By Monica C. MeinertTen years ago, Facebook was celebrating its second birthday, the iPhone was nonexistent and Bluetooth was still considered cutting-edge technology. And in the financial world, the branch was still the hub for transactions and banking encounters.
Fast forward to 2016 and things look drastically different—mobile technology is king, and customers are growing to expect easy, round-the-clock access to their accounts, banking services and customer support.
There’s been much conversation recently about how banks can successfully incorporate technology solutions to meet these changing customer expectations. But where the rubber really hits the road is in how effective banks can be when integrating these technologies with their core processing systems. And for community banks, that means building a collaborative working relationship with the core provider.
Strategizing for success
For MidCountry Bank, a $700 million institution headquartered in Bloomington, Minn., the relationship with the core provider goes beyond just technology services. Chief operating officer Maureen O’Brien-Wieser says that Fiserv—which ABA endorses for core processing—is an active part of the bank’s strategic planning process.
“We have a robust strategic planning process, and we involve them to communicate what our objectives are, consider the solutions that they have and how they support the achievement of our objectives,” O’Brien-Wieser says.
Working with Fiserv, MidCountry has implemented a host of retail technology solutions, including online and mobile banking, eStatements, Popmoney (a peer-to-peer payment platform), bill pay and online account openings to give customers greater flexibility and allow them to instantly access the products and services they need. The bank custom-branded this suite of online offerings “MidCountry4Me,” to give customers a seamless banking experience.
“We’re really focused on creating a unique and memorable experience for our customers, and that’s how the MidCountry4Me branded service delivery came about—the idea of empowering our customers to choose how, when and where they could use our banking services,” O’Brien-Wieser says. She adds that customers greatly appreciate the flexibility MidCountry4Me provides—since the rollout, the bank has seen mobile banking activity surpass online banking activity.
Intracoastal Bank—a $266 million financial institution in Palm Coast, Fla.—also works closely with Fiserv to meet strategic goals. The bank recently added Mobiliti Business, Fiserv’s commercial mobile banking solution, which allows business customers to approve ACH and wire transfers, receive push notifications when action is required, perform funds transfers and more from their mobile devices.
“One of the tactics we have in our market plan is to attract new business customers on the more professional side that are typically busy and can’t make it into the bank during normal business hours—doctors, lawyers, accountants,” explains Cheryl Tanenbaum, the bank’s CFO. “We felt that Mobiliti would be a great channel for them to be able to bank with us whenever they have the need to bank with us.”
According to recent research, nearly half of small businesses are using mobile to accelerate their decision-making and streamline their operations. And for millennial business owners, mobile banking is becoming more important than ever—66 percent of millennial-led businesses report using mobile.
“We have some larger customers who do wires and ACH origination that require an approval process on their end, and they’re not always in the office when their staff member needs that approval,” Tanenbaum says. “With Mobiliti Business, as long as they have their cell phone with them, they can give the approval.”
Compatibility is key
When it comes to the actual integration of a new product, success depends on compatibility with the bank’s core processing system. Both O’Brien-Wieser and Tanenbaum agree about the importance of product compatibility with the existing core.
“I’ve done a lot of implementations over the years, and this was definitely my easiest one,” Tanenbaum observes. The bank worked with an outside graphic designer to design the branded mobile app that Fiserv requires in order for banks to use Mobiliti Business. From there, Tanenbaum says Fiserv took care of most of the back-end work, walking bank staff through the process of configuring their existing systems and troubleshooting any errors. Once the app was built, Tanenbaum and her employees tested it thoroughly to ensure that everything was working properly on the various platforms.
“We pride ourselves on using technology to make our bank efficient,” Tanenbaum says. “I’ve worked with two other major core providers and it was not always a good experience—especially on the integration side. It always ended up having more manual input on the employee side, which is not why we use technology.”
Both bankers add that using a trusted provider helped reduce compliance concerns. “It was really important that we could get the information we needed to make our risk group comfortable and be sure that what we were doing matched up with our IT and compliance policies, and that we were protecting our customers,” O’Brien-Wieser says.
Getting the word out
Once the banks successfully integrated their solutions with their core systems, the next crucial step was to begin educating staff and customers and encouraging adoption.
“We had a very strong communication plan, which we continue today with this MidCountry4Me approach,” O’Brien-Wieser says. “It really is an effort to communicate to our customer how they have many options in terms of how they do business.”
MidCountry was among the first banks to implement the Mobiliti app several years ago, and O’Brien-Wieser says they valued the support Fiserv provided, “not only from the technical perspective, but [in] providing adoption services, ideas and materials to help us communicate with our customer base, educate them and make sure that we have people using the technology, understanding the technology and leveraging it to their best ability.”
At Intracoastal, Tanenbaum places a high importance on making sure her staff has the opportunity to become familiar with the new products and services the bank rolls out. “You can have all the products and services you want,” she says, but “[staff] can’t sell it and they can’t assist their clients if they have questions or if they have no familiarity with it themselves.”
Driving branch innovation
The banks’ success with incorporating mobile technologies isn’t just making life more convenient for their customers—it’s driving the strategic direction of their organizations.
MidCountry is preparing to open a branch in a new Minnesota market this summer, and O’Brien-Wieser says that the branch design will reflect the success that the bank has had with its mobile offerings—as well as feedback from customers in that market—presenting a more open layout with universal bankers and advanced technology.
And in Florida, Intracoastal’s Volusia County location—which opened in January 2015—is designed as a “branch of the future,” Tanenbaum says, featuring a “technology bar” where customers can use tablets to explore various product options, view demos and learn how to access banking services from home.
As technology continues to advance, the role of a bank’s core provider will become more important than ever. “Your core system provider is one of the most significant vendors you have,” O’Brien-Wieser says. “Be open and communicate with them, involve them in your planning process to communicate what you need and how they can support the achievement of your objectives.”