in Financial Services

Re-humanizing banking

The only people I trust with all my money are my wife and my bank.

Yet, while I love my wife, I don’t know a single person at my bank.

Despite all its skills and resources, my bank is, for me, just a faceless institution that houses cash machines. There’s no personal connection or trust. No real difference for me when I walk into any of my bank’s branches or a competitor’s.

Isn’t that odd? Isn’t that an opportunity?

Branch of the future(?)

Banks know that things can be different. And several are promoting their version of the “branch of the future.”

The problem is they all seem to focus on the wrong things.

The NY Times, for example, reviewed one such opening:

“[The CEO said] “customers want to be served in a very different way.”

To accomplish that, they, first and foremost, bought many flat-screen televisions.

The new branch features them on seemingly every available surface, including six “interactive sales walls” that take the place of paper brochures. The branch — which has the feel of a chic hotel lobby more than anything else — also features a 24-hour video-chat terminal for customers who happen to find themselves needing assistance from a representative at, say, 4 a.m. on a Saturday.

“We want this branch to be more than just a bank,” [said a head of retail banking]. “We want this branch to be a place where customers view it as a hub, a center of the community, if you will. A place where they feel warm and welcome, that they can come in and experience our free Wi-Fi access.”

That’s the future? Really?

Banks are people, too

Flat-screen TVs and WiFI won’t make a branch a “center of the community.” People will.

Banks don’t have to be faceless institutions. There are 2 million people who work in the top 20 banks alone. And, in all the banks I’ve worked in, it’s the people who’ve truly made those places great.

Banking can and should be personal.

Branch of the future!

The branch of the future should focus on personal connections – on re-humanizing banking.

While “personal banking” has traditionally been reserved for very small banks or very wealthy clients, social tools and practices make it easier to scale a wide range of personal connections.

  • Connections between employees and customers. Using social platforms to build relationships with customers that want them. Complementing the globalized, standardized bank processes with local, personalized advisory services that build trust and engagement.
  • Connections between employees. Cultivating internal communities of practice so employees in similar roles can help each other solve problems and get better at what they do.
  • Connections between customers. Cultivating customer communities to connect customers with similar financial goals and challenges. Enabling customers to help each other by providing the platform, community management, and professional advice.

Yes, there are significant risks and tradeoffs with all of this. Yes, it’s hard.

But, given the amount of money involved and the number of people working with and for banks, the benefits of re-humanizing them are staggering. And well worth the effort.