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Do you still need experience?

Careful tech planning may influence your technology/experience mix

Obvious and mediocre won’t be found here—but “Why didn’t I think of that?” will! Challenging the banking status quo is Dan Fisher’s personal mission. Obvious and mediocre won’t be found here—but “Why didn’t I think of that?” will! Challenging the banking status quo is Dan Fisher’s personal mission.

We are often confronted with a variety of challenges in the contemporary banking environment.

Let’s see how your bank matches up …

• The top ten employees average 30 years banking experience.

• All of your most senior staff will be retiring in the next five years.

• Most of your new hires have no banking experience.

So, if this is your story, too, you have an experience drain. The real question is, do you need experience when you hire?

Well, maybe not.

And that is not all bad.

Banking work has flipped

Don’t get me wrong. Experience has value.

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But when I first entered banking, for most tasks staff was augmented by technology and experience. Knowledge was key.

Today, that model has flipped. Staff augments technology, with technology performing most of the tasks and staff managing the exceptions. No more proof. Teller systems only need the last four of the social and partial address or name to find the customer record, or just swipe their debit card.

At the same time, the process today is shifting to an automation-centric model. Significant customer activity for new accounts and loans starts first on the internet.

Net result, greater efficiency and improved quality of service. Furthermore, work flow technology can simplify and standardize the new accounts and loan origination process, and it continues to improve in process as well as compliance.

Where do community banks fit?

The challenge today is that we find parts of all this technology being used by community banks. But not all. Most prevalent in community banking is a composite of cobbled together processes that represent only a part of the automation that is available. Consequently, the true benefits are only partially realized.

The driver of this situation? Making technology decisions based on cost, one at a time, combined with an individual that overtly stands in the way of progress because they do not want to change. A classic syndrome.

A best practice to implementing new technology is to have an overall strategy and vision of the potential benefits. The best investment that you can make in your organization is to identify the automation gaps that already exist and develop a plan to eliminate them.

Strike new deals right

Banking is going through a huge transition. Community banking has a terrific opportunity to take a huge leap into the 21st century, but before you do, be sure not to repeat the problems of the past.

Before you renew a core vendor contract, take time to understand progress as it exists today.

Mind you, the worst thing you can do is ask your incumbent vendor to come in and tell you what you are doing wrong. Voilà, they will have all of the “right” answers for you—at least, the ones they sell.

You really should conduct an independent review and then create a Request For Information document. This is not a sales step, but a form of a structured inquiry.

Send your RFI to three vendors and see what you get back. It will be eye opening, not just in cost, but also functionality.

Here’s the thought …

If you work hard to integrate the systems (seamlessly), simplify the process, and update the user interface to 21st Century technology, you will quickly find that the experience you originally thought was required may not be.

Furthermore, the learning/training curve will be shorter. Net result, dump the paper, dump the manual input, leave the hard work to technology. Next, take advantage of the opportunity to amp up the emphasis on customer service training.

An observation here: Maybe your prospective customer would prefer to input their personal information on the internet at home and then come and see you to close the deal.

The dialogue at the time you open the new account, since you already have the basic information, could be focused on what the prospective customer is looking for as opposed to what their address is.

Imagine the positive customer experience you would create by virtue of a needs-focused conversation?

The new face of community banking… customer service centric … an experience all about them, not you!

—The Wombat!

Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is president and CEO of The Copper River Group, a consulting firm headquartered in Fargo, N. D., that focuses on technology and payment systems research and consulting for community financial institutions. For nearly 30 years, Fisher has worked in the financial industry using technology to improve the bottom line. He was CIO of Community First Bankshares (now part of Bank of the West), has served as a director of the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis, the chairman of the American Bankers Association Payment Systems Committee, and was a member of the Independent Community Bankers of America Payments Committee. Fisher has written numerous articles on banking technology and the payments system. He has authored or co-authored six books and recently published a book titled, "Capturing Your Customer! The New Technology of Remote Deposit." You can contact Fisher at dan@copperrivergroup.com or at 701-293-6222.
P.S. To understand Dan's nickname, check out "About the Wombat" on his website.       

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