Recently, I attended the Bank Customer Experience Summit, which was held in Chicago from Sept. 13 to 15. This event gathered together executives from financial institutions and technology vendors of all shapes and sizes. During this event, I was able to learn several key lessons both from conversations with other bankers and from panels of experts.
These lessons include guidance on fintechs, self-service and the importance of real banking relationships.
Fintechs..to partner or not to partner
Fintechs were the talk out of the town at the summit, as both attendees and panelists alike spoke about how to deal with them.
Some panelists said that banks shouldn’t be afraid of fintechs, they should partner with them instead to create solutions for customers.
Michelle Shelton, chief experience officer at Great Lakes Credit Union, said during the Bankers Roundtable panel that you have to realize you “can’t do it all” and shouldn’t be afraid to partner up.
Other panelists, however, argued that banks need to be careful of fintechs, since they are real competitors now, especially due to the pandemic.
Alex Sion, head of venture incubation, global consumer banking at Citi Ventures, said during his ending keynote that the bank incumbents are not a shoe-in to win since customers are rethinking their banking habits and who they bank with due to the pandemic.
“Lifetime loyalty is up for grabs for those who struggled and need help,” Sion said.
If there is a lesson here from both of these perspectives, banks should partner with fintechs when they need a solution, but they also need to be aware of the real competitive thread that fintechs pose.
Self-service is here to stay
The importance of self-service solutions, particularly ATMs, chatbots and other solutions, was front and center at the summit. Customers want solutions that meet their needs, and self-service is just the ticket.
Evan Siegel, VP of financial services and AI at eGain, in particular, spoke about how chatbots can help with financial education during a panel at the event. While many Americans are financially struggling, most do not want to seek financial coaching due to fears of embarrassment, generic advice and other issues.
Chatbots can help answer this conundrum by offering anonymous advice that is tailored specifically to the individual, such as eGain’s virtual coach.
“It gives one to three action plans based on what you told the coach,” Siegel said.
In addition to chatbots, I also heard attendees speak at length about the continuing importance of ATMs.
During the BCX talks, an informal roundtable discussion on various topics, I heard bankers describe how ATMs aren’t going anywhere, in fact they are increasing in number, due in large part to customer demand to be able to withdraw cash and to deposit checks.
Both of these tools meet customers where they are at, which leads us into our final lesson.
It’s all about relationships
If there is one lesson that was repeated consistently at the summit, it was the importance of human relationships.
While many fintechs only reach out to customers on a technological level, banks also need to embrace the real person in a real way.
Arijit Roy, EVP head of strategy, deposits, small business banking and analytics at Truist Financial Corp. spoke at length during the opening keynote about the importance of relationships during the first keynote session at the event.
He pointed out that companies such as Apple, despite being a hardware and software provider, still have stores to allow people to physically interact with the product and ask questions from staff. Whereas companies that don’t have physical presence like console manufacturers tend to suffer on the customer service side.
“You need both data and institution, automation and a sense of judgement. Simplicity and empathy. If you don’t, you aren’t doing much to drive a relationship,” Roy said.
Sion agreed with this assessment during his ending keynote. He said that customers aren’t just looking for a better banking deal. They need someone to help guide them.
He said customers are in a more “contemplative, spiritual mindset” due to the pandemic that will resist traditional transactional hooks. Banks will need better relationship engagement strategies to reach these customers.