Offering Personal Service in a Digital World

Businessman shaking digital partners hand on blue background
By Soren Bested

5 minutes

How building digital connections can help turn regulatory risk into long-term reward

Sponsored by CUES Supplier member Agent IQ.

It’s a volatile time in the banking sector. One example is the multi-year crackdown by the SEC scrutinizing non-compliant customer and member communications via employees’ personal texts and WhatsApp messages. The ongoing issuance of significant fines puts the onus on financial institutions to improve their regulatory compliance while maintaining and elevating member confidence and trust. The challenge, however, is that most banks and credit unions struggle to evolve their services and are unsure of what tools and guidance are available and efficient to use to even get started.

From my nearly 25 years of industry tenure, I firmly believe there’s a longer-term upside that may be going unseen, one that could give financial institutions a competitive advantage by enabling the hybrid human/digital relationship members seek.

Balancing Regulatory Protections With Modern Member Needs

Before the advent of mobile and online banking, most people had a “go-to” banker at their local branch who knew them (and likely their family) well and could guide them through life’s many financial decisions—everything from starting a new business, to getting a mortgage for their dream home and to securing a loan for their child’s first car.

These days, members expect that same level of personal support and continuity for their banking, but in the way they’ve become accustomed to with other industries such as tech and retail—meaning from wherever they are and at any time they need. They want a quick and easy solution, such as a chatbot, for easy things like creating an account, and an efficient, consistent human connection for more complex issues.

The idea that everything can and should be done in a self-service manner has come and gone. Members don’t have the time or patience to navigate an automated phone tree, wait on hold and be bounced from agent to agent, re-explaining their needs each time.

This is why we see bankers stray beyond the confines of compliance when communicating with members using text messaging or WhatsApp. They want to do the right thing and be good bankers, but they simply don’t have the tools they need to continue their tradition of relationship-based banking in a digital world.

It’s imperative to have regulations to protect people, and our response to them must also consider account members’ needs. A hard regulatory “no” is stymying progress. But an open “yes, and” could elevate the industry. The question we should be answering is not “How do we prevent non-compliant communication?” but rather “How do we create a compliant channel that meets the needs of members and bankers alike?”

The tech sector has shown how this can be done. Amid a fierce competitive landscape, those emerging as resilient leaders are those who apply data analytics to understand emergent member needs and an agile development model to innovate quickly, keeping regulatory realities centered throughout to avoid fines.

But it’s also more achievable in the financial industry than most think.

When our client, $4 billion Stanford Federal Credit Union, Palo Alto, California, partnered with us to offer premier member service, the result of rapid member adoption demonstrated how financial institutions can offer this type of personal service in a digital world. People still want the old-school human touch, just in a modern way. Banks and credit unions can get a competitive leg up while avoiding regulatory scrutiny when they meet members where they are.

The People Power of Technological Progress

A key challenge in the evolution of member support is the financial sector’s slowness to embrace change, which sadly is leaving human talent on the sidelines of this burgeoning opportunity. A banker stationed in a branch can’t help a member sitting on their couch. Their knowledge and ability to support the member with tailored resources and guidance is lost when they can’t connect directly over digital channels.

This is why a compliant technological solution is key to reinvigorating a personal banking connection. The question can’t be “How do we force members not to use the communications channels they like?” but rather, “How do we ensure members can use the channels they prefer to get the best of our expertise and member care?”

This all adds up to a reckoning for financial institutions. Rather than crackdown on bankers going off-channel, they should instead ask themselves: Why are our bankers doing this, and how can we empower them to do it in a compliant way? What can we do to stride beyond the competition to serve our members in new, unexpected ways?

My experience counseling a variety of financial institutions has shown me that answering these questions puts you out front in a modern data world—one that isn’t slowing down anytime soon. With AI as the next great disruptor, banks and credit unions have even greater opportunities to deploy technologies that not only allow them to create better relationships with customers and members, but to also empower their staff, enhance operational efficiencies and make data-driven decisions to drive growth.

With massive change on the horizon, now is the time for financial institutions to shore up their long-term success with a modern and thoughtful approach to member support that embraces the future today.

Learn more about how leading financial institutions are partnering with Agent IQ to improve communications and engagement with their members.

Soren Bested is COO at CUES Supplier member Agent IQ, Austin, Texas. He has deep expertise in banking and payment services and operations. Before working at Agent IQ, Bested most notably held executive positions at Pivotus Ventures, Monitise and the World Economic Forum. He holds an MBA from the National University of Singapore as well as a Master of Science from the Technical University of Denmark.

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