Banks and credit unions are making headway building their own social media presence and with the influence of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) are beginning to determine how their activities fit into company policies. Financial institutions looking to go social have a bevy of resources to learn from, whether listening to webinars from experts, talking with lawyers familiar with the guidelines or hearing from other members of their community.
For our latest FI Spotlight, we touched base with Jesse Torres, President and CEO of Pan American Bank in Los Angeles, California. Jesse recently posted an instructional video for bankers and directors on social media. To learn more, Jesse provided further insight to Banking.com on his experience with social media at Pan American.
Q: You seem to have a great perspective and experience with social media? How did Pan American Bank build its social channels, and what was your general philosophy?
Pan American Bank began using social media in late 2009 in response to the backlash against banks. As a conservative community bank, Pan American Bank never participated in subprime lending and other questionable lending practices. However, due to the broad and sensational messaging delivered by the media, Pan American Bank and other community-focused banks were painted with the same brush as those that violated public trust through questionable lending practices. Social media provided Pan American Bank with the platform to tell its story – one person at a time.
Through social media, the bank has been able to demonstrate its commitment to the community and other stakeholders. Social media is a tremendous tool for “personalizing” the institution and creating a venue for honest and transparent two-way communication.
While Pan American Bank maintains a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, it has chosen to focus the majority of its social media resources on Facebook. Facebook was chosen due to its broad adoption (over 1 billion worldwide users) and its mix of tools (e.g., status updates, video, photos, the ability to create and host events). These factors allow Pan American Bank to maintain an ongoing relationship with stakeholders using information in a variety of formats.
Q: What’s your best piece of advice for a financial institution just beginning to establish their social media presence?
Institutions need to realize that social media is now a regulatory hot button. During the past five years social media has transformed from an emerging technology to a mature technology. Many institutions now believe that it is time to incorporate social media into their strategy – perhaps due to having greater familiarity with the technology or because of competitive pressure. As such, the social media space is becoming increasingly occupied by financial institutions.
Regulators have noticed the growing trend but, until recently, have been unable to focus on social. As the industry recovers and as fewer banks risk failure, regulators are returning to business as usual. Any institution pursuing social media must become adequately familiar with the regulatory expectations – governance, policies and procedures, third party due diligence, training, content monitoring, audit, and board reporting. At a minimum, institutions should address social media through a risk assessment, policy and training.
Q: What’s one unexpected difficulty that banks can prepare for when developing their social media policies?
The main challenge in developing a social media policy is the governance structure. Contrary to what many may believe, social media risk is not a technology risk. It is a human resource risk. The dangers involved with social media do not involve malfunctions of technology or similar events. The dangers arise from employees being poorly trained and unintentionally creating risk for the institution. As such, the governing individual or body should have sufficient influence to require adequate employee training. This fact is many times lost as social media is often assigned to the IT department rather than to a department with broader human resource training capabilities. Ideally, due to social media’s broad impact of an organization (compliance, legal, sales, marketing, information technology, etc.), an appropriate governing structure should include a cross-departmental team.
Q: What do you see as the next trend for financial institutions on social media?
While adoption has increased over the past five years within the banking industry, the recent January 2013 FFIEC draft social media issuance and pending final regulations will slow adoption as the regulatory process works itself out. Once adoption resumes, financial institutions will increase their use of social media as a customer service channel. More progressive institutions, with greater risk appetites, will consider its use in completing financial transactions (think Chirpify). Others may utilize the platform for underwriting, using the social networks as an indicator of credit risk (good credit risks beget, or befriend, good credit risks). However, most institutions will limit its use to community building and brand differentiation due to their conservative nature and the rise of hacking incidents of both bank and social media platforms coupled with regulatory skepticism over the security afforded to bank customers through social media channels.
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