WASHINGTON — Besides the perception that the air shuttle is more reliable than the train, the bankers and technology companies that descended on Washington this week for the BAI Retail Delivery conference were told repeatedly that mobility and social networking are rapidly maturing and need to be monetized by banks in the near term.

In the case of social media, Frank Eliason, director of global social media at Citigroup (C), mentioned the importance of making social media a tool that consumers proactively want to use, a tough task for businesses. And in the case of mobile banking and payments, much of the popular innovation is coming from outside the banking industry via startups, forcing financial institutions to play catch-up or risk losing control of customer relationships.

The good news is the anti-bank protests and talk of emergency retrenchment are fading-none of the attendees American Banker spoke with during informal interviews even mentioned the words "Occupy" or "recession."

Those darker topics have been replaced by more forward-looking themes. A number of attendees mentioned a renewed interest among bankers to take on transformational projects that leverage expanded mobile transaction capabilities, personalized marketing driven by advanced data analytics, and branch transformation highlighted by emerging video teller capabilities.

The following is a sample of what some attendees found to be the most interesting issues that came up during the conference:

"There's always a thematic trend at these shows. This year it's all about social media, and innovations in how you can use social media to communicate and connect with consumers."

-Mona Leung, CFO and senior vice president, finance, Aliant Credit Union, Chicago, Ill."What interested me is how much innovation is happening overseas. Most of the Finacle Awards (Infosys' innovation awards) were from outside the U.S., for example (South Africa-based First National Bank, Poland's Alior Bank and Singapore's OCBC Bank were the major winners). There are a lot of new way being developed to reach out to customers at branches, and to be more informative."

-David Wallace, Global Financial Services Marketing Manager, SAS."Engagement was the big buzzword this year. It came up during [Sir] Richard Branson's keynote address and has come up in a lot of conversations that I've been having here. The idea is we have to use new tech to reach out to our customers and engage with them. The stereotype of the unapproachable banker no longer works."

-Nancy Porter, senior vice president of marketing and sales, Monarch Bank, Chesapeake, Va. 

"I've noticed there's more of an embrace of new technology this year. There hasn't been a willingness recently to really take on new tech in recent years, but that appears to have changed."

-David Crumpler, assistant vice president of marketing, East Carolina Bank, Engelhard, NC. 

"There's so much going on in the mobile banking space, with new products and capabilities and fast development. We all have to pay attention to that."

-Harry Gunsallus, senior vice president of technology, Redstone Federal Credit Union, Huntsville, Al. 

"The good news is there are a lot more financial institutions here. That means there's more of a readiness to take on new technology."

-Louis Hernandez, chairman and CEO, Open Solutions. 

"Banks are trying to figure out how to turn their retail branches into stores. We also need to figure out if tech is a solution, something which you use to build efficiencies, or an enabler that allows you to build toward something that's bigger or better."

-Gene Pranger, CEO, uGenius.