Small Bank Visits

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In addition to my previous posts, I am going to talk about my experiences with the small banks I visited. The purpose for these visits was similar to the previous visits, in the sense I was looking into the customer experience at each location.

(Again, bank names will not be revealed.)

Small Banks (Under $1 Billion in assets):

My first small bank experience was in Nashville. It was located on the side of a major road in the area. This branch design was different from anything I had seen. It was a very open floor plan, with desks in the open, and stands located at various locations around the space. The staff was friendly, willing to help and attentive. It was a refreshing atmosphere to walk into. As soon as I walked into the door, someone made an effort to say hello, and assure me someone would be with me shortly. This place was packed. I am not sure if it was because of the time I was there (Friday around 3 pm), but it was impressive.

The next small bank I went to was in Franklin, TN. It had the same open floor plan, but it was a little more formal, with an actual teller desk located on one side. The staff members were more than willing to assist me, partly because I was the only person there. After a short exchange with a worker, who gave me some information about the bank, I left feeling like she truly valued my time, and hoped that I would be back soon.

Finally, I visited another bank in Franklin, which just recently finished construction. I was very surprised to walk in and notice the same old bank space. Honestly, it was everything that you would expect when you walk into a bank. No bells and whistles, just a lot of the same.

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Smaller banks have a unique opportunity that larger institutions do not. These banks can take risks. Although they need to be careful from a financial perspective that their risk will produce reward, at the end of the day, they are able to try some different things that not all large banks can. These are not the banks who will try innovative ATM machines, or really financially taxing products, but they can lead the way in creating a unique customer experience.

I was also surprised to find that my outfit choices really made no difference in how I was treated by the staff.

After assessing my experiences I have put some thoughts together.

1. It seems like smaller banks have the opportunity to experiment more with how they handle the overall customer experience.

2. Just a simple hello can make a big difference.

3. The average bank branch works. So if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

 

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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!

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

ImageOnline Checkbook 

ImageCustom Debit Cards

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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? 

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.