Aug. 10, 2022
Relationship banking has entered a new, digital era as confirmed by recent research from Cornerstone Advisors that concluded, “There is a human element to mobile banking.” In fact, this Cornerstone study revealed that 60 percent of Gen Z and almost two-thirds of Millennials expect to connect with customer support directly from their mobile banking app.
“As a customer, you see the technology that exists, and wonder, why can’t my bank do that for me?” said Lauren Sparks, founder, director, and CEO of $42 million-asset Agility Bank. Being nimble to quickly “react and move in a changing ecosystem” was central to the newly formed de novo, said Sparks who noted having “the right technology and a vision for that technology” was pivotal to implementing the bank’s “client-centric focus.”
But as community banks well know, technology without the personal touch won’t deliver the ultimate customer experience. The same Cornerstone study also found that 42 percent of consumers between the ages of 21 and 55 would take their business elsewhere if an account manager was not an option.
“I think interacting with the same person I see at the branch from a long-term perspective will be key,” said Patrick Myron, senior vice president, retail network strategy and sales analytics, at Rockland Trust, a $20 billion-asset bank in Rockland, Mass. “The ability to have that conversation with someone you know is so important.”
As discussed in this month’s Independent Banker, Rockland Trust has deployed an offering they call YourBanker, that folds the human element directly into the digital banking experience. Available in the bank’s mobile app, YourBanker acts much like a LinkedIn for customers seeking bank staff, so they can meet up with their relationship manager or create a new connection on the digital channel. While the current version of the product allows for a secure, expanded text-like feature, the bank envisions more functionality moving forward.
“You could have a discussion where you’re typing back and forth, and the banker can say, ‘I have the ability to implement video. Would you like to talk face-to-face and finish this conversation?’ That has not been implemented yet, but it’s definitely on our roadmap,” noted Myron.
As the customer relationship evolves in the digital realm, financial technology providers play a key role. With open APIs and simplified integrations, community banks now may select solutions that speak to their personalized needs. For example, Rockland Trust’s YourBanker product has been fueled by a partnership with ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator alum AgentIQ. And Agility Bank’s technology stack has been built on the concept of finding the right partners to meet client needs.
“I think the best opportunity for community banks is in these fintech partnerships,” said Sparks. “They do the best of what they know how to do, and we do the best that we know how to do.”
As a de novo bank, Agility had the unique opportunity to build its technology infrastructure from the ground up to address the needs of its customers. From encrypted chat with video, audio, and text to a virtual safe deposit box and digital lockers for the storage and exchange of important documents, the bank has designed its back end with customer-facing functionality in mind.
“We use the digital technology to make the transaction efficient, and that frees up our time to cultivate the relationship,” said Sparks. “If we use those efficient engines to drive the transactions that occur in the bank, then we put our community banker hat on … we have that much more time to do the part that really is the most important.”