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Have banks solved their sales culture and shell account issue?

Well, the short answer is some are making deep organizational changes with their sales culture, and others are only getting started. 

Recently, I met with a number of banking customers for pre- and post-sale consulting on global CRM and Sales Automation projects.  In addition, earlier this month, I attended PegaWorld 2017, our premier annual conference, where I watched presentations from leading global bank executives. In all of these discussions, bank executives highlighted how they’re driving innovations within the Marketing, Sales, Onboarding, and Service areas.  The underlying theme: bank leaders are working to transform their business and sales practices in on three key areas:

1)      Transforming a widget-based sales culture to one focused on using AI to match advice, products, and services to real client needs and goals

2)      Eliminating the silos, “app gaps” and disjointed client experiences that come from a myriad of departments and systems used to sell to, onboard and service clients

3)      Reduce administrative work, eliminating non-value add tasks and automating complex compliance requirements to allow employees more time with clients

Bank leaders that I’ve engaged with, who are driving to this customer-centric vision, are most sincere in this desire to capture and retain customer trust and long-term loyalty. Fortunately, the advent of new technology today can make this vision a reality.

In any case, technology alone is not enough – it needs to be complemented with an organizational culture aligned to the customer to be successful.  While the technology can guide, ensure compliance, make great recommendations, and support compensation plans, staff habits also need to change. 

To that end, let me share with you two personal stories that outline the need to change bank cultures.

 I recall the culture when I first starting working in banking at a small but high-tech New England bank which became a much larger bank after a number of mergers.  It was in the phone banking division for premier and private clients where we were authorized to sell bank and mutual fund products, including taking fund trades and scoring and underwriting credit for fast responses.  I distinctly recall one of my peers, had just made his overdraft line of credit account goal for the quarter and was super excited when he got off the phone.  He started sharing how he got an 82-year-old woman with $200k average balance in savings to apply for an overdraft line of credit.  In utter shock, I chastised him as our savings overdraft feature was free to premier clients, not to mention, taking advantage of a senior citizen to make his goal.  That was 1996

A few weeks ago I had a related experience where a sales rep from my brokerage company (also a large bank) called to encourage me to open a bank account to reduce my trading fees. During the call, I explained my transactional accounts were with another bank (where my wife works), and I would not be changing that relationship any time soon.  He responded by saying that it was not an issue, all we need to do is put $10 in the account, and there would be no issue with not using it.  I responded that while I wanted to save money on my trades, I did not want a shell account just for that purpose and politely closed the call.

While the two issues are somewhat different, they are both driven by the sales compensation and culture of the organizations.  These reps focused on making their “widget” count of accounts and had no qualms about blurring the lines to get there. (In fairness, they most likely had managers and executives pressuring them to meet their sales goals, and personal financial aspirations to increase their sales compensation).

While those interactions could be the exceptions rather than the rule, I think they are more prevalent than any bank really would want. Now don’t get me wrong. There are a many, many good folks who work very hard every day at the bank to set higher standards at all levels within the organization. I have many relationships with former colleagues and client at global banks and their leadership teams, and they take treating the customer right very seriously; to those folks I applaud you.

For others, I hope that you take a look at the latest technology advances – particularly with artificial intelligence – to understand how to create and support a culture based on nurturing client relationships. I encourage you to take a hard look at your current sales culture and identify opportunities to transform. It is proven that in doing so, you will create long lasting client relationships that ultimately drive positive business outcomes.



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

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