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Leveraging In-branch Digital Technologies to Enhance Banking Experience

By: Patrick Myron, SVP-Retail Network Strategy and Sales Analytics, Rockland Trust

Patrick Myron, SVP-Retail Network Strategy and Sales Analytics, Rockland Trust

Patrick Myron, Senior Vice President of Retail Network Strategy and Sales Analytics at Rockland Trust, is responsible for optimizing their Retail Networks as well as defining the future strategies for approximately 100 retail branches in Massachusetts.  Having more than 25 years of experience in Distribution Planning and Sales Analytics in the retail banking industry, Myron pioneers in branch transformation and branch of the future. 

In an interview with Banking CIO Outlook, Myron speaks on the trends and recent developments in the retail banking landscape and how embracing in-branch digital technologies can help banks enhance customer interactions and experience at scale.

How has the retail banking landscape evolved in recent years, and what are the current market trends in the space?

There has been a significant shift in the past 15 years in the retail banking space due to rapid technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior. Traditionally, players in this industry defined "success" based on the number of branches they had operating across the country. However, this eventually evolved into what I call "banking convenience," wherein organizational success was denoted by how well they could align with the changing customer behavior and demands. This emphasized the need for ATMs, digital technologies, and other in-branch technologies, such as cash recyclers, scanners, video tellers, video bankers, and more. What customers want today is simple, quick digital interactions to meet their banking needs more easily and conveniently. Take the process of depositing checks, for instance. With the advancements in digital technologies, customers can quickly cash in their checks directly to a bank account with a simple click of a button on their mobile device. Owing to its contactless nature, such transactions gained momentum during the pandemic and is expected to continue in the post-COVID era. 

“With the advent of advanced digital technologies, there is no argument that the retail banking industry is heading toward its golden era when it comes to customer satisfaction."

Regardless of how mobile technologies empower users to perform banking operations without visiting a branch, most consumers still want to talk to a banker for many reasons. For example, we have all the necessary tools to assist customers in opening a bank account online. Yet, they find it convenient to talk to a banker while signing documents rather than opting for its digital counterpart, considering the associated complications. This accentuates the importance of branches; nonetheless, it is conventional. However, it emerges as a challenge from a banking perspective as the industry is facing a considerable reduction in physical footfall. 

What are the challenges in the retail banking landscape, and how should it be addressed?

Like all other industries, retail banking was also severely hit by the pandemic. In addition to the hardships associated with keeping employees and customers safe, the industry was mostly concerned about three significant aspects—workforce flexibility, branch traffic, and remote workforce—which play a vital role in keeping the business running smoothly. I would say ensuring workforce flexibility is the key to achieve customer satisfaction. At Rockland Trust, we continue to identify the best ways to keep our branches as efficient and flexible as possible to meet customer expectations. Besides, the decreasing branch traffic is snowballing into a headache for the industry as banks are now obligated to think about revamping their current staffing model while ensuring enough workforces to cover their customer-facing and non-customer facing activities—without compromising on customer satisfaction. 

Keeping customer satisfaction at its priority, Rockland Trust is deploying several advanced tools to ensure seamless interaction with our customers remotely. We are working on enhancing our digital interaction capabilities to interact with our customers to address their banking needs. In a nutshell, our innovation labs are on a constant drive to remain best-in-class in building relationships with customers during this much-needed digital era.     

What should companies do to provide a seamless retail banking experience to their end-users?

I would say the most prominent trend that is going to steer the banking industry is video interactions. Applications like Zoom, FaceTime, and Microsoft Teams play a vital role in helping the sector enhance customers' banking experience. In fact, customers today are either willing or obligated to use digital interaction methods to meet their banking needs, considering the concerns over the spread of coronavirus. As such, there is a significant increase in deployment and use of such technologies, including video tellers and video bankers in the banking landscape. Although video technologies are not new to the banking industry, it has become a fundamental prerequisite to embrace them to align with the needs of the new normal. Identifying the potential such digital technologies can bring in to the retail banking space, we are incorporating them into our ecosystem, empowering our employees to address customer needs better and stay ahead of the competition. 

Where do you think the retail banking landscape is heading, and what can we expect in the future?

With the advent of advanced digital technologies, there is no argument that the retail banking industry is heading toward its golden era when it comes to customer satisfaction. There is hearsay that many players have even started reinventing their physical distribution strategies, considering that digital technologies are changing the need for a branch at every corner.. At Rockland Trust, we have been planning to integrate digital technologies and branch transformation strategies for the last six years. We have also come up with a new branch design, an open branch environment, which undoubtedly gets to the heart of the future banking industry. It is designed with all necessary tools, ensuring the capability to seamlessly handle all basic transaction queries and most complex integrations, such as mortgages or investments. Backed by the right people with longstanding experience and industry expertise, it serves as the most sought-after approach to enhance customer satisfaction.    

Would you like to convey any message to your peers in the retail banking industry?

I would say industry veterans and technical entrepreneurs are the main pillars that steer the retail banking space with their peerless experience and innovative ideas. My piece of advice to veterans is to embrace new technologies and tap their full potential, making banking easier for both employees and customers. On the other hand, entrepreneurs should continue to bring in new ideas and develop new technologies that augment banking operations. It is also essential for them to ensure that they understand the people who'd be using those technologies and develop robust yet easy-to-use platforms.     

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