Banks Going Digital – Transforming Branches, Apps and a Focus on Customer Experience

In Austin last week American Banker hosted their annual Digital Banking Conference where banks of all sizes gathered to discuss the innovation in banking today. There were a few main themes that came out of the event; banks are focused on transforming the customer experience, mobile first approaches are prevalent and technology solutions like AI and cyber security are becoming must haves within the bank.

The big banks have all started to understand that the traditional way of banking is a thing of the past. Keynote speaker Yolande Piazza, CEO, Citi Fintech talked about disrupting from within, changing how they operate to enable the customer and move to a mobile first approach. She explained how this approach is radical for a bank and the layers of compliance did not make the transition smooth. They have completely rethought how they hire, 50 percent of their fintech talent is from outside the company. They have looked towards fintech and technology companies to fill their pool, while the banking talent comes from within.

Consumer oriented experiences really drove a lot of the conversations at the event, banks and the vendors were all talking about how to best utilize the consumer’s time when they engage. Mobile apps seem to have become a bit of a competition among the banks, though some would describe it more as a competition of experience and not necessarily as a competition between different banks. No longer are banks looking to drive where the customers should go, they are looking for the customers to drive what they want in the experience.

Consumer experience is not limited to the digital channel; banks and companies like Samsung are also focused on changing the way people interact within the branch. In speaking to Reginald Jones, Director of Sales for Regulated Industries, he talked about how the consumer electronics giant is working with banks to help change the way people think and interact with their local branches.

Samsung loves the retail banking space according to Jones, they are working to occupy space within the bank and helping these clients to make the branch a technology driven experience. Samsung has an array of technology to help those walking into the bank feel like their interaction is personalized and efficient. While working with banks can sometimes be like a game of Jenga, Jones joked, with the various levels of regulation and compliance, they see a unique opportunity in the market.

Banks are also showing a growing appetite for technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, biometrics, chat bots and more. There were many companies in attendance offering solutions in these technologies, telling me they see themselves as a solutions to enhance work at the bank, not as a replacement for workers at the bank. Data sources are growing each year and having technology help to organize and sort this data for different uses is allowing the banks to focus more on the customer’s needs.

Other interesting areas to note while at the event were BioCatch’s innovations in cyber security with keystroke and mouse analysis along with behavioral biometrics. New payments provider Zelle launched with 40 partners, including 34 top level banks, to allow consumers to send and receive money in minutes. Banks are starting to become innovation hubs and fintech companies, once seen as competitors in the past, are helping the banks make this transformation.

Overall, the mood at the conference was one of optimism. Banks know they have a limited window in which to transform their business or risk losing customers in droves but they are making headway. Leading fintech companies like SoFi, Lending Club and OnDeck provide a template for a better customer experience and banks are taking notice. The future of banking is digital, that is something everyone agreed on, it is now about changing banks internal culture to reflect that and executing on their plans.

  • Todd Anderson

    Todd is the host of PitchIt: the fintech startups podcast, a weekly interview show featuring emerging fintech founders and leading venture capitalists. He is responsible for leading the content team which covers fintech through daily & weekly email newsletters, editorial, virtual events, and in-person conferences. He has been covering fintech, banking, and venture capital for more than 15 years, including speaking regularly at industry events.