Community banks face a bewildering array of challenges. New technologies are redefining what’s possible, larger banks are investing heavily in customer engagement initiatives and COVID-19 has accelerated the dash for digital. But community banks have different
needs from large banks – they require technologies that can enhance – not replace - the human touch. We consider how technology can enable higher levels of personalization, agility and operational efficiency.
Community banks must be praised for their heroic efforts during the pandemic. They have offered a financial lifeline to people and businesses, exactly when and where it was needed. Community banks also played a pivotal role in administering the Paycheck
Protection Program, which has enabled many small businesses to weather the economic storm and keep employees on the payroll.
The way community banks have responded to the crisis has earned the respect and trust of customers for years to come. An industry that was not accustomed to remote working also had to adapt quickly to keep staff safe while keeping communications open. But
there is more to do.
With their doors closed, banks have been forced to find new ways to interact with customers. Technology has played a major role. Online and mobile usage have flourished, and video-tellers are now mainstream. In practice, the pandemic has accelerated trends
that were already apparent – less traditional in-person and more online and digital.
New Banking Habits
While protocols to slow the spread of COVID-19 are ending around the U.S., customer habits have changed, possibly forever. Many have rising expectations and have become accustomed to remote banking. With modern technologies, community banks can meet their
customer where they are and offer engaging experiences that increase engagement and build loyalty.
Although pursuing a comprehensive technology renewal may not be feasible in the short run, there are many things a community bank can do easily to increase customer engagement. Much can be learned from the larger institutions who have provided technology
and training to key customers to get them started with online banking. Providing customers with technology may be beyond the budgets of most community banks, but this shows the importance of customer engagement, particularly during uncertain times.
There are many cost-effective service improvements that community banks can implement quickly and with minimal risk or disruption. Giving customers the ability to perform more tasks remotely, for example with eSignatures, demonstrate progress and builds
Making More of eSignature
Over the last year, customers have become used to doing more remotely. Many now work from home and have formed new online habits. With the proliferation of eCommerce and online shopping, trust in online services has grown and digital channels are increasingly
viewed as the modern way to do many things.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of community bank customers using online and mobile has increased by more than 50%1 and
this shift presents a unique opportunity to expand eSignature. Community bankers can easily obtain signatures on documents remotely, then auto-archive them in a storage management system.
For many community banks this can be a real game-changer that can be delivered quickly and at minimal cost. And in practice, it is usually far lower risk than printing, mailing, wet- signing, mailing, and then scanning signatures manually. eSignature can
turn an iterative, multi-day process into a secure same-day event.
Benefits of eSignature include:
- Improving the customer experience
- Increasing operational efficiency
- Supporting your customers anywhere
Meeting Customers Where They Are
Community banks offer traditional financial services to businesses and families in local communities. With decisions made locally, often on the personal knowledge of customers’ credit standing, this is relationship banking at its best. However, under the
current conditions, some customers may be hesitant to visit their branch but willing to meet in a social distancing setting of their choosing.
By using tablet technology, community bankers can meet customers away from the branch to provide advice and perform an expanding array of banking activities with the customer present.
In practice a portable banker solution is powerful business development and productivity tool that can boost customer engagement. However, to be effective, the solution must offer:
- Convenience – frictionless access to serve clients and open accounts on tablets of their choice
- Consistency – familiar look and feel, like what they use on their in-office devices
- Extended service – integration with eSignature, auto-archiving and other productivity features
- Compliance – same regulatory and security expectations as if serviced within the bank
A Role for Partners
Although the benefits of a portable solution for bankers are clear, realizing the goal can take time away that could be spent in the community with clients and prospects. However, technical partners can help by providing the right technical foundation that
provides optimal availability, security and performance. In addition, these technology resources should support virtual deployment of the remote and mobile technology needed in today’s digital world.
1 FIS PACE Pulse Survey 2021