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Let’s not take Community out of Community Banks.

The CEO of Chime, the U.S. technology neobank company that provides fee-free financial services through a mobile app, just a week or so ago had this to say about traditional banks in an article on cnbc.com: “COVID-19 and the pandemic have just accelerated the trend that was already in motion. There’s an increasing willingness to provide and manage your finances through a mobile app. Particularly for the younger generation, the notion of going in to fill out forms, to get basic financial services is really becoming a relic of the past.”

Which begs the question, if you’re a community bank, what will your community look like in the not-too-distant future?

 By that I mean, is the online community all that’s left for banks? Individuals who seem willing to trade personal data for convenience? Those who would prefer to never consult with a human being, an expert, when it comes to managing one of the most important and difficult areas of their lives? Their finances?

Personally, I believe there is still a place for that “off-line” community… the one surrounding your branch locations, the one that consists of individuals and local businesses who are connected with each other and value that connection.

But, hey, what do I know?  Seems like every time you open a news page in your browser there’s some article about digital transformation, monetizing data, turning branch banks into internet cafes… is that really where we’re headed?  And, should we?

Granted, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Britt, Chine CEO, that “the pandemic has just accelerated the trend that was already in motion.”  This finextra article from just the other day included this proclamation from Paul Walker, GM of Q2 BaaS. “Now any bank can have its own Marcus or Chime in a matter of a few weeks.”  Wow, the race to trade one community for the other is really is running full steam ahead.

Further proof is a recent Financial Brand blog about digital banking insights that can be learned from China’s We Bank. The Shenzen-based, digital-only bank has experienced exponential growth since its inception in 2015. How? The cynic might ask this question: Could it be that they are raking in cash not because of a digital banking model worth emulating but, instead, a model that allows them to monetize data and loan money to high-risk individuals without fear of running afoul of regulatory agencies?

Case in point. We Bank has built a business of over 200 million customers by opening accounts with an average revenue per user of around $10 USD.  Their per-account operation cost is only 3.6 RMB, or roughly $.50 USD. And, they can process a loan application in just 5 seconds.  5 seconds!  How is that possible?  Henry Ma, CIO explains it so: “We work with a lot of internet platforms. Essentially, we embed our financial products into our partner platforms. And we also work with our partner platforms and leverage the data and the user base that they have and do a lot of pre-underwriting on the users. When we work with a particular platform, the user will get pre-underwritten and receive an invitation from us. Once the user accepts the invitation, we have already gotten some idea of what kind of a credit worthiness this user deserves.”

“We leverage the data and the user base and do a lot of pre-underwriting…”  Hmmm.  Where does this data to which Mr. Ma refers come from?  Sounds to me a like it might be Big Brother Banking, where your bank, in bed with Big Data Bad Boy, knows everything about you and then uses that information to sell their products (which of course, are products that create the revenue they didn’t generate when they sucked you in with a bait-and-switch offer.)

If this sounds a bit skeptical and cynical that’s because, frankly, it is.

Back to the original point here.  What “community” are digital banks serving and do our true, traditional, local community banks want to go there? The pandemic may have accelerated the digital banking trend, but that doesn’t necessarily signal progress or a direction in which banks need to necessarily go. People need community and connections. Yes, they want convenience, but once this pandemic is behind us, will those digital customers still feel the same way? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I could see the pendulum swinging back the other way with a re-birth of the branch bank. 

And why not?  E-tailers are doing it.  In “Why are Online Retailers adding Brick and Mortar Stores?” DeFi Nucleus Vision says, “Online shopping lacks human interactions. Customers don’t get a chance to ask in-store stylists for advice, it’s a solitary experience and customizations aren’t as easy to organize. Having a salesperson who greets you, tells you what looks good on you, gives you the right size, and offers a better color scheme can help brands build a deeper connection with the customer.”  A “deeper connection.” That sounds a lot like community banking to me.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage, visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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Are you expecting? Maybe your bank knows.

It was just less than a year ago (although the last six months have seemed more like six years) that The Financial Brand had this to say about banking and privacy. They pointed to an Accenture survey that found that “20% of banks monetize transaction data by delivering actionable insights and that 75% aspire to do so in the next three years. The consulting firm, which encourages financial institutions to pursue this strategy, also notes that monetizing consumer data is difficult to do well while also protecting consumers’ information.” The survey, according to the FB, also went on to predict that as banks explored this uncharted territory, they must tread lightly to protect the integrity of customer relationships.

How true that is. 

I think it might have been one of those satirical commercials done by Saturday Night Live a while back, I’m not sure, but what I do remember was their lampooning of banks using personal data for marketing purposes.  At one point in the faux commercial, which featured a young couple, the young man receives a series of SMS messages from their bank.  The messages are fairly innocuous at the start but become progressively more disconcerting.  The first text seems ordinary enough: “We hope you’re enjoying the new truck you purchased with one of our auto loans.”  When it’s followed shortly afterward by, “we’ve noticed that you made a large purchase at the grocery store just the other day… having a party?” the couple gets a bit concerned. By the last, they’re totally creeped out: “We have the loan you need when you’re ready to decorate that baby room. Congratulations.” The gag, of course, is that the couple doesn’t know they’re pregnant, yet their bank somehow does.

Granted, this is a bit of hyperbole, but it does point to the fact that monetizing consumer data can pretty quickly run afoul of the consumer’s desire for privacy. Consumers want the convenience of products and services being brought to their attention based on their “buyer journey” and purchasing habits, but they’re definitely conflicted about how much of their personal information is needed to make that happen. 

That’s challenge number one. The other is that Congress is not helping the matter. In the ABA Banking Journal blog, “How will increased privacy regulation affect bank marketing? author Karen Hoffman talks to the challenges that the industry faces in the area of privacy.  “Consumers complain,” Hoffman says, “that their personal privacy is not respected, but often freely share sensitive information when it suits them, especially in the interest of receiving more personalized products, services or marketing. Hence, financial marketers find themselves in a pointed Catch-22 in marketing: hoping to connect in a personal way with customers or prospects, but unable to overstep certain boundaries that would transgress emerging privacy regulations.”

The challenge for banks is twofold.  One, how do they walk the privacy tightrope, using just enough personal data to market products without frightening customers and two, how do they navigate a hodge-podge of regulations?  As Hoffman points out, “the big challenge is the emerging patchwork of state-by-state privacy regulations and enforcement. While many are similar in nature, each has its own definitions of personal data, rights under the law for consumers and operational impact. An institution that operates across 20 states may be looking at 20 different frameworks and bills applying to them and their accounts, some of which are potentially in a state of revision.” Also, while many state-by-state privacy regulations and enforcement are similar, each has its own definitions of personal data and rights under the law for consumers.

As banks continue to move their services online, the issue of privacy will continue to receive greater attention. How big an issue is it?  Opinions vary from “proceed with caution” to “don’t worry, consumers will give you whatever you want if you give them what they need.” While there seems to be differing opinions on the scope of the challenge, and with that a bit of uncertainty on how to proceed, one thing is for certain; your bank shouldn’t be the one to tell you that you’re expecting!

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital, ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage, visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

 

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Trying to market in a pandemic? See what the experts say.

What budget is the first to get slashed in an economic downturn?  As we all know, it’s marketing. As a former ad agency guy, I have lived through many a downturn.  We always knew that when times started to get tough, we were the first to lose our jobs… and, when times began to improve, we were always the last to return to work.  There’s an old agency metaphor for spending money in a downturn. We said it was “like shooting at ducks that aren’t there.” Well, right now, a lot of banks are looking to save their No. 2 Steel for another day.

But, perhaps they’re not ready to give up entirely on bagging a few.  I found Bill Streeter’s recent post on The Financial Brand both informative and, well, a bit encouraging; despite that fact that the challenge he addresses is that of “pinched budgets plus tougher competition.”

Why encouraging when we’re talking about an industry being in somewhat of an “unenviable position”? Because I think I can help.  Bill goes on to say: “New marketing technology can bring efficiency, which helps with budgets, but you can’t just snap your fingers to get there. It requires investment in software and talent.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

While a “new marketing technology” deficit is one of them, there are a handful of issues banks face when it comes to marketing in today’s economic turmoil. The Financial Brand interviewed Chandramouli Venkatesan, Market Development Executive in Capgemini’s Financial Services and Capital Markets, who pointed out some of those additional issues. “Multiple touchpoints to execute a campaign, lack of standardization of campaign components and manual handling of data should be solved by a marketing resource management solution,” he said. “The problem is that many of these software tools are out of date.”  He goes on to state that talent is a tougher challenge. “To have an agile marketing team an institution needs a blend of expertise in digital marketing technology, data, marketing, and creative, says Venkatesan. He acknowledges that external help will likely be needed.”

And this is where I think we can help. For those of you who aren’t familiar with bankmarketingcenter.com, we currently work with 20 state banking associations and over 300 banks, helping them address the challenges faced by their marketing teams.  Our partner banks have access to several thousand professionally designed layouts – created by agency trained, financial services industry professionals – that range from social media messaging, online banners and in-branch signage, to print and radio advertising. With unlimited access to millions of Getty Images, as well as the ability to customize copy and colors, banks are able to personalize these marketing materials quickly and easily, saving valuable time and money.  When Jim went on to say that “it is becoming increasingly challenging to deploy modern marketing with legacy talent, skills and mindset… and that most financial institutions will be better advised to partner with specialty organizations to provide the needed skills,” I said to myself, he is exactly right.  And that is what we’ve been trying to do with bankmarketingcenter.com. 

If ever there were a time when you should be making use of every marketing communication tool at your disposal, and being as efficient about the process as possible, this is it. As a financial institution, a trusted institution, you must keep your customers abreast of important economic developments, as well as the products and services that you can offer to help them navigate those developments. And you need to use every available tactic to do so: Social posting, advertising, newsletters, email, webinars, and direct mail.

While there may be fewer ducks to shoot at, that doesn’t mean you stop duck hunting entirely. It means that you just have to get better at it.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. Messaging that you can customize to meet your needs in just minutes.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage –  visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

 

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Congress, Cannabis, and Covid-19 Put Banks in the Weeds.

With the arrival of Covid-19, there’s been quite a bit more discussion about marijuana.  Not just its use, not just the trend toward legalization at the state level, but its potential ability to actually help stem the coronavirus tide.

Back in the early fall, Forbes reported that “cannabis may help in severe Covid-19 cases.”  Since the first outbreaks, cannabis consumers have been wondering whether cannabis use will hurt or help. Over the last months, research has been pouring in.  Unfortunately, like lots of research and data interpretation, the available facts seem to point to two very different conclusions:  Yes, it can help and no, it is in fact, a contributory factor.

The main body of research suggesting cannabis might help those with Covid-19 points to cannabis derived chemical, CBD, as a potential treatment during severe cases of Covid-19.  Researchers from the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute first flagged the possibility, pointing out that CBD may be helpful for fighting the Covid-19 inflammation that is often fatal. Unfortunately, some research has pointed in the other direction. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Australia compared cannabis use in the US with Covid-19 infection rates and found that the two were correlated - with cannabis use tied to an increased risk of the disease.

An industry that’s growing like a weed. (Sorry!)

This is a growing industry that’s comprised of an increasing number of businesses; growers/suppliers and retailers, just for a start. How big a business is it? The pot industry, comprised of MRBs or marijuana-related businesses, is a $50-some-odd billion industry. According to Marijuana Business Daily – I kid you not – the economic impact of the marijuana industry is predicted to reach $130 billion by 2024, exceeding the GDP of 9 US states. Currently, the industry employs more American workers than coal.

Where does this leave banks?

Banks, of course, want to stay in the good graces of regulators, shareholders, insurance carriers and the courts. Visit the American Bankers Association website today and read the ABA Positionon cannabis and you’ll see that the financial industry could really use some guidance. The site points out that there are at this moment thirty-three states that have enacted laws that legalized the use and distribution and manufacturing of medical marijuana along with 10 states plus DC, where legalized recreational marijuana is now the law. Here’s the rub; “the possession, distribution or sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which means any contact with money that can be traced back to state marijuana operations could be considered money laundering and expose a bank to significant legal, operational and regulatory risk.”

So, again, where does this leave banks? In a bit of a marijuana induced fog, unfortunately. There is currently a tremendous legal risk for banks serving cannabis industry entities and individuals, “as indirect connections to marijuana revenues are hard, if not impossible, for banks to identify and avoid.” Banks are, as a result, hamstrung by a rift between federal and state laws, making it difficult to balance their desire to serve the financial needs of their local communities with the threat of federal enforcement action.

According to the ABA, “(we) take no position on the moral issues raised by legalizing marijuana, but the growing number of states that allow its sale and use raises practical issues that must be addressed. ABA believes the time has come for Congress and the regulatory agencies to provide greater legal clarity to banks operating in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical or adult use. We look forward to working with policymakers of both parties to find solutions that provide the legal and regulatory certainty banks need to best serve their communities.”

In the meantime, ABA Insurance Services, has created a “Cannabis National Bank” webinar that does a phenomenal job of talking through the issues of serving marijuana-related businesses. I highly recommend it.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage –  visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

 

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Bank On-Certified. An Initiative Worth Banking On.

Back in July, we wrote about predatory lending and how, “In addition to the physical, emotional, and economic hardship brought about by COVID-19, Americans now faced another danger… predatory lenders.” Back then, we cited a July 2020 CNBC story entitled, New payday lending rules could leave 12 million Americans exposed to unaffordable payments.  In it, Alex Horowitz, senior research officer with Pew Charitable Trusts’ consumer finance project, said “that by eliminating the ability-to-repay protections, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is making a grave error that leaves the 12 million Americans who use payday loans every year exposed to unaffordable payments at annual interest rates that average nearly 400%.”

Looks like the ABA is stepping in where the CFPB wouldn’t.

On October 18, the American Bankers Association called for a renewed effort to address the tremendous number of families without access to banking services who, subsequently, are forced to turn to payday lenders. At the ABA’s Unconventional Convention, President and CEO Rob Nichols called upon every bank in the country to consider offering Bank On-certified accounts to expand access to banking services and reduce the number of unbanked and underbanked Americans. “Despite a strong financial services industry, we know that millions of Americans – and families of color in particular – remain outside the mainstream banking system and are missing the economic opportunities that come from having a bank account,” said Nichols. “By offering Bank On-certified accounts with the help of their core providers, America’s banks can open doors of opportunity to new and returning customers, demonstrating the banking industry’s commitment to financial inclusion.” 

The FDIC has reported that 14% of African American households and 12% of Hispanic households were unbanked in 2019. What do those numbers look like now, in an economy where millions are unemployed?  I hazard to think. And why are these numbers so outrageously high, in particular, among minorities? Some say they don’t have the funds to meet minimum account opening requirements.  Others say that they simply don’t trust banks. 

Bank On is Born

In response to this unbanked and underbanked “epidemic,” the ABA has launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging every US bank to offer ‘Bank On’ certified accounts, which are specifically designed to offer simple access to deposit accounts, online payments and debit cards for those currently outside the banking system.

“With more banks offering these kinds of accounts, we can further expand access to the mainstream banking system and all the economic opportunities that come with a bank account,” the ABA said in a statement.

More than 40 banks already offer Bank On-certified accounts, while the ABA’s website lists 20 banking technology providers that have signed up to facilitate such accounts, including FIS, Fiserv, Finastra, Jack Henry, CSi and UFS Data. The Bank On certification was created by the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund. To be certified, accounts must have low costs, no overdraft fees and online bill payment facilities.

Jonathan Mintz, president and CEO of the CFE Fund, said: “By urging banks of all sizes to join this initiative, particularly community banks, we can welcome millions of Americans into the banking system safely and efficiently. We also deeply appreciate the critical role the nation’s core providers are playing to make it happen.”

Let me just wrap up by saying that it’s this kind of thinking and action that make me proud to be in the banking business.  I hope you feel the same way and will support the ABA in their Bank On efforts.  To do so, you can start by going here, joinbankon.org.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage –  visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

 

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A Random Act of Kindness Goes a Long Way.

[H/T: Uproxx, photo via Reddit] 

[Photo via Reddit]

Never has pouring a beer engendered so much media hype. Of course, I’m talking about the press around Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters pouring a fan a beer while on stage at a Foo Fighters concert a while back. What does pouring a beer have to do with banking?

Granted, you can’t – at least in your official capacity as their banker – buy a customer a beer. (What you do on your own time is your business!) But you can show the equivalent amount of understanding and compassion in other ways. 

What if you took advantage of SMS (Short Message Service) capabilities/opportunities and simply texted your customers every now and then?  Simple messages that, for instance, ask: “How are we doing?” or, better still, “Is there anything we can do for you?”  Offering a compliment or offering assistance seem like simple propositions. How hard is it?  Well, unfortunately, many find it remarkably hard.  When was the last time someone told you something, or asked you something, that actually made you feel good?  Rare even in the best of times and now, with a pandemic that has isolated us, rarer still.

It’s a known fact, yet often ignored, that a little caring goes a long way. And folks need it now more than ever. According to apnews, “the coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work, but even many of those still working are fearful, distressed and stretched thin. A quarter of U.S. workers say they have even considered quitting their jobs as worries related to the pandemic weigh on them.”

In their recent article, Delivering Trust with Empathy – Where Next for Financial Brands, brandingmag.com tells us that “consumers engage with brands that understand their lifestyle and life stage. Financial brands really need to understand what matters to their customers…”

True. Importantly though, however, financial institutions need to do more than that. “Understanding customers” means more than simply offering products or services that happen to coincide well with a customer’s needs at that particular moment in their buyer journey. It’s almost like saying, “hey, we’re not here to sell you anything.  We just want to know how you are.”  Sounds odd, doesn’t it? That’s because, unfortunately, people seldom take the time to offer their appreciation or understanding.  While it might be a case of feeling it, but not expressing it because it can be uncomfortable, the result is the same; it doesn’t get said.

Grohl didn’t have to offer that fan a beer.  After all, the guy was already a fan, already in the audience and had, obviously, already purchased a ticket to be there. No sell was necessary. It was simply a completely selfless gesture.  And that’s what makes it all the more powerful.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage –  visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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Arkansas Bankers Association partners with Bank Marketing Center

The Arkansas Bankers Association (ABA) announced on October 18, 2020 their endorsement of BankMarketingCenter.com (BMC), a web-based marketing portal that empowers banks to quickly and easily produce professionally designed, bank-branded marketing materials. Through the endorsement, ABA members will save 20 percent on BMC's already low-cost monthly subscription fees.

BankMarketingCenter.com offers more than 3,000 professionally designed marketing materials and is constantly adding new content. Through the portal, users can route their customized materials to their bank's compliance department for approval, and everything is automatically archived and easily recalled for regulatory exams. Users have access to a library of over nine million stock photos from Getty Images.

"The web-based marketing portal that Bank Marketing Center utilizes is going to change the marketing game for our community banks in Arkansas. Bank Marketing Center has thousands of pre-designed marketing materials including ads, direct mail, statement stuffers, flyers, posters, and more. Our banks can customize these marketing materials within minutes, saving valuable time and money! We are pleased to welcome Bank Marketing Center to the ABA as an Endorsed Vendor," said Lorrie Trogden, President/CEO of Arkansas Bankers Association.

"We are thrilled to have won the endorsement of the Arkansas Bankers Association and look forward to building relationships with all of the wonderful banks in The Natural State," said BMC Founder and President Neal Reynolds. "I am pleased to say that this is the twentieth endorsement we've received from state banking associations."

For over 10 years, BankMarketingCenter.com has worked with hundreds of banks of all sizes and is currently partnering with 300 financial institutions. Community banks are able to create their own professionally designed marketing materials in seconds, saving valuable time and money. Larger banks are able to have their own private labeled marketing portal, giving their branches the marketing tools they need while still protecting the bank's brand and compliance.

The Arkansas Bankers Association was established in 1897. It is the state's largest and oldest banking industry organization and represents banks, bank holding companies, and savings & loans in Arkansas. The ABA provides a variety of member services, including educational programs, products and services, publications and a comprehensive government relations program.

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Will Branch Banking Survive the Pandemic?

Cnbc.com stated on August 27, that “25% of U.S. malls are expected to shut within 5 years. With a report circulating earlier this month that the biggest U.S. mall owner, Simon Property Group, has been in talks with Amazon to convert some shuttered Sears and J.C. Penney department stores into fulfillment centers, many industry analysts have been pontificating on the future of malls as logistics hubs.” 

While shuttered retail stores might make great fulfillment centers for the likes of Amazon, what can financial institutions do with their Triassic Period branches?  Video arcade?  Internet café? Maybe museums dedicated to what banking used to be; displays could include teller stations, pens chained to desks, check books displayed in glass cases along with the Mr. Coffee® machine and powdered creamer.

Kidding aside, branch banking, I think, is as dead as the retail shopping experience.

There’s been, of course, lots of back and forth on the fate of branch banking.  Some like Renaud LaPlanche, CDO of Upgrade – as quoted in the Bankdive May 6 article, Do Bank Branches Have A future?, speculates that “Americans are forming habits that could continue once the pandemic is over. People are understanding that they don't really need a branch for a lot of the transactions they want to accomplish.”  Others, like Andrew Cecere, Chairman, President and CEO of US Bank, in a Financial Brand interview, said that  “…branches will always be important to and a key part of how we serve customers…”

It’s a tough call to make, best left, probably to the reliable ol’ Magic 8 Ball.

Will branch banking survive the pandemic?  “Doubtful,” says 8 Ball.  That’s because, in my opinion, branch banking has never offered the “value add” that the shopping experience did for consumer goods… and look what happened to shopping?! 

According to Accenture’s Financial Services, and this was back in 2017, “online banking has become the preferred way for North American consumers to access their banking services, with two-thirds (65 percent) using online banking at least weekly. The one exception is Gen Z consumers, as more than two-thirds (69 percent) of this group prefer to bank via a mobile app, making mobile the preferred banking channel for today’s youngest consumers.”

Seniors and GenZers who, as far as I can tell, once seemed like the last two segments of the population that even considered branch banking, have now moved away from it; in favor of the online and app experiences they’ve more or less been forced to adopt over the last six months. 

It’s too late for retailers to rethink their business models and strategies in order to survive the onslaught of e-commerce.  Is it too late for banks?  Perhaps not.  But banks need to start to really think out of the box.  What does a branch experience really bring?  Throwing some teller pods, booths, video conference rooms and café-style lounges with Keurig® machines into a 2500 square-foot space does not a branch bank make. From Independent Banker: “Some industry research predicts that there could be another 40 to 50 percent decline in the transaction volume within bank branches over the next decade” However, statistically, 80 percent of all consumers prefer to walk into a physical branch to open up a new account.” 

So, do we need retail banking centers or not?

Perhaps it makes sense for banks to consolidate branches and, at the same time expand, using “micro” branches to tap into new markets and that new-account-opening opportunity. But, those branches can’t be what we’re seeing.  Capital One cafes, Bank of America virtual centers, and PNC pop-up branches (shipping containers with windows and a coat of paint that can be dragged by a pick-up truck) are at least attempts at revolutionizing the retail banking center experience.  Are they working? I’d love to know as there doesn’t seem to be much evidence out there one way or the other. Some are staffed, some are not; kind of like Home Depot nowadays, where employees are there to help you at self check if the card processor won’t spit out your receipt.  To me, these branch concepts are a lot like carnival fun houses… minus the fun.

C’mon, banking industry. We can do better.

I remember when I was growing up, a service station was truly that. As you pulled in and ran over that little black rubber pipe, a bell rang inside and someone would literally run out to pump your gas, check your oil, and clean your windshield. Those days are over. Now the successful service stations in Florida, for instance, are selling everything from Hot Donuts to Boiled Peanuts to Alligator Heads.

Asking people to walk into an 800 square-foot, pseudo space age shipping container for the same services they can get while sitting on their couch is not a winning proposition. Maybe banks need to think of other products to sell or services to offer. How about “Bank and Brew,” where customers can enjoy both financial guidance and their favor IPA? It could give new meaning to the phrase, “bank draft”!?  Or, maybe banking is best left to the SmartPhone…

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. Visit our site now to view the professionally prepared campaigns that you can easily customize and put in front of your customers in just minutes. 

To view our creative, both print and digital, and ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage, visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

 

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Show them the love... or at least, get it right.

I bank, at least partially, with one of the big, national institutions and was recently unpleasantly surprised by my interactions with them. This prompted me to put some thoughts to paper.  While I appreciate this institution’s “transformed digital experience,” I don’t appreciate what has transpired between us over the last couple of days.

First, the email I received regarding increased fees for checking accounts. The email informed me that in order to continue to enjoy no-fee checking, I had to maintain a certain monthly balance.  When I called the bank and asked them why they were now going to be charging me a monthly fee, they did a bit of research and determined that the fee would not apply to my account and that “I should not have received that email.”

Just a few days later, I visited the same institution in person, via the drive-thru, to get a money order. When I was told that there was a fee, I asked the teller if that really and truly applied to account holders and was told, “no, the money orders are free to customers.”  I drove away congratulating myself for having just saved a few dollars, but later discovered that the teller had, in fact, taken the fee out of my account.

Now, like many, I’m a big fan of mobile banking and feel my “big” bank does a pretty good job of it. I love being able to deposit checks and withdraw funds without, especially right now, having to go to a branch; terrific.  Why then, am I ready to change banks and probably would if I weren’t so deeply entrenched in this one? 

Because they just don’t seem to care.

Offering services such as mobile check capture, I think, is easy.  It’s table stakes stuff.  I also bank with a much smaller community institution and their mobile banking is, to me, almost as good.  I say “almost” because, admittedly, the big bank digital experience really is superior. But a banking relationship is not based on the digital banking experience alone; whether it’s true or not, it sure seems like one bank cares about me and the other, frankly, doesn’t. Is this really that hard? I mean, if you can’t show your customers the love they deserve, can’t you at least show them that you can get stuff right??

Financial institutions have a huge opportunity right now. Some are taking it, some are blowing it.  Banks need to remember that their customers are not the likes of R2D2 and C3PO.  And, they need to grasp the fact that offering a fabulous digital experience can do very little for their business if they can’t do the most basic blocking and tackling that attracts and retains customers. 

There’s a bit of a Catch-22 here.  While online  banking can help banks cut costs – eliminating the costs associated with maintaining branches and employees – I believe that those branches and employees provide people with what they want and need from their bank.  There are, of course, some who would disagree.  Studies show that bank customers are decreasingly interested in advisory services, which one would extrapolate to the argument for eliminating branches and employees.  Perhaps, though, the banking customers expectations are simply lower than that.  By that, I mean that while customers are not looking to their bank for advisory services, they are looking to their bank for those simple, blocking and tackling services. That may not be love, but for most banking customers, perhaps a little bit of appreciation and understanding is enough.

Is that so very hard?  Apparently, from what I’m seeing, it is. 

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. Visit our site now to view the professionally prepared campaigns that you can easily customize and put in front of your customers in just minutes. 

To view our creative, both print and digital, and ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage, visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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Meet Helen, Your New Customer Service Rep.

At least, that’s what he would like you to believe. 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time to remind ourselves that, unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise. The last six months have brought an exponential increase in fraud and scams… in particular, crimes that involve financial institutions. Every day, in fact, thousands of bank customers are targeted by scammers posing as bank employees, hoping to steal their personal information, then, their money.

Since March, regulatory agencies have been flooded with complaints about suspected scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing more than $1.9 billion to fraud in 2019, with nearly $667 million lost to imposter scams alone. “While scammers target consumers using every possible method of communication, phone calls were the most common,” the agency states.

Considering that the $1.9 billion loss was reported prior to the economic downturn, that approximately 15% of cases go unreported, and that the last six months has seen an exponential growth in the use of online banking tools, the fraud loss for 2020 will undoubtedly be considerably higher.

A bit of history. Cybersecurity Awareness Month was launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in October 2004 in an effort to help Americans stay safer and more secure online.

When Cybersecurity Awareness Month first began, those awareness efforts centered around advice like updating your antivirus software twice a year to mirror similar efforts around changing batteries in smoke alarms. Much has changed since then. Cybersecurity Awareness Month has “grown significantly,” according to the National Cybersecurity Alliance “in reach and participation. Operated in many respects as a grassroots campaign, the month’s effort has grown to include the participation of a multitude of industry participants that engage their customers, employees and the general public in awareness, as well college campuses, nonprofits, and other groups.” 

One participant that has really ratcheted up its participation? The federal government.  Federal agencies are now paying real attention – and justifiably so – to cybercrime. Valuable guidelines and resources can be found on federal agency websites such as usa.gov, the US Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission. These sites go into great detail, describing the various types of cybercrimes and what action individuals can take to protect themselves. 

As their financial institution, it’s imperative that your customers know that their personal information, and their money, is well protected. Remember, too, that your customers aren’t the only ones who suffer. Banks like yours face significant monetary and reputational losses from these increasingly sophisticated scams targeting your customers.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. Visit our site now to view our new campaign addressing cybersecurity, which you can customize and put in front of your customers in just minutes.  Here are just a few examples of the new creative:

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage –  visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.