Fintech is the intersection of financial services and technology. The innovation within this intersection is robust, and the positive impact to community banks is wide-reaching.
Technology stands to alter the way banking transactions have been historically conducted in:
Amid the noise and disruption of fintech, one message is clear: Community banks are well-positioned to blend the strengths of their operations with fintech innovations.
For years, community banks have offered a customer-centric banking tradition that puts customers first. This advantage rings loud and clear to the fintech companies that view community banks as a strong performer in the customer service space. But this isn't the only advantage community banks offer. The various gains of potential collaboration or partnership are intriguing to many fintech companies.
The benefits for community banks, in partnering with fintechs, is clear too. Community banks have historically enjoyed a strong lead in customer satisfaction over their larger counterparts. To maintain and build on this competitive edge, community banks are looking closely at fintech partnership opportunities.
Fintech began as a process of experimentation in efficient ways to use technology to deliver customer services. Initially, banks looked to fintech to upgrade their potential to serve a built-in customer base—think of the evolution of credits cards, ATM machines, automated telephone services, electronic bank records, online account access, remote deposit capture, Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) and more. This history of smart evolution has proven very successful for the community banking industry.
Today, fintech is at a tipping point—companies are not simply focused on enhancing customer experiences—they want to radically change and improve the way banking services are offered in the digital economy. Community banks that wisely engage with fintech will have an opportunity to do just that.
Community banks can work with fintech lenders to provide critical banking services to underwrite consumer, mortgage, and commercial loans. This can expand bank access into new markets where fintech companies have greater penetration. For example, marketplace lenders or “MPLs,” leverage data collection and technology to provide access to credit with little to no physical overhead or distribution network. Small and medium-size banks often partner with MPLs when they do not have the internal expertise or resources to execute an online lending business model.
The baby boomer generation is winding down their earning and spending activity. Over the next 25 years, nearly 81 million U.S. millennials (all of whom came of age after the digital revolution) will dominate the economy. Millennials demand financial services that focus on a more personalized experience and emphasize seamless/on-demand access to the service from the underlying product. Fintech companies are eager to meet millennials’ preferences.
Given their nimble nature, community banks are well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities in the fintech landscape—opportunities that present potential gains in fee income, reductions in risk and fraud, increased efficiency, and improvements to the customer experience.
Community banks partner with fintech companies to offer new, innovative services. To be successful, banks will need to work with fintech partners to develop marketing and financial branding strategies that carry forward the bank’s brand in a digital world. Customers may demand more universal banking automation and transformed branch experiences, all of which will need to be communicated through community bank’s brand messaging.
In a survey, nearly 50 percent of community bankers responded that enhancing customer experience is the driving reason for investing in new and emerging technologies. Community banks see partnering with fintech as a means to strengthen customer and community relationships and can be more nimble than their larger counterparts when implementing new technologies.
For ICBA member banks, the top three areas for fintech solutions that currently support business strategies include:
The board of directors should consider how fintech could complement and support the bank’s overall strategic direction, and incorporate a discussion of fintech projects within the bank’s strategic plan.
Have a process: A board of directors should also have a process for annually updating and approving their strategic plan, and for updating the plan on an ad-hoc basis between annual reviews. Those same processes should apply to fintech projects—if a fintech project rises to the level of business materiality that would generally require board approval and inclusion in the strategic plan, the fintech project should be approved by the board and incorporated into the strategic plan before material progress is made on that particular project.
A bank’s monetary return on investment (“ROI”) for fintech related projects is difficult to predict with certainty. Experts believe returns to be incremental in nature and most financial institutions investing in fintech estimate an expected annual rate of return of approximately 20 percent globally. The rising customer expectations for a streamlined, mobile, and innovative banking experience make investment in fintech a more prudent allocation of resources.
A major factor in the ROI for any bank is whether the fintech solution is aligned with the bank’s overall business strategies.
Costs may be incurred in connection with capital investments in a fintech company, the acquisition of new systems to deliver products to customers, and any ongoing fees required to maintain the products and services.