Importance of Technology in Banks

By Michael Noftsger, EVP Bank Administration, Forcht Bank

Michael Noftsger, EVP Bank Administration, Forcht Bank

Growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I remember my first experiences with technology. It was a big deal when my bank provided me with an ATM card and I could take money out of my savings account via a machine. Typing class in high school still involved typewriters. The good news is that they were electric, not like the old manual one we had at home. By the time I was in college, I worked in one of the computer labs and helped folks with Excel and WordPerfect. Then, one of the most exciting technology experiences was the first time I called my parents from a car phone! Graduation came and I began work at a large regional bank. After a year or so of training, I began lending to small businesses. My first business loan required me to prepare form loan documents in triplicate forms using a typewriter. Twenty-four years later, things are a little different.

“Banks can attract clients through their mobile and online banking options, but must continually improve these offerings in order to maintain their client base”

For a bank to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace, technology capabilities are of utmost importance. Banks can attract clients through their mobile and online banking options, but must continually improve these offerings in order to maintain their client base. Success is more elusive today as competition now includes insurance companies and other non-bank providers of banking services. Many areas of a bank are aided by technology advancements, but keeping and attracting customers is the key. Ask yourself, “How do we attract millennials and other tech savvy individuals to our bank?”

Forcht Bank is a $1Billion community bank. We serve several rural as well as the largest metropolitan markets within Kentucky. Our goal has been to provide new channels for meeting our clients banking needs as soon as we can. Given the demographics within our footprint, we have some customers that are immediate users of new technologies and others that will probably not adapt until they are forced to do so.

Focus groups still have their place, but one way to narrow your advertising and product development is with the use of analytics. Demographic data is readily available, but the real question is “why do people buy?” Psychographics is one of the latest areas of analytic data that will be extremely valuable to individual banks. Most banks can identify the demographic areas they wish to operate in or can compile internal and external data on the current markets they serve. Banks can even bring some of these folks together to help streamline product offerings. Psychographic data is now being compiled that will explain why folks buy or do business with banks based on values, opinions, interests and attitudes.

Mobile banking, mobile deposit, on-site deposit, Pop Money and Apple Pay are required products just to be in the game today. The trick is figuring out how to win younger clients from the get-go and how to attract existing bank users to move to your brand. At Forcht, we have laid out a multi-faceted approach to technology. This approach not only involves our existing clients and prospects, but our team members as well.

1. Can you say omni-channel? It is almost as if you must identify every way for your business and consumer clients to bank with you without coming into your banking centers, and then provide these services. We encourage our staff to utilize the online and mobile banking features as well as mobile deposit and Pop Money. Cross-sell results improve drastically when your team members are equipped with the knowledge of how to use the products offered.

2. Treasury management isn’t just for the largest financial institutions anymore. Over the past several years, we dusted off our business deposit product brochure, identified some gaps, added some additional products, reviewed our pricing parameters and added a full time Treasury Management Officer.

3. Enhance your marketing efforts. Our marketing group always keeps one staff member completely engaged in social media. This effort provides us with non-traditional advertising opportunities that gains exposure to more millennials. Forcht Bank encourages our staff to like our Facebook page and send in community activity information that we share on a regular basis.

4. Battle the non-bank competition. A virtual bank is a must if you want to keep some of your clients from getting a mortgage from Quicken or opening their deposit at Ally. Our website has been revamped and now grants consumers the ability to apply for all kinds of loans and open deposit accounts online.

5. Review your contracts and relationships with your technology venders, with an eye to more of a strategic partnership. We have found that those who provide us with technology services want to have better dialogue and to have it more often. Through these meetings, we have identified additional services we can offer our clients and to improve our team members skill levels with the internal aspects of various systems.

6. Lastly, if you do not have folks that understand the most up to date systems for loan and deposit operations, go get them. They are worth the cost. Turn-around time for consumer mortgage approvals and closings are an extremely important customer service benchmark. Consumers do not want to hear our woes, so you must have someone on your team who can get you through TRID and the like.

One key for us at Forcht is that we look at many of these previously listed items as opportunities, not expenses or hurdles. Since there are costs involved in most of these strategies and system upgrades, several folks on our management team meet regularly with IT. We discuss system requirements, integration issues, timeframes, multi-department impacts as well as cost. This is certainly an exciting time to be in the banking industry, wondering what the latest product or technology tool will be. And, we still have a few typewriters!

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