Ubiquitous Retail Banking

By: Kevin Stehl, Vice President of Marketing, Product and Digital, SECU Credit Union

Kevin Stehl, Vice President of Marketing, Product and Digital, SECU Credit Union

It may be difficult for anyone under 30 to believe, but there was a time when banking transactions were conducted face-to-face.

Needed to deposit your paycheck? You had to head to your local bank or credit union, fill out a deposit slip, and make the deposit with the friendly teller behind the counter. Wanted to open a new checking or savings account? You had to wait in line to talk to a branch manager. Needed a loan? You had to talk to the loan officer, fill out a paper application form, and wait for the bank to approve the loan.

Much of that has changed over the past two-plus decades. While ATMs started making banking more convenient in the 1980s, banking really underwent a radical transformation in response to Americans’ changing lifestyle. We no longer work 9-to-5, five days a week. Instead, connectivity–provided via mobile devices, apps, and social media–has revolutionized the way we work, play, and of course, bank.

In response to this 24/7 environment, banking today has become less about getting customers to do their banking in one of our branches and more about making services available anytime, anywhere. Credit unions and banks have introduced an ever-evolving array of electronic services–including online banking, alerts, bill pay, mobile banking, remote deposits, online statements and notices, imaging ATMs, and online account opening–all of which are designed to enable customers to do their banking at their convenience from the comfort of their own homes (or anywhere else they happen to be).

It’s important to recognize that these e-services are no longer “nice to have.” Nor are they offered exclusively by “the big banks.” Rather, they are an absolute essential in order to do business in today’s financial industry, regardless of the size of the institution.

It is also essential for financial institutions to continue to evolve their technology. While today’s digital wave will extend from customer experience and operational efficiency to widespread use of big data and analytics, the financial sector can expect to be impacted by a number of emerging technologies over the next decade. Blockchain, for example, is expected to move from a largely retail focus to include more financial use, with many in the industry predicting use of the blockchain public ledger will become an integral part of financial institutions’ technology and operational infrastructure.

Similarly, while many banks and credit unions already use cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications for CRM, HR, and accounting, the technology appears likely to become the way in which core service infrastructures in areas such as consumer payments and credit scoring will be processed in the not-to-distant future.

Banks and credit unions are already seeing robotics and artificial intelligence being used to address key pressure points, reduce costs, and mitigate risks. With advances in the technology, though, some robots will soon be able to perform not only more tasks, but more complex tasks as they incorporate the ability to sense details in their environments, recognize objects, and respond to information with useful behaviors.

Institutions will also need to prepare their systems architecture to connect to anything, anywhere. By allowing endpoints–including enterprise databases, cloud services, B2B and B2C connections, big data sources, and IoT sensors– to coexist and cooperate, credit unions and banks will be better positioned to protect themselves against cyber-threats without adding needless barriers that discourage interaction.

Cyber-security, in fact, will continue to be a huge priority as security risks evolve. Use of third-party vendors, cross-border data exchanges, and increased use of mobile technologies will make it increasingly difficult for institutions to continue relying on the same information security model they have been employing for years–one that is controls- and compliance-based, and focused on securing data and the back office only.

With that in mind, my own organization recently introduced a new online banking platform and mobile app that not only provides our members with a more robust online and mobile banking experience, but also enhanced security features which enable users to log-in on a mobile device using just their fingertips or a 4-digit pin. If users forget their password, they can now access their account by having a code sent immediately via text or email.

While the new platform and app includes additional features, such as person-to-person transfers and budgeting tools, it is perhaps most important to recognize that improved customer service and satisfaction will continue to be at the heart of any technology enhancement. So for customers who want or need to come into a branch, institutions must offer a modern branch experience that provides streamlined, efficient, and effective services, such as enhanced ATMs and modern, cutting-edge teller stations. Doing so not only helps customers to make their in-branch transactions faster and more effectively, but also enhances the institution’s reputation in the marketplace.

"Banking today has become less about getting customers to do their banking in one of our branches and more about making services available anytime, anywhere."

For those who want to do their banking remotely, credit unions and banks need to focus on providing customers with access to the tools that they want and that are useful to them. Before ever beginning to design its new mobile and online banking improvements, for example, my institution got feedback from our members, who told us they wanted better digital capabilities and mobile features that would allow them to more closely match their money management habits to their on-the-go lifestyles, while providing greater control of their finances.

Ultimately, communications is the key. While technology can provide solutions for enhanced relationships, it can never replace true, one-on-one customer service. By combining online options with face-to-face information and advice, institutions will be better positioned to make their customers financially successful and improve the financial well-being of the communities we serve.

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