*This blog was originally posted on Bank Marketing Strategy by Jim Marous. Jim is a marketing services leader focused on building strategic solutions for the financial services industry. You can follow him on Twitter @JimMarous or connect on LinkedIn.
In conjunction with the release of Intuit Financial Services’ 4th Annual Financial Management Survey, Banking.com hosted a Twitter Town Hall yesterday, bringing together financial industry leaders to discuss loyalty and channel migration as well as some of the challenges and opportunities facing the banking industry. The following is a recap of the very robust one hour dialogue. (The complete transcript can be found using #IFSsurvey on Twitter)
The Town Hall discussion began around the issue of customer loyalty and the finding that many consumers thought their financial provider was not ‘in touch’ with their needs. Given the events of the past week, where many large banks reversed decisions around the implementation of fees due to highly vocal negative sentiment amplified by social media and credit union trade group support, most participants believed that banks are not leveraging current insight and technology to make better decisions and provide value added service.
Tobin Lee (@Tobin_Lee), Intuit Financial Services spokesperson stated, “It is time for a banker mindset shift; cultivating deeper relationships, more meaningful engagement and stronger advocacy for growth”. Campbell Edlund from EMI (@EMI_mktg4sales) added, “These findings provide a very strong argument for a communications plan around the customer lifecycle”.
The already robust dialogue really took off as the discussion moved to the acceptance and utilization of banking channels (especially mobile and tablet banking). Bradley Leimer (@leimer) from Mechanics Bank in the San Francisco Bay area believed mobile strategy will be the key to future engagement due to the portability and ‘always on’ nature of the device. He also believed that the correlation between mobile banking and smartphone use (41% of respondents owned a smartphone) could indicate a lower engagement with financial technology in general for non-smartphone users.
Edlund added that while there is currently a higher penetration of smartphones than tablets, tablets can not be ignored by banks since Oracle found that tablet ownership is expected to increase significantly in the next year. She also warned that we need to be cautious not to get ahead of the acceptance curve. . . “we always underestimate inertia”. Brett King (@brettking), author of Bank 2.0 and founder of Movenbank went a step further stating that within 3 years all bank websites will need to be built for tablets first. He also believed that branches will continue to diminish in presence and utility (according to the study, 27% of respondents still visit their branch once a month in addition to ATM visits).
Mark Zmarzly (@BankMarketing) did not believe bricks and mortar would completely go away, but definitely felt the relevance of branches will change. “It’s easy to say branches will go away, but is that realistic? They have to evolve, but customers will never let them become 100% irrelevant.” King responded that with the drop in branch transactions, the economics of the branch are not working. I (@jimmarous) illustrated the model of Boeing Employees Credit Union in Seattle, where only 2 of the 40 branch network have tellers, while the installation of multiple ATMs at offices and around the city have an average of 10,000+ transactions each. 94% of the transactions at BECU are done electronically, according to Howie Wu (@howie_wu) from the credit union.
“Relevance is the key to banking for tomorrow,” stated King. “By 2015, mobile will be the #1 day-to-day channel, OLB #2 with the branch network being #5. The challenge for mobile and online will be developing great customer journeys”. King doesn’t believe these journeys exist today and believes the goal should be to have banking so pervasive that it is not tied to a branch, device or website, but is everywhere customers are.
Edlund pointed to the retail industry as a forerunner for what we will see in financial services. “Social and tablets will change the landscape in banking as they have in retailing”, Edlund stated. (During the Twitter Town Hall, there was even a discussion of the integration of TV as a channel for banking). Representatives from EMI in Boston (EMI_mktg4banks) emphasized that we will continue to see a blurring of all channels with social media providing some of the glue for enhanced communication. Gamification and location-based rewards were also seen as a key elements of engagement by Leimer and Edlund.
A conundrum was discussed with regard to the needs of small businesses where checks still prevail and the need for branches. King believed that we will see significant attention paid to mobile payments for businesses in the next couple years, while I added that tablet apps for business are also being developed to respond to the needs of the business community. NFC was also seen as a game changer with regard to the need for branches for small businesses. Bob Williams (@bob_williams) from Harland Clarke believed that, while check usage is definitely dropping, there are much greater efficiencies today than in the past with RDC and other electronic tools.
It was clear from the Intuit research that was just released, the Bank 2020 research released in April, and the discussion during the Twitter Town Hall today that there is significant disruption in the banking industry with regards to channel support and device utilization. The consumer movement to new banking channels is mirroring the movement to more sophisticated devices such as smartphones and tablets. Many consumers are NOT choosing one device or channel over another, but are using multiple devices depending on their personal needs.
Consumer desire for an integrated banking experience without friction will need to be supported by banking organizations in the future. Distribution networks (whether tangible or intangible) will need to support an expanding array of capabilities that may include integration within retail or social sites as opposed to standing alone.
As I stated to the participants of the Twitter Town Hall at the end of today’s discussion, “If banks are not prepared for the channel migration that is already underway, they may experience the impact of ‘Bank Transfer Decade’”.
Note: A summary of the findings of Intuit Financial Services’ 4th Annual Financial Management Survey and recently released related research is available in my previous Bank Marketing Strategy blog post.
If you weren’t able to join us, what are your thoughts around the impact of channel shift away from the branches and towards other media? Will we see the elimination of branches completely? Will another device or technology unseat smartphones and tablets?
Leave us a comment below, or Tweet at the author @JimMarous.