Get Ready for the Big Fintech Show

By Grace Dinn

Twenty years ago, the world was quite a different place. To paint a quick picture, Google was not yet founded. And let’s face it: a quick picture is probably all that’s necessary. Google was part of the seismic shift that altered the landscape of pretty much everything.

If you need a trail guide to help you navigate the changes to financial services—and where they’re headed—you’d do well to talk to Terri Prince, vice president of Customer Success at CRMNEXT. For more than 20 years, she’s devoted her career to working with both banks and cutting edge tech organizations. Next week, Terri will take the stage at SXSW (the South by Southwest Conference, to those of you who don’t speak acronym) to deliver a talk about Fintech’s Future: Banking & Beyond.

To help us get oriented before heading to Austin, Terri shared some thoughts on how she’s seen banking change over the last 20 years, why banks are now interested in being involved in SXSW, and what banks need to understand in order to stay relevant now and in the future.

Simply put, banking will never be the same.

Twenty years ago, banks ruled the roost. With no alternatives to compete with, they controlled how their consumers interacted with them. People generally had one bank for all their needs and were happy enough with that arrangement.

The birth of mobile phones brought the first breath of change to customer expectations. But, by no means did change come easy for the banks. Terri said that in the early, early days of mobile banking, they couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to text their bank for a balance. And while the banks were pushing back, believing they were still in charge, the world of fintech was born, showing consumers that there is an alternative.

Meanwhile, on the tech frontier…

There are many factors that have led to the success of fintech—branding, timing and the customer-first mentality sit top of mind.

Branding – At first, many fintechs were branches of banks that were rebranded to look young and fresh and to offer a standalone solution.

Timing – Fintechs struck while the iron was hot. Particularly during the financial crisis of 2008, banks had become a dirty word. Scandals and breaches have hurt bank images. Millennials and the iGen are willing to bank via Internet like never before.

The customer first mindset – The focus from the get-go was user experience and usability. So, now what?

Now banks are looking for ways to prosper and remain relevant. And many are recognizing that the answers won’t just show up on their doorstep. So if you’re wondering why a bank would go to a hipster event like SXSW, here are some of the goals Terri thinks they might have in mind:

  • Find out what customers really want—not last week, but today and tomorrow.
  • Look at the future of technology, not just for the customer, but how the employee can get better tools to provide the ultimate customer experience and not just adding another app, rather thinking holistically.
  • Make an appearance to boost the industry’s “cool factor.”
  • Gain legitimacy or street cred by being involved.
  • Learn from other companies in attendance about company culture for future generations.
  • Connect and learn what else they can provide customers and employees.

It’s not just about banking. With thousands of companies present across different industries, the event poses a great opportunity to learn from all the different sectors.

What should banks focus on?

Whether or not you’re going to be at SXSW, there are so many shiny objects out there—and so many moving pieces. You need to know where look to succeed. So we asked Terri for the key takeaways. She boiled it down to ten steps.

  1. Know that fintech is not just a passing fad. It is here to stay.
  2. Even though an individual fintech can’t do everything a bank can, each one is taking a little bit of your market share and before long, it will have a big impact on profitability.
  3. Invest in the customer experience vs. one-off gadgets. Try and make it an emotional experience.
  4. Omni-channel will be key. Look internally. How can processes be improved across channels?
  5. Take a step back and think about your user experience. Then, ask how you can take tasks and put them in the hands of the consumers to make the experience better. Think of them as part of your workforce.
  6. No, the branch is not dying. But accept that people want what they want when they want it. And they want it now. They will come to the branch when they need/want the human interaction and emotional support.
  7. Understand that fintechs take advantage of a disjointed customer experience. This will help you think about your business and where you can improve—or collaborate with a fintech if you cannot do it yourself.
  8. Recognize that if everyone is a universal banker, you can provide fluid and timely assistance.
  9. Bring all information together. CRM is not just a sales tool. The entire company [i.e. universal bankers] should be able to look and see everything on the customer’s account so they don’t have to be transferred five times, each time repeating their problem.
  10. Build trust and transparency and be open to change.

So much change can seem overwhelming and impossible to navigate—some bankers feel like they’re trying to turn around an ocean liner in a creek. But by planning and thinking ahead, your bank can excel.

An important tidbit to keep in mind is that 40% of your employees are millennials. So as you think about improving the customer experience, you need to also think about improving your employee experience. Talent retention and succession planning are challenges of their own—but they’re closely interdependent with customer satisfaction.

Grace Dinn is a customer experience manage in ABA’s Professional Development Group. Email: mailto:[email protected]. Twitter.

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