The Flagship Community Banking App: The Human Touch

Ninety-five years is a long time to develop, tweak and refine the perfect application.

For the community bank, as Bank Colombia Executive Vice President of Consumer Banking Allyson Schlesinger said Karen Webster, this application may seem a little old school, but in part it has been perfected since the bank’s founding in 1927.

It’s the human touch – helped, of course, by the digital transformation that has marked the financial services industry in recent years.

It is a truism that in 2022 the physical and digital banking domains are colliding and the boundaries between channels are blurring. As Schlesinger said, regardless of the type of interaction, bank customers like to know that there is always someone – a human voice and face – available to guide them.

Looking back on the whirlwind that swept through 2020 as the pandemic roared across the world, Schlesinger noted that everything had changed dramatically in the banking industry — and especially for community banks.

Along the way, as digital channels have solidified, she said some surprises have emerged. In just one example, older populations — including baby boomers — have embraced online offerings, even depositing checks via their phones.

Schlesinger said that over the past 25+ months, Columbia and its community banking brethren have sought to enable remote banking and support small businesses (with new treasury management and services and enhanced protection against cyber risks). Through it all, the human touch keeps coming back.

Related: Banks are turning to technology to keep the human touch in SME digital banking

Community banks aren’t as threatened by digital banks and digital-only challengers, Schlesinger observed, because these tech-focused newcomers pursue a certain customer.

However, these same banks have taken inspiration from FinTechs in an effort to automate workflows and create platforms that make lending to small businesses easier and faster — and Columbia also recently launched a credit card. Online applications allow consumers to view all of their financial accounts and transactions in one central location.

“We’re automating behind the scenes for our customers so we can understand what they need in terms of service,” Schlesinger said. But at the same time, the company is opening new physical branches in New Jersey and the tri-state area.

Meet in person

The urgency to meet consumers where, when and how they want to be met – including by bank representatives, face-to-face – is especially heightened as physical branches reopen and people return to “old” ways to do.

Schlesinger said Columbia’s own transaction volumes have returned to pre-COVID levels, but are also reappearing in physical environments (consumers are so happy to see familiar faces, she said it almost seems like everything everyone wants to hug).

For Columbia, she said, some things remain forever changed, tied to transformative and advanced technologies. She pointed to recent automated mortgage offerings where consumers can enter their information and be screened within 24 hours.

But dig a little deeper, and there’s still room for the human touch. Schlesinger noted that some banking customers may feel overwhelmed when entering their information through these digital conduits, and would therefore appreciate having an account manager help them through this process. Call center volumes are also up.

“So,” she said, “there has been a hybrid nature to the banking rebound.”

Schlesinger added that for community banks, it’s worth highlighting the ties to local merchants, families and individuals who come to the annual 4th of July festivities — ties the world’s biggest names in financial services can’t match. .

“Community banking has it all,” she said.

Its continuum of services may be most beneficial in primary banking relationships, extending well beyond simply maintaining a checking account and paying bills. For consumers, that means being able to pick up the phone and make an appointment down the street at a branch if it provides peace of mind when depositing a big check.

This personal touch allows the community bank to educate consumers while offering full-service capabilities, a full suite of offerings that can include wealth management planning, and relevant additions as families go through the stages of life.

“By combining that human touch with technology,” she told Webster, “we’ll teach you how to use the new offerings, and then you’ll be up and running and able to use the products and services the way you want.”

See also: Fintechs adding physical banks are becoming a global trend

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