Four Tips for Successful Bank-Fintech Partnerships

By Douglas Wilber

As the fintech industry has grown in recent years, more and more banks have partnered with these companies to enhance the digital customer experience. Fintech firms have the digital expertise banks need, but these nascent partnerships will require more thoughtful strategizing to deliver effective solutions.

So far, only 6 percent of banks reported seeing more than 5 percent improvement in reducing customer churn with their fintech partnerships, according to a 2021 Cornerstone Advisors report. And nearly 40 percent said they’ve seen no changes at all. This is likely not for lack of trying or skill from either side. Fintech companies can still bring great value to the table, so the answer isn’t for banks to eschew formal partnerships for good. Instead, banks just need to align with fintech partners on driving specific value.

Banks eager to improve their relationships with fintech partners and realize the full potential of bank and fintech collaboration can start by taking a few structured measures.

1. Be transparent about your problems.

First and foremost, banks must seek out fintech partnerships to solve specific problems. Without the core alignment around what a bank needs from a fintech partner, goals can be vague and impossible to reach. The more open banks are about the challenges they’re looking to solve, the more their fintech partners can understand how to deliver a solution. Perform an assessment of your current state of operations to identify specific challenges and the gaps in the way of overcoming them. Then, find a fintech company ready to fill that gap.

One example of excellent alignment in a bank and fintech collaboration is Bank of America and Zelle. Bank of America realized that it needed to focus on its digital payment capabilities as customers were using less cash. With that goal out in the open, it was able to partner with a fintech company that could offer a specific solution to make peer-to-peer transactions easy for customers to do in a mobile app. In the first quarter of 2020, Zelle powered more than 102 million transactions totaling $27 billion for Bank of America customers.

2. Get an internal fintech advocate on board.

Having the right person in the C-suite leading the way in a fintech partnership can make a big difference for a bank. Assign a fintech advocate to devote the attention and resources necessary to help the partnership deliver on expectations. Ideally, a dedicated fintech representative in the bank can serve to educate the fintech provider about the needs of the bank and learn the ins and outs of the fintech solution to relay to the rest of the internal team. Each give-and-take discussion will foster greater alignment and keep the relationship on track. The ultimate objective is to merge the bank and the fintech partner’s goals so that everyone is working toward the same end.

3. Put a premium on the customer experience.

Creating a strong digital customer experience isn’t a one-and-done investment. It involves continuously listening in to how customers behave online over time and adapting your digital strategies on an ongoing basis in response. It’s a long-game investment of time and resources, but it’s worth the effort: Accenture research suggests that nearly half of the banking public would stay loyal to a bank that offered a stellar customer experience. And considering that the 2019 FIS Performance Against Customer Expectations report noted 35 percent of people want to replace their plastic banking cards with digital apps, that experience will be largely digital now and into the future. Leverage fintech partners to improve the digital environment by personalizing experiences based on customer needs as they change over time.

4. Keep tabs on the employee experience, too.

Getting employees on board with your fintech partnership from the beginning will be essential in helping the solution reach its fullest potential. Digitization can be a scary word for traditional bankers who fear job loss to automation and other emerging technologies. This is where a fintech partner can step in to design robust workshops and other educational sessions to show employees how fintech can help them do their jobs more efficiently and provide greater value to customers. The more your employees get onboard for digital transformation, the more innovative thinking and growth you’ll see into the future.

The rise of fintech isn’t slowing down. But banks can leverage the digital expertise of this sector to provide more value to customers. Align objectives, get the buy-in of internal stakeholders and keep a sharp focus on bettering the digital customer experience. And you’ll see your bank and fintech partnership fuel exceptional, tangible results.

Doug Wilber is the CEO of Denim Social, a social media management software company that provides tools to empower marketers in regulated industries to manage organic social media content and paid social media advertising on one platform.