And so it begins …

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And so it begins. Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired (#AOBA13) conference, which is widely regarded as the financial industry’s premier M&A event.  This year the event is located at the breathtaking Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale Arizona. With over 600 bankers in attendance, I can now see why this has been one of the only things talked about at the office for months now. At the moment I am slightly overwhelmed at the overall magnitude of the event, but I am very eager to get my very first AOBA under my belt.

Because of my travel arrangements, the first session I was able to sit in on was the Keynote address by Ray Davis, President & CEO, Umpqua Holdings Corporation. This Portland, Oregon based bank is redefining the industry with their truly unique way of offering financial services to their customers. While they offer all of classic banking services, Ray Davis also revealed to us today that you can also walk in and see a yoga class, or the local bowling team meeting there. Personally, I think this is such an interesting concept. Umpqua makes the effort to truly reach the community they are in. In the long run, I truly believe this will make a huge difference for them.

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Here are a couple quotes from Ray Davis:

  • Size has nothing to do w/ remaining a community bank. It’s a state of mind & the self-discipline to stay the course.
  • Growth Strategy: Invest, Create, Expand.
  • Don’t wait. Laggers will be losers.
  • Technology – How does it enhance customer experience?

There were many great presenters today, and it is safe to say that Acquire or be Acquired is well underway! That’s it for now, stay tuned to see what the rest of the conference has to offer!

Are You Ready?

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The other night a group of my friends and I went out to dinner. After taking full advantage of the 2-1 pizza & beverage deal, we figured it was time to head home. We asked for the check, and all proceeded to pay. Each and every one of us used a card, not one person had cash. Then, I started to think back to past outings, and realized that it is always the same. It seems to be a very rare occurrence that any of us have physical cash on us.

After this revelation, I wanted to do some more digging. I opened up my handy dandy Bank of America app for the iPhone, and looked at some of my latest purchase prices. They are as follows:

  • $4.83
  • $4.69
  • $5.03
  • $1.07 <– my personal favorite.

These prices are pretty embarrassing to charge to a card, but is that becoming the new normal? There have recently been a lot of talks about transforming into a “cashless” society. A blog I read on BankNXT titled Imagining a Cashless Future talks about what that future could look like. Melanie Friedrichs says “Financial innovations come in many shapes and sizes, but for the most part they all follow a general trend: they turn physical processes into digital ones. The so-called “payments revolution” has often made me wonder what will happen when innovation manages to displace the most physical aspect of finance, cash.”

If in fact we are moving in that direction, will the idea take off among older generations, as it has with Generation-Y? An article on MyBanktracker.com talks about how some current and future generations understand that money is money, even if you don’t necessarily see it. The author of the article Simon Zhen notes “many proponents of cash argue that cash offers psychological feedback — it “hurts” when you see money leave your wallet. A recent experience tells me that, in the future, we will be able to feel the pain of spending, even if it’s through electronic payment methods.” While older generations are used to making cash payments, many young people are only familiar with card transactions. The same psychological element of cash may not be the same as was once believed.

I am very excited to see the next round innovations that are beginning to roll out to push a more cashless society, but I have a feeling many will not feel the same. What do you think; are you ready for a cashless society?


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Hit or Miss?

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For the past week I have been reading a lot of articles about Green Dot. For those of you who are not familiar with Green Dot, they are a leading provider of pre-paid debit cards. Just recently they announced their new mobile banking account GoBank. This product will focus on mobile wallet capabilities, payments and location based mobile marketing services. They offer custom visa debit cards, mobile deposits, a massive ATM network, online checkbook and person to person money transfers.

An article on Bankinnovation.net goes into more detail about the actual product, and what they expect from it. Here are of some of the innovative features that GoBank offers:

                                                  Fortune Teller (a PFM tool)

ImageP2P Social Payments from Facebook notifications, email or mobile number

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Mobile Deposit

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Two really neat features that they also offer are no overdraft fees, and they have a voluntary monthly fee that users can choose to reward or penalize Green Dot based on how they like the product. In the age of online and mobile banking, that is a way they chose to embrace customer relationships with the users.  Their main goal is to reach the “un-banked consumers”.  An article on Fox Business talks about how Green Dot Aims to Take On Banks With Its Mobile-Based Account.  In the article, it explains that “Green Dot is trying to cast a wider net by going after consumers who are dissatisfied with their traditional bank accounts as well as younger, tech-savvy consumers who constantly use mobile phones, thanks largely to social-networking apps.

This new and innovative banking approach seems to be spot on with Generation-Y customers. With social media being integrated into the platform, personal financial management tools, low fees for service and payment capabilities, we could possibly be looking into the future of banking.

I am very interested to see how GoBank is received, and if it is as successful as I believe it has the opportunity to be.  I am sure there will be a lot of mixed feelings about this innovative banking technique. What do you think about GoBank? Is this new way of banking a hit or miss? 

Back To School.

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Upon graduating from college there were many things that I was excited about. The ending of one chapter and beginning of another is something that is very exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Soon after getting a job I realized that the real world wasn’t as fun as I once believed. There is no more sleeping until 11, no more extended vacations, and so much more to learn. Learn, you may ask? Yes. You learn pretty quickly that there was a lot of information that you never learned in college. Things such as knowing how to pay your taxes, which health insurance plan to choose and how to properly take care of your finances

I may be speaking for myself, but I truly believe that there are a lot of people out there, like me, who have had joint accounts with our parents for years. All I ever go to the bank for is to get cash, in the rare case I actually need cash for something, or to handle a slight case of bank card security (see my last post). I can make deposits, account transfers, and even pay my friends or landlord with Person 2 Person technologies right from the couch. With all of this great technology it makes banking very simple, but I still feel like there is so much more to learn about what the bank has to offer its customers. 

This is where I think banks can really use this to their advantage. I think that banks can do a much better job of educating their customers on the services they provide. This has a lot to do with the fact that Gen-Yer’s are the next generation who will be getting their first time mortgages, car loans and making many other complex financial decisions. 

There was an excellent article on Forwardbanker.com entitled Professor + Banker = Happy Customers. I feel like this article hits the nail right on the head. Martie Woods says “Like teaching, banking should be an active process in which bankers introduce tools, resources, knowhow and connections to elicit the desired outcome in their customers or members.” He also asks the reader to look back on their past educational experiences. He notes that classes students were most engaged in were the ones the teacher “continually reached into their bag of tricks and pulled out different approaches, tactics, knowledge and motivators that engaged and inspired their students.”

An excellent way that banks could reach the Generation-Y demographic is if they can find a way to make the bank less intimidating and unknown, and more of a place that is welcoming and informative. By educating your customers, it will not only create a customer for the time being, but it could just create a customer for life

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The Moral Of The Story Is …

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So in the past 12 hours I have experienced my first bank card security breach.

Upon going to pay for my yearly membership at a local gym in Franklin TN, my card was declined not once, not twice, but three times. I was very confused because I had just gotten paid and knew that there were enough funds in the account to make the purchase (thanks to my mobile app!). After coming to the realization that this was not a sign from God telling me that I didn’t need to join the gym, I came to the conclusion that I should call Bank of America just to make sure that everything was okay. 

When I got home, I had to force myself away from the TV (because the Bachelor was on), and called the oh so dreaded 1-800 number banks provide. After typing in my account information, last 4 digits of my social security number, and answered personal questions to verify it was actually me calling, I got this very nice guy on the phone who said he would be able to assist me. I have to admit, it was great to talk to an actual person as fast as I did because I absolutely hate those automated answering services. After confirming my last 5 purchases were actually made by me (Chickfila, Smoothie-King, Subway, Chill Spot and Publix) we were able to one, see that I eat out a lot, and two continue to figure out what happened to my account. 

Apparently what happened was that a company I had made a purchase from had gotten their database broken into and card information was stolen. He informed me that whenever you make a purchase with your card, the company has to store all of the card information in a database. When those third party data bases get broken into the process that follows is the bank puts all of the cards belonging to them on restriction. This simply means they don’t allow hefty purchases to be made using that card number. They then shut down my account, told me they would send me a new card and that if I needed cash to go INTO the bank and withdraw money the “old fashion” way. (Weird

I fell asleep knowing all was well, and then at about 5:30 am, I realized that I had purchased an airplane ticket online over the weekend to travel to Dallas to see my boyfriend for the upcoming long weekend. The problem with this was that it had not yet shown up in my account records. So I called Bank of America again, and confirmed that apparently my flight was not, and could not be paid for. So today I will have to figure out the whole airline mess, which I’m sure will inspire another blog entry. 

But here are the morals to this story:

  • Banks do an excellent job making sure that their customer’s funds are safe and secure. I was also reaffirmed that if funding was taken, they would be able to refund 100% of it.

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  • Customer service is very important, and actually talking to a live person makes a huge difference.

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  • Long distance relationships are tricky. There is always a chance something could get messed up.

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  • And finally, just because your card gets declined while paying for a gym membership, doesn’t mean it’s a sign from God that you shouldn’t join.  

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Endless Opportunities

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Over the past few weeks I have been reading a lot about bank innovation from both a digital and physical branch side. I have discovered a ton of very unique branch ideas, technology upgrades and innovative programs that are truly going to change the face of the bank. National Australia Bank, now have a social media command center, which has been put in place for the sole purpose of engaging with customers. A bank in Lebanon, Bank Audi who I mentioned in my previous post, has set up innovative kiosks in malls and public areas. Also, a Citibank branch in Singapore is located in the middle of a train station and looks nothing like a bank.

It seems like all of these banks are taking giant steps in the right direction. I read an article the other day written by Simon Zhen on MyBankTracker.com, and it talked about the 7 things foreign banks do better. All 7 are very great, but I am going to talk about the 2 I personally think are the best for attracting Generation-Y.

  1.  Near-field communications (NFC): Barclaycard

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This is a very neat service they are offering for free to their 23.5 million plus customers. It is a sticker that can be placed on any mobile device to make contactless transactions.

It is not a surprise to anyone that Generation-Yer’s have our smartphones attached to hip pretty much. (I know some people who even use their phone as a mirror). Therefore, the idea of having the ability to pay for anything with the swipe of a cell phone is something that is very exciting for me. Because I was not quite sure about how this works, I visited the website and was very surprised at the ease of use. Go ahead and take a look.

You can check out a video for more information here.

2. Social media integration: ICICI Bank 

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This service provided by ICIC Bank in India allows their customers to access and manage their bank accounts directly through Facebook. Their customers can do many things such as check account balances, request email statements and many other very convenient transactions.

With over 1 billion users around the world, it seems like Facebook would be the perfect platform to launch something like this. According to Zhen, “In the U.S., Citi, American Express and Chase have launched successful campaigns on Facebook, but they’ve refrained from offering account access.”

Click here to check out their Facebook Application.

What is very interesting to me is that none of these banks are located in the United States. The United States of America has the world’s richest banking market, consisting of around 90,000 branches. I think it might be time for us to take a look around and see what other countries are doing. The opportunities could be endless.

The Next Step ..


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In my last post I talked about how banks are beginning to undergo extreme make overs. This initiative has been started to draw customers back to branches, and redefine the industry. While it is a great, and long overdue idea, there are also some other innovative approaches I have discovered that are being introduced to the market. 

Diebold, a services company who provides innovative technology solutions that enables their clients to maximize their self-service capabilities, has recently introduced an ATM that mimics the users experience of their mobile devices. This ATM is the first to use mobile devices through cloud technology. Customers are able to complete secure, cardless transactions through this innovative machine. It also uses many of the same touch screen features many of have on our smart-phones. 

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In an article on 4-traders.com, Diebolds executive vice president Frank A. Natoli says, “Mobile devices are driving user experience expectations in all facets of commerce. It was only a matter of time before the familiar multi-touch interface style made its way to the ATM. With the burgeoning buying power of the Millennial generation, Diebold envisions this technology will further influence user experiences at the ATM.”

A video on bankinnovation.net gives a preview of the new ATM.

Another very unique innovation I stumbled upon was the Novo kiosk, which has been created by Bank Audi. This kiosk makes customers the top priority. Through this device, customers can access many different banking solutions through touch screen ATM’s, or use a private video conference room to speak with bank staff.

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Mr. Raymond, Audi’s Chairman and General Manager says, “Novo” is an innovative concept created by Bank Audi with customers as a top priority, since it consists in giving them full control of a world of interactive banking solutions. Customers can indeed navigate flawlessly on multi-touch interactive screens offering them tailor-made solutions to their personal banking needs, thanks to a cutting edge technology and a user-friendly interface.” These kiosks will be set up in malls and public locations all over Lebanon, and then hopefully all around the world. 

Here is a link that previews the Novo kiosk. 

It is really neat to see all of these innovative concepts being presented. Now that banks finally seem to be getting on board with the whole technology thing, I guess the next step is flying cars, it is 2013 right? 

Extreme Makeover: Bank Edition

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I honestly cannot remember the last time I actually stepped foot inside a bank. However, the last time I used a service provided by my bank was yesterday.  With services such as mobile banking, online banking, and ATM’s there is really no need to go to a bank at all, right? I think this is a question that a lot of people, especially around my age, ask themselves. It has become a habit to take pictures of checks to deposit, check out account balances on our phones or computers, and even pay our friends and landlords with person 2 person technologies.

It’s funny to me that many of us (Gen-Yer’s) still visit many physical locations for services we need provided. So why does going to the bank seems as painful as going to the dentist?

 Here is a picture of a current bank interior:

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Now don’t get this picture confused with a DMV, because the images are very comparable. The look, vibe, and atmosphere can be somewhat similar; no one really wants to actually be there. You can wait in line for 30 minutes, only to find out you have to wait in another line because you weren’t in the right place. This is not the customer experience I believe many banks are looking to provide. With changing times and technology, I would assume it is time for a change in the branch atmosphere as well.

Here are a few pictures of new look bank interiors:

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Photos from – Branch Showcase: Experimental Concept Stores & Flagship Designs

These innovative branch interiors have transformed the banking experience into one that can actually be enjoyable. There is a great article I read in The Economist that talks about the new look of banks.

“This is a bold attempt to entice customers into a branch that looks nothing like a bank: there are no doors to keep robbers out, no counters to shelter cashiers. Instead there are massive touch-screen televisions on the outside walls and gleaming white benches with tidy rows of Apple computers. Neatly dressed assistants brandish iPads with smart black leather covers.”

By using technology and more personal touches, the hope is that it will attract more customers back to the bank. It is believed by many that bank branches are dying, which is not the case at all. The Economist article stated that In America, which is still the world’s richest banking market, the number of branches and offices has risen by 22% since 2000, to almost 90,000”. This is because of the fact that people think money is special and they want to make sure that their cash is safe.  So it is safe to say that bank branches aren’t going anywhere.

The whole idea behind the new look bank is to draw in more customers. By providing a great customer experience, not only are you making your customers happy, but you are getting the best form of marketing, word of mouth. If banks can become a place that people want to go, instead of a hassle, it will re-energize the industry. 

 

Goodbye 2012 …

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With 2012 now over, a New Year is upon us and it is time to finally welcome 2013! 2012 was a year that was filled with a bunch of different things. It started off by the New York Football Giants winning the Super Bowl (YES!), the Olympic Games, the Presidential Election, and many other notable events. Looking back on the past year, my life is completely different than it has ever been. I ended my collegiate soccer career, graduated from college, officially moved to Tennessee, entered into the real world, and finally realized why my dad always told me to not try and grow up too fast. It’s funny how that works.

It is interesting to me how when going through the year not much ever seems to change, but when you look back and reflect, so much is different.  With that being said, I am going to list a few trends that have transformed the banking world in 2012:

  • Mobile Banking – The Mobile Life 2012 study reveals that 50% of the world’s phone owners are either interested in mobile banking services or using them already, according to an article by The Media Online.
  • Online Banking – A study done by ABA found that 57 percent of banking customers 55 and older said they prefer to bank online versus at a bank branch or via an ATM.
  • Social Media – In an article on their website, DreamGrow, a social media and marketing resource firm, states that, “Banks are truly starting to use social media as platforms for one to one customer communication”.

Though these trends are likely to mature in the upcoming year, it will be very interesting to see what else 2013 has in store for the industry. Will it be Cloud Banking, branch atmosphere, or something completely different that will steal the show? I guess we will all just have to wait and see.

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The Most Wonderful Time of The Year.

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It is the week before Christmas and it is very hard for me to believe that the Holiday season is already here. At least for me, it is a time of year I look forward to for months. Then before you know it, the month passes and you go on waiting all over again. I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m out of college with no winter break, or the unseasonably warm temperatures we are getting here in Nashville, TN, but Christmas has really snuck up on me this year. What makes matters even worse, is the fact that I have not even started Christmas shopping.

Now I’m sure many of you will think it is because I am a huge procrastinator, and that may be somewhat true, but I have to say that I have tried going to the mall, but have come out empty handed each time. I was talking to my dad last night about the whole idea of Christmas shopping. He proudly admits that he has not stepped foot in a mall during the Holiday season in years. This conversation somehow turned into a discussion on banking convenience.

He said “I can’t imagine switching to a different bank, not because the service is great, but because I never have to actually go to the bank. If I want to deposit a check, I can take a picture of it. If I want to make a transfer, I can do it on the app.”

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It is interesting that we have begun to see a shift of importance from great customer service and in person buying, to convenience. Yes, customer service is still a VERY critical component of any business, but it is not something that is looked at in the same light as it used to be. The same can be said for in person buying. Online shoppers in the United States are predicted to spend around $54.47 billion this holiday season, up 16.8% from $46.63 billion last year according to Internet Retailer.

With that being said, I am going to start and end my 2012 Christmas shopping tonight online, mostly because tonight is the deadline for ensured delivery by December 24th. I hope each and every one of you have a very Merry Christmas & Happy Holiday!

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