Tech Agility Is a People Challenge

By Liz Magennis

A wave of new technologies and evolving consumer expectations are reshaping the banking industry at a rapid pace. These days consumers want access to fast, convenient and always available financial services on their own terms.

As we are in the service business, it’s our job to offer clients the best technology, but in our effort to deliver these new solutions, it’s important to remember technology is only part of the equation. In fact, it’s really a byproduct of a bigger change that needs to take place within banking.

To succeed in this environment, banks must excel at creating a more agile corporate culture. Adopting this new approach will allow banks to support the digital demands of clients and attract talent to drive further growth. This will ultimately be the differentiating factor between banks that thrive in this hypercompetitive environment and the ones that fail.

How can a bank ensure it’s creating this agile culture as it invests in new technology?

Look for solutions not just products

Since many products are being transformed by technology, we are often looking for these computerized or digital products to create efficiencies for our employees and clients by eliminating manual processes. While that is a great step forward, cloud-based software now allows us to further our technological capabilities. We learned this first hand during a recent project.

At ConnectOne Bank, we set out to fill a need for a new loan underwriting solution. Initially, we chose a product that could fulfill this need. Before finalizing the decision, we challenged our initial thinking. We asked our employees, does the solution provide everything they need both now and in the future? Would it support the needs of a bank three times our size?

Instead of investing in a narrowly focused loan underwriting solution, we chose a cloud banking platform that could handle our underwriting needs and provide additional benefits, including digital space where our teams could connect, providing transparency to the loan process, and increasing mobile access.
Look past one-time implementations

We can no longer just roll out a technology and use it until it’s time to replace it with something newer, faster and better. Implementations, updates and enhancements must a constant part of your project plan, allowing you the ability to constantly evolve. You’ll have a much faster, and more successful, rollout if you look at it this way.

Get your employees involved—and empower them to make decisions

When we deployed our cloud platform, we trained and created a set of “super-users” across the organization who could help with the new technology. Instead of calling IT for help, employees could ask their peers how to apply the solutions to their roles.

As you are evaluating change, encourage employees to challenge conventional thinking. This next generation of workers wants to have purpose; to feel as if they are part of something bigger that aligns with the beliefs of the company and their peers. Empower your employees to ask questions and suggest alternative solutions. Banks should continue this sense of ownership and inclusion during the roll-out. The launch can’t just be a directive from the top.

Equip your teams with the right skillsets

As technology is constantly evolving, the evaluation, selection and implementation of new solutions should become a continuous process. This ongoing evolution, however, further emphasizes the need for strong employees who can nimbly adjust; a necessity for any company that seeks to excel in change management.
Today’s banking environment requires creating a culture that’s comfortable being uncomfortable. A business that masters that and supports constant innovation will be better equipped to grow and survive in this hypercompetitive industry.

Liz Magennis is EVP and chief lending officer at ConnectOne Bank in New Jersey.