Community Banking Trends

Jan  10 
Dudley White  SVP and Head of Core Banking & Integrated Solutions, Fiserv 

Differentiate your community bank with a competitive digital presence
and an intimate customer experience

It seems like the world has turned upside down in the past few years, and banking is no exception.

Branches used to be the hubs of community banks, and digital services were considered extensions of the branch. That’s no longer true.

Now, digital services have become the center of banking, providing a fast, convenient self-service experience for digitally enlightened customers. Without the latest online and mobile solutions, community banks will fall behind their peers – and further behind the big banks.

While the importance of having differentiated digital services can’t be overstated, don’t rule out branches just yet. When customers want a real conversation about banking, they head to a branch – which means your branch staff have to be ready.

Digital, in-person and phone support should come together seamlessly. To provide a streamlined and cohesive customer experience no matter what channel your customer chooses, data needs to be integrated and visible to staff and accountholders across channels.

These days, it’s all about the experience.

Revamping branches as an extension of digital services

While branches are essential, they’re no longer only about a customer coming in to make a transaction with a teller. Instead, customers expect education and advisory services with higher value, in-person servicing.

In particular, younger demographic groups are much more likely to perceive the role of the branch as both informative and transactional. In a recent Raddon Research report, 44% of millennial customers saw the primary function of the branch as advice and account opening, while 66% of Gen Z saw it that way. For baby boomers, only 16% chose advice and account opening, seeing it primarily as transactional.

To transition into full-service advisors, branch staff require more product and sales training. Everyone from tellers to management needs to be well-versed in products and processes and feel comfortable educating customers about them. Automating routine tasks and transactions to free up staff for higher value work – whether front office or back office – supports this new focus.

With the rise of digital banking, customers are coming into the bank because they want to – not necessarily because they have to. Most transactions can be completed through other channels, so consumers walk into the branch for something else: connection and engagement.

When customers want a real conversation about banking, they head to a branch – which means your branch staff have to be ready.

Connecting customer data for a seamless experience

Many years ago, local bankers knew all their customers, who came into their branch regularly. Providing personalized service was easy.

Now, with most customers only known as numbers in accounts, it’s much more difficult to understand their needs. But those numbers – when integrated, visible and analyzed – can be used to overcome this problem.

Being able to aggregate all the data you have on your accountholders – such as card data, deposit history, transaction history, loan history, and so forth – can create a better omnichannel experience with offerings tailored to customer needs. Banks can also use the insights for planning and forecasting, including analyzing profitability drivers across a range of dimensions.

When a customer comes into a branch for advice, it helps to have accountholder data available to branch staff, for instance. It’s even better when customers can seamlessly transition to a different channel without having to reauthenticate or repeat steps, or have the ability to apply for services in advance.

Loans are a good example. With rising interest rates, loans are emerging as a competitive battleground, so services such as preapprovals will be important for community bank customers. A community bank with a simple online borrowing process for prescreening, preapprovals and applications – optimized for mobile – will help drive revenue and loyalty. Customers could go into the branch to discuss options and begin prequalification for a home mortgage, but upload loan docs and e-sign on the mobile app.

These days, it’s all about the experience.

Accelerating innovation in partnership with fintechs

Digital banking has evolved into a full ecosystem of capabilities that people rely on to manage their financial lives, so creating an engaging digital experience is key to establishing and fortifying customer relationships. And it must be mobile-first technology.

In the past, it has been difficult for community banks to afford to compete at this level. Now they can.

Next-generation banking solutions can be platforms for innovation for community banks, enabling them to compete head-to-head with big banks. While big banks are driving technology for scale, efficiency and cost improvement, community banks are leveraging technology to improve customer intimacy. And they can do it by outsourcing their innovation to fintechs who have done the work for them.

The seamless channel experience referenced above is one example of what can be done through a fintech partner, but there’s more. Fintechs such as Fiserv are providing feature-rich capabilities at a price point within the range of community banks to strengthen customer loyalty and be competitive.

 

Fintechs often provide a low-code, low-cost way of integrating with their apps through modern API architecture. It’s an out-of-the-box approach that doesn’t require much, if any, customization so there’s less strain on IT departments. For example, Fiserv offers AppMarket, a collaborative, curated online marketplace where financial institutions can find transformative fintech offerings that accelerate speed to market with new capabilities.

Fiserv also helps banks accelerate their digital roadmap and meet consumer and small business needs through Experience Digital, a simple, connected financial digital ecosystem. It allows banks to pursue the path that best meets their transformation objectives, with a range of turnkey solutions that can be configured to individual institution needs.

Leveling the playing field

Community banks can compete on a much more level playing field with bigger banks – if they take advantage of the resources now available to them. And if community banks can provide a differentiated, intimate customer experience on top of a good digital offering, they can become the better choice.

It’s the customers who really win because they get the best of both worlds – personalized services with the speed and convenience of digital.