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Aug 12, 2020

Summary: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've experienced a major shift in the industry dynamics that will fundamentally alter the economics of the financial industry and require changes in how banks and credit unions interact with their customers moving forward. On this episode we will cover how best to  stabilize operations in order to take control of and execute your business continuity plan, establish a plan of action with vendors and partners, and continuously assessing your execution plans and operating through a hierarchy of monitoring 


On-Demand Webinars Referenced in this Podcast:

How to prepare your FI for a Post-Pandemic Marketplace


Guests/Host LinkedIn Profiles:


Scott Harroff:                     00:16                     Hello again. This is Scott Harroff, your host for this episode of COMMERCE NOW. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've experienced a major shift in the industry dynamics that will fundamentally alter the economics of the financial industry and require changes in how banks and credit unions interact with their customers moving forward. Throughout April, May and June, my colleagues, Simon Powley, Jim Flannery, and Scott Weston hosted a series of webinars to help keep you informed and provide guidance during these unprecedented times.

                                                                                Today, I'm happy to have everyone here together again to discuss how technology investments will provide adequate return on investment as operations begin to stabilize. There will be a few focal points we're going to discuss today. Stabilization of operations in order to take control of and execute your business continuity plan and adhere to realtime guidance from federal state and local government. Next, establishing a plan of action with vendors and partners to align new realities and test new solutions and new processes. And finally, continuously assessing your execution plans and operating through a hierarchy of monitoring an objective key result dashboards to ensure nimble execution and shift the conversation to focus more on the technology we are seeing.

                                                                                While banks have been journeying through the paths of branch transformation and self-service strategy, these journeys have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. One of the most notable changes to combat the impact of COVID-19 has been the push to self-service and digital channels for communication and customer interaction. Today, as we look to the transition of a new normal, let's explore the question of what's next. With that, welcome Simon, Jim and Scott. Thank you for joining me today for this very important discussion.

Scott Weston:                   02:00                     Yeah. Thanks for inviting me.

Jim Flannery:                     02:02                     Thank you, Scott. It's good to be with us.

Simon Powley:                  02:04                     Yeah. Great to be with you today. Thanks, Scott.

Scott Harroff:                     02:07                     Simon, to give our listeners a little bit of background, could you please start off by telling our listeners a little more about the webinar series the team delivered earlier this year?

Simon Powley:                  02:16                     Yeah. Thanks, Scott. It was great. It was really a three-part series that we developed as we saw kind of the implications and what was happening in the industries. One of the things that we at our advisory services group really are tasked with is keeping our customers up-to-date on changes that are relative to the marketplace, and obviously COVID had a lot of impact on those. And so we worked diligently and got some good information.

                                                                                The first one really was about the impacts of location-based delivery channels. So what was really happening out there and some of the unique solutions that FIs have put into action as a result of this with digital automation being at the forefront of it. And then finally, how things were changing very, very quickly with personalized experiences and what the impacts were to operational efficiencies given this unparalleled time.

                                                                                The second one, Scott led, and that was really about learning from the COVID-19 experiences. What were the various stages of recovery that were going on? What kind of things that they could mitigate, financial institutions could mitigate in the short-term and how to really plan for the duration of this recovery and a general banking or industry outlook of what we could tell was happening in real time as a result of COVID.

                                                                                And the third was, what were the new expectations of customers as a result of this? We saw digital transformation and digital adoption really skyrocket throughout this, due to customers being forced in some cases to digital channels, and how to really capitalize and operate efficiently as a result of that. And finally, adjusting those branch workflows and new traffic patterns based upon those customer needs, which allows changes in roadmaps.

                                                                                And finally, at the end of that, Jim really put together some ideas or suggestions of what kind of technologies we're seeing come out of COVID-19 and how to prioritize or look at those based upon our level of expertise. One of the things I think that was really interesting throughout this, as we got into the webinars, is we were very interactive with the customers and had a lot of polling questions to really gauge what was on the mind and to make sure that we were seeing the same thing that our customers were. That, as we had really good attendance, was a great time to do that.

                                                                                One of the questions that we intentionally delivered on all three of them to see the consistency in how things were changing over the course of the webinar series was, when do you anticipate your organization will resume business-as-usual operations? And you can tell it's somewhat ambiguous intentionally to allow that perspective. And then gave them a myriad of answers that they could choose from. The interesting thing with this was that, in every webinar overall, overwhelmingly I should say, the results were that they expected that within the next three months, they would be back to business as usual, which really puts us into late summer or early fall timeframe, which was surprising to us.

Scott Harroff:                     05:11                     Thanks for that, Simon. But as I listened to the governor of Ohio and a bunch of other news media feeds, it seems like things aren't getting better. They might even be spiking a little bit. So how do you see things progressing given that?

Simon Powley:                  05:28                     Yeah. Well, it's a great question. I think there's a lot of things that are changing. I mean, I think from a health perspective, we won't focus on that here today. I think we'll focus more on the industry perspective, but certainly we're beginning to see, and we covered this too at our webinar, that there could be what we consider to be a second wave, or this could have longer-term implications to financial institutions and certainly our economy overall.

                                                                                In terms of getting back to normal and that specific question, what we're seeing specifically is I would say we're getting into a new normal. I don't believe, I don't think the group believes that we'll ever go back to the way things were, the way that the customers' interactions were, the channels that customers were using at that time, specifically branches, those kinds of things. I don't know that it'll ever go back to, but we are already moving into what I think we'll see and evaluate as a new normal.

                                                                                And so banks are very flexible. I've been very proud of them in terms of managing their operations and changing things and adjusting their operations accordingly, and they are functioning. And so what we're seeing is banks are really still evaluating their networks. In some cases, branches have not reopened, and in some cases we're seeing reduced hours. In some cases they're operating with less staff. And certainly with social distancing guidelines it is changing the operational role of the branch in these cases, but they are operating, I guess, in more of a new normal. And we'll continue to see that play out here in the future, and maybe we can get Scott Weston to comment on that a little bit more as we get into today.

                                                                                We're still seeing corporate staffs largely working remotely and distancing. And so we're still seeing just a handful of people at what traditionally would be a headquarters with many, many people in many, many operating groups to do that. And we don't know when or if that will return back to normal. In many cases, large digital providers, such as Google or Microsoft or those companies, are already announcing that they will not go back until sometime in 2021, or in some cases I'm hearing will never go back to the way things were or leverage their headquarters the way that they have in the past. And so those are certainly very consistent with what we're seeing in banking.

                                                                                Digital channels are really being leveraged by both bankers and their customers to operate, again, normally, or to not disrupt their operational roles or the way that they're interacting with their banks. And so you're seeing that transition and continue to modify and change a little bit.

                                                                                Finally, mortgage operations, for example, are functioning normal. They're very, very busy right now, given this unparalleled interest rate environment and still extremely busy. However, the interactions are different in more of a new normal way. Things are much more virtual than they used to be. Whether that's face-to-face meetings on Zoom or via Skype or certainly leveraging the telephone or even mobile apps in a much more effective way to track the status of your loan to provide documentation as opposed to handwritten documentation or bringing in paper to a branch in the past.

                                                                                And so those kinds of things are all things that continue to evolve that are much different and much more utilized than they were even just a few months ago. Currently, what I'd say is transaction levels are beginning to return a bit to more normal things. So when I think about this, I don't know that it's going back to the way things were, but they are functioning and operating.

Scott Harroff:                     08:59                     Simon, I agree with you completely. The financial institutions that I interact with and I do business with, I'm definitely seeing a push towards self-service and definitely seeing a push towards digital channels for communication. It seems to me like the old playbooks are sort of kind of out the window right now. So a question to the group, what are you individually seeing your financial institutions focusing on? Because it seems like everybody's playing a slightly different game now than they used to.

Jim Flannery:                     09:28                     Well, I will say that the priorities for financial institutions are still very similar to what they were. They've just been accelerated. They're still trying to improve efficiency, obviously generate revenue and enhance the customer experience, but they're doing this in a slightly different way right now. So we all know that they're going to be under a lot of cost pressures over the next couple of years as they are today, and one way to drive cost out of the network is to optimize your branch and ATM network.

                                                                                And when I say optimize, that could be consolidations, which will drive a lot of cost out, but it's beyond that. It's also making sure that they're still holding to those trends and priorities, but they have to do that in a more efficient way. So by doing that, they can relocate branches. They can reformat their branch network to kind of fit the demographics of the market, to fit how their consumers are actually using their branch network and their other channels.

                                                                                And part of this could be to open up some off-premise ATMs. So we're working with a number of clients right now, helping them do this. We're helping them close permanently some of these branches that they've closed over the past couple months due to COVID. And now we're helping them work through one, which branches should they just keep closed permanently, two, what is the impact to their consumers going to be, their customers and their members? And three, how do they offset some of the capacity issues that might be prevalent after that consolidation? So those transactions that were going to that branch are going to go somewhere, right? So are they going to go to other branches, or are they going to go to self-service channels?

                                                                                So in a lot of cases, adding off-premise remote ATMs to kind of offset those attrition numbers is a much cheaper solution than just keeping that branch open. And then the cost savings that they're going to collect from or gain from those branch consolidations, now they can reinvest that back into the network. And they can focus on more deposit automation, teller automation, video, having channel marketing, core integration, things like that that will hold true to those trends and priorities of generating revenue, improving the customer experience and such. But they're doing it in a more analytical or strategic way than they were before. And end of the day, everything's net positive for not only themselves, the institution, but also the customers as well.

Scott Weston:                   11:57                     Yeah. And if I can add something to that. I think there's still a lot of unknown out there. I think the shift of consumer behavior to a lot of FIs are seen as maybe temporary, but they're expecting at least a portion of consumers to return to the branch. So I think there is probably a little bit of hesitation in pulling the trigger on big closures, consolidations that I think a lot of analysts earlier predicted, right, where we could see mass branch closures. Obviously, the role of the branches is going to change. It's going to be more sales and more service-oriented, less transactional. And was Scott's point, being able to optimize that as a touch point, making sure that it's an [inaudible 00:12:37] that's positioned within that branch is there to optimize the space and provide as much free time, we'll call it, for the staff to do those more complex things.

                                                                                So I think there's still some learning that has to happen. I mean, I bet there's certain markets that haven't seen the bottom yet. As Simon mentioned earlier, we're starting to see some data anecdotally come in from our customers, and year over year, it's bouncing back. It's still probably 15 or 20% off of where it was this time last year. But as more of the economy opens up, as we get more optimistic about what's going to happen with the vaccine, clearly we're going to see a lot of people returning to the locations that they were traditionally using, but they may be using them in a different way.

Simon Powley:                  13:20                     I think that's really important. Let me ask this. Because you're talking to these financial institutions about optimizing networks and changing other transactional mix and so forth. Are these new concepts for them? Are they brushing off things to say, "I've been thinking about getting rid of this branch for a long time" and they're finally doing it? Is it that they're completely reevaluating their branch network, where we've never thought about closing branch before? That was kind of a way that we really focused on for our clients, and now they're reevaluating? What are you really seeing when you're talking to these financial institutions about this?

Jim Flannery:                     13:56                     Yeah, it's really a mixed bag actually. There's more smaller FIs, say 20 branches or less, that are now considering consolidating a branch or two where they typically would not have done that before. Because a lot of the community banks, they pride themselves on customer service, and the expense of having these branches open was just a cost of doing business. But now their business models are changing a little bit.

                                                                                They might not be under the cost pressures today, but they can see that coming down the road, and the only way that they can maintain that high-level customer service that they've had in their business model and still grow the business in terms of adding replacement customers or replacement members, they have to have a better technical offering, and they have to have a self-service offering. And the only way that they can do that is if they squeeze some costs out of the network and then reinvest those dollars.

                                                                                But I think the smaller FIs, this is a new concept for them. They have not typically done this before, so they are reaching out to us for help, and they want to make sure that they're doing this in a strategic way to minimize the impact to their customers and their business.

Scott Harroff:                     15:17                     So question for you guys. We keep hearing on the news that folks are choosing to stay home. Folks are choosing to not maybe go to work and maybe take care of children that are now home that are not in school. How do you see staffing models maybe impacting branch operations? Maybe someone who would come in every day that worked a teller line or worked in an office. How do you see that changing the model?

Jim Flannery:                     15:45                     Well, I think to begin with, for the most part, most branches are going to require less staff. So starting with the frontline folks, the ones that are interacting with the public on a daily basis, clearly, we saw that early on a hesitation to have too much interaction with people, and the ability to social distance was important. And I think one of the technologies that we've talked about a couple of times, video-enabled ATMs where you have a video teller on a terminal, I think it really has an interesting future for this. Because there's at least a couple of institutions that I talked to that are sincerely looking at how likely is it that we could have our tellers work truly remotely and when they mean remotely, from home.

                                                                                So instead of having them maybe coming to a call center or having some sort of centralized place where you have a bunch of people reporting to take these video interactions, you're actually looking at setting these folks up at home, having them essentially work from their home as a teller.

                                                                                So there's at least one institution that's doing this at a very small scale but has been getting some press, which I think is pretty interesting. But I wouldn't count that out as being at least on a lot of banks' radar. It's something that could be very flexible and something that they could spin up quickly if required and really offer that attended service that we know was lacking early on in the lockdown, the pandemic, and being able to really be at the forefront of offering a Class A customer experience.

Scott Harroff:                     17:14                     Thanks very much for that, Jim. So Scott, how do you see the changing staffing dilemma impacting branch operations and technology usage?

Scott Weston:                   17:23                     The changing staffing operation model in branches will absolutely affect the way people self serve, right? So as branches tend to have less staff inside and their staffing model is becoming more of a consultative experience, that in itself is going to drive more transactions out of the branch.

                                                                                So if we think of ourselves as customers and we're doing deposits, we're doing withdrawals, we're doing transactions that could be done in a self-service manner in the branch, eventually the staffing model will continue to say, "Well, did you know that you could do this at the ATM? Let me show you how." So eventually that's going to change consumer habit, right? So the more times consumers will use a self-service device, the more they're going to feel comfortable with it, doing it by themselves later on.

Scott Harroff:                     18:21                     And one thing that we heard directly from an FI is that they're being very careful about how many people they're bringing back because they almost want to subtly discourage long lines at the teller. So they're trying to get people to maybe adopt more self-service because if they go on the teller line and have to wait more than a couple minutes, and they don't want to make it too easy for customers to do simple transactions at the teller. They want to really almost nudge them to self-service by making it slightly uncomfortable for them.

                                                                                So, I mean, it's not necessarily a strategy that a lot of banks are adopting, but I think you'll subtly see some FIs are, right? They're not overstaffing their teller line. They're certainly looking at what things the consumer is doing and looking at the cost of doing simple transactions, comparing it to what that cost would be at a direct channel and figuring there's a certain number of interactions that you just don't want to make it easy to happen at a person.

Jim Flannery:                     19:19                     Yeah. I agree with you completely. I see people that I know that before would have walked into a branch once a week to go up to the teller to get their cash for buying groceries or doing other things, they are really thinking about, "Do I really want to get out of my car and put on a mask and go into that building and wait in line? Or huh, maybe I start using my drive-up ATM. Maybe I start using my phone." I am also seeing a lot of folks reconsidering what they used to do as customers and changing to something that maybe is a little bit risky for them. Simon, thoughts?

Simon Powley:                  20:00                     Yeah. Well, I would agree. I take a little different angle on it. I agree with everything that you all are talking about, that we're talking about here today. The thing I think about is our financial institutions and especially those small to midsize financial institutions and how this really changes their customer journeys, their member journeys and the impact to their people.

                                                                                So from an HR perspective, training, onboarding, hiring the right talent all has to change because we still saw in many cases, traditional roles where we had tellers on a teller line. Whether we called them something or not, that was really their role, personal bankers, managers, those kinds of things. Now we're talking about much fewer staff. We have to talk about people that can be cross-trained to do multiple activities and handle things very differently, not just in the traditional sense of new account opening or getting someone to a loan specialist and handling transactions, but think about the digital capabilities that they now have to be subject matter experts on to be able to troubleshoot, help support and provide guidance on to customers, to show them how well this can be done to help protect them.

                                                                                And then also add on to that the COVID implications, how to socially distance and how to do those kind of things. So I think we've got to make sure that financial institutions, and what I'd recommend to our partners out there is, do not lose track of that. We've got to start with your people in terms of how they can drive that change and how they're molding to these operational efficiencies and changes that are happening in these journeys, both how the customers face and deal with those, but also the internal processes, how those are changing. So I think about it in terms of that as well.

Scott Harroff:                     21:35                     Yeah, it's a delicate balance because you don't want to alienate good customers that have a preference for choice in how they interact, but at the same time, conscious of the broader whole of what the branch should be.

Simon Powley:                  21:49                     All right, Mr. Harroff. One thing we haven't talked about, I think that's really important for us to consider is the security issues out there. You talked to us a lot about this internally. We should probably talk a little bit about what's going on out there from a security compliance standpoint. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Scott Harroff:                     22:06                     Yeah, sure, Simon. Happy to do that. There's a couple of things going on right now that are pretty relevant and relatively time sensitive. First, we saw the bad guys as the United States closed down, if you will. We saw a drop-off in bad guys out on the road and moving around and doing things at either point-of-sale terminals or ATMs. But as the United States opens back up again, what we're seeing from local law enforcement, state and federal law enforcement like the FBI and secret service, we're seeing the bad guys opening up their business as well. They're back out on their routes going up and down the East Coast and the West Coast, and Texas especially is having some challenges right now, especially in the Houston market. The bad guys are back at it as well.

                                                                                So as our financial institutions and our retailers consider how they're opening back up for business and considering how they're going to change their operations, I think now is a very good time for our financial institutions and retailers to sit down and say, "Okay, this is the security I used to have. Is this the security that I need going forward? Is my as-is environment really ready for the new to-be model? Should I be looking at what I'm doing and reaching out to an expert to consider what I should be doing differently, seeing what my peers might be doing differently and really building a roadmap for what I should be considering for security and fraud for the next six, 12 or 18 months?" That's one thing.

                                                                                And the second thing that we're also looking at is there's things that are happening right now that are pretty time sensitive. The migration to Windows 10, for example, is still ongoing. We're moving towards the end of the year where the Microsoft critical updates will be expiring in December. What's my thought on what I want to do after December of this year? If I still have an Optiva ATM, I have an old encrypting PIN Pad Version 5. That can only do Shaw 1 certificates. Should I be buying encrypting PIN Pad Version 7 so I could run Shaw 2? Have I had the conversation with my network to see if they support that? Have I reviewed what my network does for fraud?

                                                                                For example, we're seeing transaction reversal fraud coming up in the United States now where somebody will go to an ATM and they'll ask for $100, and the ATM dispenses $100. They take $80 out, and they leave a 20 there. The ATM retracts the cash, thinks that, okay, well, the customer must have driven off and not taken any of the cash. So it credits the account back immediately. Is my host really holding that debit transaction, if you will, so somebody goes to the ATM and verifies that I get $20 back or I get $100 back? So I really do think that now is a good time to reinvestigate my whole ecosystem around security and see it's what it should be in plans for the future.

Jim Flannery:                     25:07                     Gentlemen, we've covered a lot of information, and we've given our listeners a lot of ideas to consider. And I really do appreciate your open and candid dialogue. We could go on with this conversation for quite a while, but I think this might be a good time to wrap it up unless somebody else has something to add.

Simon Powley:                  25:24                     One of the things I'm interested, Jim, because I know our time is getting short here. You talked a lot about roadmaps. You talked a lot about the sequencing and what's the kind of technologies and put in there kind of your rating scale of what technology should be in there. And that's been really well received by our customers. What are you seeing changing from a roadmap perspective? I know we touched on video. Maybe you want to touch a little more on that. I think that's probably one. But who are you really seeing changing from roadmaps in the FIs that you're talking to? How are they changing things or what are the technology that they made moving up and prioritizing what they want?

Jim Flannery:                     25:56                     Yeah. I think broadly you have to look at the shift in mentality on how they rationalize what to invest in. Historically, it's been all about payback ROI and what's the return. But as we moved through the COVID, what we found is that certain things took precedent, not because they had the best payback, but because they offered the greatest customer experience or offered the highest level of safety and security for both staff and consumers.

                                                                                So I think, first and foremost, I thought that was interesting. It was no longer about competing departments saying, "I want to do this. I want to do this. What's the cost? What's the benefit?" It became more of a, "What are some quick hits that we can do that are going to solve things now and then also set us up for future success?"

                                                                                So really, are there certain solutions that we can build off of in offering something now, but potentially make that into a greater part of our delivery strategy down the road. And I think we talked about some of those. I think the core integration, being able to utilize the ATM to directly tap into the accounts of the consumer and offer a broader range of transactions. That's something that you can do in pieces. You can start with some and add functionality as you go through it. Certainly video, and we talked about that a couple of times. That's one that we see.

                                                                                Well, and then the third one is really the marketing piece. We haven't really talked much about that. But this whole idea of using the ATM or self-service in general to do more of your communications. Historically, it's been primarily banners about products and rates, but really when you think about well, there's a big chunk of consumers that you're probably not seeing on a regular basis, they may not be engaged in mobile or web usage as a channel. So using the ATM to really communicate with those consumers, telling them what's happening as we move through things, what's the best channel to do certain interactions. There's a lot that you can really offer from that, that I think people take for granted. They assume that when we talk about the marketing communication on the ATM, it's all about product, pushing product when, in fact, it can be so much more than that.

Scott Weston:                   28:04                     Well, Yeah, Jim, to build off that a little bit, I remember the conversation you and I had with that financial institution yesterday. One of our partners was they were actively involved as there was a line building at one of their locations, and they are actually out there troubleshooting and really interacting with their customers to figure out why are you waiting in line, right? What are the resistances that's making you actually want to stand here in this line under these circumstances to, in this case, cash a $54 check at the teller line? Can we move this to maybe taking a picture of this from a mobile deposit perspective? Can we get you cash back at the ATM of 40 to $60 that would cover that check?

                                                                                And that customer, as you recall, said, "No, I'm here. I've got my $54 check and I want $54." And so they're actively pursuing denomination selection as a result of that at their ATMs, because they're trying to solve for these kinds of nuances of how they can really help drive and adopt to that. So there is a lot of changes there, Jim. I think you're right.

Scott Harroff:                     29:05                     With that, thanks again, Simon, Jim and Scott on behalf of all our listeners for joining us today. If you're interested in scheduling a conversation with anyone from the advisory services team, listeners, please visit or click on the link in the podcast show notes. Until next time, keep checking back on iTunes or however you listen to your podcasts for new topics on COMMERCE NOW.