All banks need to prepare now for inevitably more change. As the year draws to a close, a quick look back provides some insightful clues about the road ahead. There are some trends that are well worth watching.
Changing Customer Habits
The coronavirus pandemic accelerated digitalization efforts and adoption. A recent PACE survey reveals that 46% of respondents changed how they interact with their bank in the last year. It is no surprise that consumers across generations continue to use new channels over in-branch banking.
- The demand for drive-through banking doubled for young millennials.
- The demand for phone banking tripled for Generation Z.
- The percentage of young millennials communicating with their banks via email and social media rose by four times over the previous ten months.
Customers are more likely to visit a branch to receive advice, review their financial situation or to purchase a financial product. Many bank branches are being repurposed to reflect this new dynamic, with less emphasis on traditional over-the-counter services.
The way people pay has also changed, probably forever. Businesses encouraged digital and contactless payments, particularly for micropayments such as bus fares or paying for a coffee. In contrast, check use declined by about 44%. Forty-seven percent of community bank customers surveyed say they have mobile payments wallets, according to FIS’ PACE PULSE Survey for 2021.
Bank as a Partner
In addition to providing traditional services, many community banks elevated their position to financial partner, offering temporary services when and where they were needed. The immediate relief including increased spending limits on credit cards, payment deferral options on mortgages, personal loans based on need and penalty fee waivers for dipping below account minimums.
Since then, community banks have continued taking steps to boost financial inclusion. The unbanked and underbanked are prime candidates for new, low-cost financial services delivered through mobile channels and apps. Providing such services is likely to be well rewarded by enduring customer loyalty, but the banks need the right technologies to deliver them.
The State of the Industry
The last year has seen a flurry of M&A deals. Many recent mergers involved banks with mature brands, loyal customers and strong balance sheets. These institutions’ interest in deals reflects a need to reduce the cost of doing business and the universal need to keep pace with technology innovation.
Digital technologies and data are increasingly the baseline of success in banks of all sizes. Merging with a peer can jump-start innovation and provide a bigger footprint for new digital services.
Robotics Process Automation and Data
Although much of the discussion around digitalization has focused on customer services, digital technologies can also boost automation and efficiency. With the right approach, robotic process automation, or RPA, can automate high-volume repeatable tasks that previously required employees to perform, allowing them to be redeployed to more valuable tasks. But to maximize value, RPA should not be considered in isolation but as part of a bank’s overall data strategy.
The Road Ahead
Although the road ahead may be paved with uncertainty, these are things FIS expects to see across the industry:
Customers have rising expectations. They want banking services that are intuitive, frictionless and real time. Big Tech, not banks, are continuing to redefined the customer experience.
Crypto will become mainstream. Many consumers already hold and support cryptocurrencies as investments. Banks must prepare for digital currencies and the distributed ledger technology that supports them.
The branch must evolve. Banks need to reinvent the branch to offer a consistent smooth experience. Human services can be augmented by technologies that automate routine retail banking tasks. For example, video tellers can conduct transactions and banking services with customers, using a centrally based teller in a highly engaging real-time video/audio interaction. Banks must persevere to draw people back into their branches.
Investing in data and technology is essential. Banks must eliminate guesswork and harness data to drive better decisions, increasing engagement and building lifetime loyalty. Smart banks can use customer data to gain unique insight and align banking with life events, such as weddings, school and retirement.
The new age of competition is also one of collaboration. At a time when community banks and their customers are getting more involved with technology, every bank needs to adopt a fintech approach to banking. Few banks can achieve this alone; the right partner can help an institution keep up the latest developments in technology and focus on its core mission to attract and retain customers.