By : Russ Tarver
December 04, 2018 08:00 AM
Community financial institutions that want to stay competitive in the modern era have to keep up with the evolution of digital banking.
Community financial institutions (CFIs) across the United States face some big challenges in staying competitive with large national banks, but they also have some unique advantages on their side.
As a smaller, more locally focused provider, you can concentrate on earning the trust of your members, nurturing relationships and delivering a personalized, relevant experience.
However, it's now more important than ever that these traditional goals aren't prioritized at the expense of vital modern objectives, such as hitting high standards in digital banking.
Banking in the digital age
Many small and medium-sized businesses – including CFIs serving local communities all over the U.S. – are still reliant on relatively old, outdated technologies and systems to serve their customers. In fact, some CFIs are still very much operating within what we like to call Digital Banking 2.0 – expansion into mobile banking, providing parity with mostly online, transaction focused experiences, now offered across multiple devices. The issue here is that digital banking has grown far beyond point-to-point transactional banking, where modern platforms are offering money, budget and card management services that were once exclusively offered at the branch level.
In the community banking sector, however, FIs can no longer expect their members to visit a branch to complete simple tasks such as making a balance inquiry, depositing a check, or even opening an account.
The branch still has an important part to play in building personal relationships and providing advice, but it's essential to also have modern digital solutions in place to maximize convenience, save time and meet the expectations of your members. As we enter the era of Digital Banking 3.0 – taking the consumer beyond transactional and into self-service – this generation Digital Banking platform will be built to help the institution deliver on expectations while also lowering costs.
Combining the traditional and the modern
There is no questioning the importance of digital infrastructure and technologies in retail banking today.
However, for many consumers – and particularly members of CFIs who view traditional service as important – there is still a lot of value in physical, face-to-face banking.
'Think mobile-first, or else' is one of the key themes for retail banks to focus on in 2018, according to professional services firm PwC, but so is 'branches aren't going away.'
J.D. Power came to a similar conclusion in its 2018 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, which found that satisfaction levels are highest among customers who use a combination of branch and digital banking.
Paul McAdam, senior director of J.D. Power's banking practice, said: "Right now, retail banks need to address the growing digital divide that is emerging within customer segments. Successfully navigating that transition will require banks to provide better, more personalized advice that is consistent across both digital and branch interactions and to ensure that customer needs are met, regardless of channel."
By committing to modern banking solutions as well as traditional goals and practices, your institution can span the divide between digital and physical banking, all while giving your members the best of both worlds.
Are your systems future-proof?
Here are some key questions worth asking to determine whether your digital banking platform is fit to serve customer needs and meet expectations, now and in the future:
If you find yourself answering 'no' to most of these questions, it might be time to assess the current state of your financial technology and better prepare your institution for the new age of digital banking.
As a community banking provider, you already have the expertise and experience needed to maintain close relationships with your members and deliver personalized service. A modern and future-proofed digital banking platform will ensure you are able to build on these attributes and continue serving people's needs in a changing, fast-moving industry.