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Creating a Customer-Centric, Digital Financial Institution

Kylee Wooten
October 21, 2019
Read Time: 0 min

Building a tech culture

A farmer, a university student, and a business owner walk into a bank.

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but for many community financial institutions, a spectrum of different customers and banking needs is something that they see every day. However, they’re probably seeing fewer of these customers walking into a physical branch. Today, 73% of all consumer interactions with financial institutions are done digitally, according to the 2019 FIS Performance Against Customer Expectations (PACE) report.

While many financial institutions are seeing the benefits of digitizing different areas of their bank or credit union, others are still hesitant to invest in technology. But the digital transformation is more than a fad – it’s the direction the industry is moving towards. And in today’s competitive environment, banks cannot afford to be left behind. A tech culture can be a catalyst for growth and put your customers at the center of the banking experience.


To go digital, start by looking inward

To develop a digital, customer-centric financial institution, it must first look inward. Does your financial institution support a culture of innovation and an environment that welcomes new technology? As your institution grows and invests in new technology, consider how it impacts the organization as a whole: the institution's mission, its employees, and its customers. 

“When you grow – you can’t be all things to all people, and when you take on new clients, new markets, or add new products, you have to refocus on what it is that you’re doing,” said Brandon McBay, Senior Credit Officer at Southern States Bank, a panelist on the “Client Focus in Your Financial Institution” presentation at the 2019 ThinkBIG conference. The mission of the institution plays a significant role in employee satisfaction, as well as customer satisfaction, McBay explained. Southern States Bank has focused on creating a positive employee experience to create a positive customer experience. “Internal culture really does exude back out to how your customers perceive you.”

To further cultivate an innovative mindset at your institution, your bank or credit union may look to add new talent – younger talent, in particular. “I’ve found that attracting younger, millennial talent is almost like attracting clients,” said McBay. While young professionals value dynamic, creative work environments, innovation, and professional development, banks rank poorly in these key areas to this demographic, according to Deloitte’s Talent in Banking survey. By investing in innovative technologies to transform traditional, process-oriented tasks, financial institutions are able to simultaneously improve the employee experience and attract talent, as well as improve the borrower experience and attract new customers. 

“If your employees come to work and they like their job, and they’re more efficient, proficient, your clients are going to see that because they’ll get faster turn times,” McBay said.


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Getting customers on board with digital offerings

Having the right team to commit to the institution’s goals and support clients is important to retain clients and attract new borrowers, but it’s technology that is taking a customer-centered banking experience to the next level. Once only accessible to large financial institutions and digital-only banks, today’s technology affords smaller financial institutions the opportunity to level the playing field by automating the lending process to get money in customers’ hands sooner.

While some customers would love to have a fully digitized banking experience, others prefer banking at a physical branch. Technology, like banking, isn’t “one-size-fits-all.”

In order to have a customer-focused financial institution, you have to consider the needs of the variety of customers that bank with your institution. This often means finding a balance between traditional services and digital innovation. You can’t ignore an entire group, said Jill Hudson, Vice President of Loan Operations at Vision Bank, another panelist at the ThinkBIG conference. More than likely, your bank has a mix of borrowers: some might prefer to do everything online, while another share of customers prefers traditional banking.

Vision Bank in Ada, Oklahoma, for example, is located in small towns with regional universities, so it banks a large college base, but the agricultural community also makes up a large portion of its client base. Needless to say, the two demographics – and everything in between – have vastly different needs, preferences, and expectations from the bank.

While millennials have been quicker to adapt and embrace new technology, Vision Bank has had a more difficult time getting the same enthusiasm about online banking tools from its farming clients. “It’s important to have this technology available, but you also have to have the one-on-one, face-to-face interactions,” Hudson said. In other words, building out strategies to balance the two preferences is key.

“Whether your customer likes digitization and submitting their tax returns electronically or your customer wants to walk into a branch to hand in their pieces of paper, ease of use on either side is important,” McBay said. “Go the extra mile.”

For some clients, it may just be difficult to deal with change. “The big thing anyone asks when there’s a big change is, ‘What’s in it for me?’” said Hudson. She recommends walking customers through the benefits of the technology and the time-savings and efficiency gains that they’ll get back. Some customers worry that technology takes away from the relationship they have with the bank, but Hudson believes that technology helps add to the customer experience as a whole; they just have to see it for themselves. It’s all about education, both for clients and employees.  

Digitization isn’t going anywhere. There are many benefits to leveraging technology, from a time- and cost-savings standpoint, but most importantly, technology can strengthen customer relationships. While some will resist the changes, keep in mind that there are ways to satisfy both sides of the aisle while becoming significantly more efficient. It’s all about making a better banking experience.   

About the Author

Kylee Wooten

Media Relations Manager
Kylee manages and writes articles, creates digital content, and assists in media relations efforts

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Abrigo enables U.S. financial institutions to support their communities through technology that fights financial crime, grows loans and deposits, and optimizes risk. Abrigo's platform centralizes the institution's data, creates a digital user experience, ensures compliance, and delivers efficiency for scale and profitable growth.

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