connected wirelessly to the bank, and he's walking around engaging customers in that way.
ABA BJ I'd like to touch on small business banking, the sweet spot for many community banks. In Brett's book, there's a section where he says, "Local knowledge that translates into better service for local small businesses has been the key to reviving unprofitable small town branches, not the branch in itself." Jeff, that really plays to the traditional strength of the community bank, doesn't it?
Smith That relationship is really what we have to offer. Money is money. But relationship is very key to us and quite frankly I think a community banker is more interested in the person in that business than perhaps a larger bank is.
King You're going to see banks getting closer to their customers and providing an extension of the bank to the small and medium-sized business. For example, one of the biggest problems such companies have is cash flow and managing their accounts receivables. If you could integrate the accounting function---or get a lot closer to it--then you could have a look at the cash flow of the business, and better anticipate its needs.
McCalla Another issue is technology. We come up with great ideas but then we run into roadblocks because we don't have our own programming staff. We have to focus on interfacing with our core systems and sometimes that holds us back from being innovative.
King That's a challenge. Actually the big banks often have the same challenge. A third-party developer can put together a pretty basic iPhone app within 48 hours. But it will take most banks nine to twelve months to deploy that app because of the back-end integration. The solution is to have a library of Application Protocol Interfaces (APIs) to get access to those core pieces of functionality within the bank's systems. Think of it like Apple's iTunes. The bank becomes iTunes and engages the developer community to do the innovations using the APIs. I know there is concern about regulatory issues and security, but ultimately something like that is going to have to be the solution because otherwise the innovation is just not coming fast enough.
McCalla We often run into the issue of what to charge? An example is online financial management. I would never pay for something like that because I can go to Mint.com and get it free.
King In the short term, the way to solve this problem is to look at the total customer relationship. The objective has to be about deepening the relationship and that comes through understanding the customer and their behavior more.
In the future we'll be designing products to smaller segments and finding ways to get the message to that customer.
FUTURE OF COMMUNITY BANKING SERIES
This is the latest in a series of print and online articles concerning the future of the community bank. Read more about the series online at http://tinyurl.com/36twsnd.
Also, a podcast of the full discussion summarized here will be available on www.ababj.com in mid-September
BY STEVE COCHEO, EXECUTIVE EDITOR…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Keep Your Bank Relevant: Rapid Changes in How Customers Bank Threaten Traditional Banking. It Doesn't Have to Be That Way, Say Three Community Bankers and Brett King, Author of "BANK 2.0". Contributors: Cocheo, Steve - Author. Journal title: ABA Banking Journal. Volume: 102. Issue: 9 Publication date: September 2010. Page number: 26+. © 2009 Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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