2015′s First 15 – #5. Technology and Banking as a Process

In the Wrong Place

With today’s ever-changing banking technology, are your processes in the right places…at the right time?
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Technology continues to be the rainmaker in society. Inputs. Processing. Outputs. It all begins with an assessment of the marketplace to gain a thorough understanding of customer demands. As part of this next series – Process, People, Place, and Performance – I believe process represents the headwaters in the delivery of great service and great product to your  customers. Yes, I know, technology and banking processes have been beaten to death. That’s just it. First of all, we don’t need to beat anything or anyone. Well, not in the physical way. We need to design a simple and elegant process. Second, process will drive the subsequent three components. Finally, let’s not overcook it. Complexity breeds job security for those who create it, and in a world where we need more and more jobs, this appears to be rational. Let’s ensure that we aren’t being complex just for the sake of complexity. Instead, let technology be your friend in this phase of work.

Designing

To paraphrase Dr. Stephen Covey, ʺBegin with the customer in mind.ʺ This is the most important thing you can do in process design. Any process design. Now, there may be subcomponents where all paths do not lead to the customer, and that’s certainly reasonable. As the design continues, let it do just that. First drafts are written for a purpose, and that is to get all the thoughts and ideas on the table. Second and subsequent drafts are for clean-up. Finally, use a reasonable mix of written-word and graphic elements. All of it should be done with the ʺsecond creationʺ in mind: employee training and customer instruction.

Incorporating

If you are fortunate, the inclusion of people, place, and performance will happen without much thought. Who will function at which point in the process? Where – in which place – will the process prevail? How much did it yield? Yield should also be measured in terms of the customer, balanced with a healthy bit of yield for the institution.

Collaborating

We started our discussion talking about technology. Technology, as I first learned about it, is the presence of a catalyst that converts inputs into outputs. End. Full stop. Digital technology, cat plus meow, enables us to bring disparate components such as process, people, and place, together in a particularly efficient and effective manner. This collaboration, which before tended to be sequential in nature, has come a long way. But, development is still functional in nature and not process in nature. Code it wisely. Use it wisely, I say.

Process review and reformation, which is sorely needed, begins and ends with the customer. Through better design, incorporation of the principal components of service delivery, and collaboration across functional components, firms can bring about better process, and indeed, a better world. Well, maybe not right away, but let’s see where it takes us.

2015′s First 15 – #4. Banking as Reviving: Can I get a witness?

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Reviving the community financial institution through giving, living, and believing.
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Giving. Living. Believing. As you can see from the key words in our recent posts, we are into gerunds here at Reconn Consulting. Our last one in this series, reviving, encapsulates the first three. Let me explain.

What is a revival? You might describe it, as some dictionaries do, as a time of reawakening or a sense of restoration. The community financial institution is evolving as it continues to provide a sense of place and people in communities across the country. It also needs a bit of reviving. This exercise does not discount the effort put forth by community FIs across the country. Not at all. It begins to understand and calibrate the challenge that awaits, and where our focus should be.

The community changes. Moving from a terrestrial community, defined by physical and environmental boundaries, to a virtual community remains a fundamental component in the massive shift in the industry. Along with growing regulation and unheeded consolidation and scale economies, community financial institutions seemingly don’t stand a chance. Some, admittedly, will not make the journey. However, and with an eye to optimism, some will make it and continue to be successful. Reviving banking is a journey that begins with the following three steps.

Giving
Give it your all. Give it without expectation. It’s not charity, but it’s work. Raise the social consciousness of your institution and I firmly believe you will be rewarded, having never asked for anything. And, as I said, it’s not charity. Do what you have to do and move on. You are the catalyst for good in your communities and not just by the checks that you write and the dollars that you raise. Your work is your gift. Your work is your revival, and it matters not whether it is bricks and sticks or bits and bytes.

Living
Freedom of expression and freedom of motion. Customers out there live for these things. Enhancing the life of our communities should be a paramount goal for your financial institution. The measures change now, too. So, it is not about how well you are doing, but it is about well the customer is doing. Beyond that, how is the life in your community-at-large changing? We say this understanding and appreciating that there are other factors in play beyond the community financial institution’s influence in any given area. We believe that your influence is part of your revival.

Believing
Delivery is the culmination of your work and your influence. Recheck systems. Update your people, and in most cases, your systems. Better your process. Scale will be an important ingredient in your long-term survival. To build scale, you need more customers. Not only that, but you need your customers, the ones you feel you can best serve. Their belief in you aids in your revival.

A final thought is this: don’t let them see you sweat. In the classic religious sense of the word, revivals, and the tent or temple in which one gathers, are oftentimes places where incredible journeys take place. They are not easy. There will be failure, there will be success, and there will be many days of, well, a whole lot of nothing. Steady yourself and your team through it all, which, in turn, is an altogether different revival.

2015′s First 15 – #3. Banking as Believing: Delivery, delivery, and delivery

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You’ve take the reservation. Now are you going to provide the car?
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The classic Seinfeld episode regarding the car rental reservation comes to mind here. Jerry exclaims that it’s one thing to take the reservation, but it’s another to keep the reservation, to provide the car.

Delivery of services, though largely self-service now, continues to be an altogether frustrating exercise for many bankers, and in turn, their customers. Whether it is at the front of the house or in the back office, the continuum of service can sometimes mirror the jagged edges of a T-Rex and not the smooth, nearly flawless curves found on your favorite luxury sports car. Why is that?

Well, I think there are several things to consider:

1 – We believe, in many cases, that all is right with our world. We have done the best that we can do, and that’s just how it is. Take it. Leave it. Sometimes it’s not even about ego or arrogance. Sometimes it just is. Satisfaction with the status quo breeds continued obsolesence.

2 – It’s expensive to get the polymer fiber curves with the supple leather interior and in-dash GPS. Delivering banking services today reminds me of what delivering banking services was ten years ago or longer. It’s not always the case, but when it is, it needs to be addressed. That takes money. It means sacrifices elsewhere. Sacred cows, you have been warned.

3 – We have to all get along. If all the tires on your rental wanted to go in different directions, not only would you be angry, but, well, you’d be dead. There’s really nothing left to say there, is there?

4 – The focus on redesiging delivery systems continues. Too many times we begin with looking inward and not considering the end user. ʺBut, Arp, you just spent three bullets telling us how much we miss the mark by not having great internal systems, teams, and culture. Why the sudden change of heart?ʺ Alas, there’s been no change of heart. If you see the customer as separate from your institution, then, regrettably, it’s all over for you. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you.

The reasons above portray some, but not all, of the causes of poor delivery and low trust from customers. The advent of mobile banking and other technologies created enviroments where many of our shortfalls were delegated to systems. That’s fine. I’m sure that will continue. along with the separation of customer and institution. We will continue this discussion addressing that point in the next installment.

To read our first two installments in this series, see post 1 and post 2.

2015′s First 15 – #2. Banking as Living: Give us Liberty…Period

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Freedom is part of the fabric of America. It’s what banking customers look for, too.
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Marriage loans. Car loans. Home loans. Commodity, commodity, and commodity. Everyone has them. One might argue that not everyone wants them. Though there has been a surge in lending in the last 18 months, the future remains unsettled when it comes to loan growth.

As discussed in our last post, Banking as Giving, the genesis and every incarnation of your business model should be what are you doing for your customer. Conceptually, this approach demands that senior leadership not focus on the outcome. Put it aside. Focus completely on service. Turn your entire organization’s attention on the life of the customer. And no, this is not a customer-is-always-right post. In fact, even the most informed customer is not always right. Sometimes he is - and you might want to sit for this one – lost as lost can be.

Why? They’re living, ladies and gents. They’re out there toiling, coding, driving, and conducting a myriad of other activities. Banking provides them the liberty to conduct themselves without the worry of financial challenges. This concept of liberty is very near to us culturally. Liberty and freedom from disruption is key. Access, anytime and anywhere, continues to grow as a customer need. When speaking to a human being, they should be professional and personable, whether on the phone or in person.

This sense of liberty and freedom will, in part, be due to your activities as an involved banker. As someone that genuinely cares about their banking customer, the customer will return to you in spades what you have given to them, which is the time and energy to focus on living the way they want and need to live.

2015′s First 15 – #1. Banking as Giving: In with the noble, out with the mobile banking!

Happy New Year! © Pelt69 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Happy New Year!
© Pelt69 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Happy New Year! I say that knowing that the statute of limitations on that greeting expires somewhere between now and Valentine’s Day. So, before the words grow stale, I sincerely wish you all the best in 2015.

Today we are starting a series of 15 blog posts to usher in the shiny New Year. Feel free to add your comments below or send us an email at clientconcierge@reconnconsulting.com with your thoughts.

This year, it’s in with the noble, out with the mobile. Yes, out with the mobile! We all clearly (ʺcrystal, sirʺ) understand that mobile is the cat’s meow, everyone needs to have it, and if someone doesn’t have it, they’re just a dud. They’re a nobody. There is really no reason that they continue practicing the art and science that is banking. We get it. By the way, I don’t necessarily buy into the scenario that 100% of customers have demanded mobile. It was as much a supply-side event as a demand-side fascination, pushed and not pulled. More on that later.

A more important aspect of banking is this missing concept of nobility, of giving more and more of yourself with a focus on the giving and not what might be returned. Now, having just lambasted mobile banking, I’ll return you to that regularly scheduled program. Mobile banking may be part of the act of giving. But, it’s the giving that’s the focus, the end, the coup, and not the cool code and screen shots of the application.

And all this giving of which we speak is part science, part art. However, I think it is more art than science. Think about nobility. Think about the men and women that we serve in the banking industry. Community banking needs to use the opportunity that this period of change brings to supercharge the culture of the industry. It’s likely that we are entering a period of contraction, but options such as mobile banking can remind us to keep a genuine focus on the customer’s well-being. Not just the latest shiny app in front of us.