The Year in Bank Marketing

By Jim Edrington

As chief member engagement officer of the American Bankers Association, Jim Edrington works with banks of every size—all across the nation—to help them better serve their customers and communities. We’ll be checking in with him periodically to get his perspective on trends, developments, and the noteworthy things he’s seeing out in the field. We asked him for the bank marketing highlights of 2017. Here’s what he had to say:

Marketers love to look forward, to get ready for the next big thing. And that’s exactly as it should be. As the year winds down, though, it’s a good time to look back at how bank marketing has changed over the past 12 months.

Because—especially for bank marketers—the challenge has often been not so much about getting ahead as it is about catching up to what’s happening in the rest of the world of commerce.

We have a number of superstars at banks of all sizes. And we’ve made it our business to showcase their work, not just so that other bank marketers can benefit from the lessons learned, but so that ultimately the entire industry can shine a little brighter in the eyes of the consumer. Hopefully, you’ve seen plenty of examples of these success stories at our schools, our conferences, and here on ABA Bank Marketing.

For now, though, let’s focus on the state of bank marketing as a whole. Despite the ongoing risks and issues that seem to be endemic to banking these days, we’ve seen a lot of progress in 2017. Emerging opportunities. Changing attitudes. New tools.

Here are the central themes of 2017.

  1. Talent and education.

This year we saw major growth in the concept of banking as a career of choice. A big part of that is that banks are increasingly recognizing the importance of talent. Not just recruiting talent, but growing it—and adopting a culture that is focused on developing new talent.

More and more of the banks are reaching out to college students through internship programs. Colleges and universities are looking at adding banking programs to their curricula. Marquette University is a leader in that area, as well as Sam Houston University and Southern Methodist University in Texas. The University of Maryland also offers a program for Banking Fellows through its Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Here at ABA, our internship program has been very successful. We had 15 interns last year, selected from nearly 500 applications. The feedback they gave us was that the experience totally changed their impressions of the industry. Of those interns, two of them continue to work with us, and at least two others have accepted jobs with the major accounting firms. We’re changing the perception of banking as a career path.

But banks are increasingly seeking out effective, systematic ways of attracting top talent. And education is a major part of that.

  1. Regulatory reform.

2017 is the year that compliance started to slow a little. That’s a big issue for everyone across the industry, including marketers. Of course, there’s been a lot of wait-and-see with regulatory reform, but we’ve started to see a slowdown in rulemaking and compliance burdens. And there’s a lot of hope that it will continue to slow.

  1. Risk management.

On a related note, we’ve also seen growth in risk management in the banking industry. Compliance is now seen as just one component of an overall risk management strategy. Cyber security is another component. Obviously, that’s a particularly hot issue in the banking industry—one that affects marketers, as customer data becomes a more central part of their marketing efforts. We all recognize the need to stay vigilant.

  1. A strong economy.

One source of optimism this year is that the economy is doing well. There’s growth in small business, and that creates enormous opportunities for banks.

American consumers really believe in supporting small businesses. According to data just released by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, this year’s Small Business Saturday attracted 108 million consumers who reported shopping or dining at local independently owned businesses.

On the flip side, there’s also a lot of concern about bank consolidation. 2017 has been a big year for M&A. That’s a concern for smaller banks. The past several years have been tough on them.

  1. The branch model.

The business model of the traditional branch has continued to evolve and change in 2017. But we’re still at the beginning stages of that transformation. Banks have had to continually reevaluate the branch environment because technology is playing an ever-increasing role in customer touch.

Technology has enabled the concept of the “consumer experience on steroids.” Banks are becoming able to better connect and engage with customers, and to grow relationships. And it’s clear that the branch still plays critical role in that journey. The question, though, is with so much happening through digital and mobile channels, what do you do with that real estate?

We’re seeing a lot of banks use the branch space for community purposes—hosting the local Rotary Club, for example—or holding charity events or kids’ activities. And we’ll see a lot more innovative uses for branch space in 2018.

Stay tuned.

Jim Edrington is Chief Member Engagement Officer at the American Bankers Association. Email: [email protected]. LinkedIn. Twitter.