2018: The Year of the Community Bank

There’s something about the start of a new year that breeds optimism and fresh perspective. Challenges give way to opportunities, and obstacles become puzzles to solve.

That positive tenacity intensifies for me as I look at 2018, a year in banking like no other. From the digital revolution to the role of fintechs, a new day has dawned, and in its light, we see the sprouting progression of community banking.

The future hinges on one key ingredient: technology. Technology is upending traditional banking by standardizing what once was science fiction. From artificial intelligence (AI) and wearables to the Internet of Things, the marketplace has transformed from analog to digital in all capacities, leaving banking poised to reinvent itself in this new space.

By capitalizing on the changes in the following three areas, community banks can take advantage of these market shifts to position their services for the future:

  1. Digital Payments – Above all, community banks need to think digital-first when it comes to payments, starting with a rock-solid strategy (see my posts from last January and February). Gone are the days when the digital component was an add-on to an existing bank service. That won’t cut it in today’s culture where the norm lies in smart, connected solutions, a.k.a. the Internet of Things—a movement McKinsey Global Institute estimates could have an annual economic impact of up to $11.1 trillion by 2025. The good news? Community banks have a nimble mindset and corresponding infrastructure that allows them to adapt and drive a seamless, digital customer experience.
  2. Artificial Intelligence – Whether it’s Alexa, Watson, Bixby, Siri, Google Assistant or some other AI tool, this technology extends far beyond the digital assistant moniker. For community banks, the AI framework gives them a solution to collect and quickly analyze data that can support existing efforts around predictive analytics, fraud detection, service personalization, and workforce productivity. While most community banks lack experienced staffers to filter and evaluate the information at hand, many new fintech solutions can do it for them.
  3. Fintechs and Application Interfaces (APIs) – And just like that, former fintech competitors now offer a strategic advantage. We have seen a paradigm shift in fintechs realigning their strategies to partner with community banks to deliver innovative products and services to market. Just witness our partnership with linked2pay for real-time posting of payments to community banks and their small business customers. With core providers finally willing to open their legacy systems to APIs, community banks can offer cutting-edge, digital solutions faster than ever.

And the speed of change continues, but when this technology revolution syncs with the innovative, entrepreneurial spirits of community bankers, opportunity abounds. Mark my words: The rise of technology will signify the rise of the community bank.

That growth will start now, in the strategies we develop, the partnerships we cultivate, and the solutions we offer. It’s up to all of us to evolve with our customers’ needs, not just looking at what they’re asking for today but anticipating what they will need tomorrow.

With that in mind, I’m calling for one collective New Year’s resolution: Let’s make 2018 the year of the community bank.