"Today there's very little reason for you to actually go to a bank for anything," writes Umpqua Holdings' Chief Executive and President Raymond Davis in his newly released book, Leading Through Uncertainty. "That's a revolution, and for those of us in the banking industry, it's a complete and total game changer. But it's also been a long time coming."
Herein, however, lies a dilemma for financial institutions nationwide. Banks' best opportunities to cultivate relationships, according to Davis, are achieved in person rather than through web pages. Translation: branches must exist. The return-on-investment tension, mounting for years, is making banks nationwide wonder what to do with the costly channel that continues to get less and less floor traffic.
In his new book, Davis offers up the backstory on why banks need to reimagine their branches to show business readers from any industry why companies must adjust to change during turbulent times. To that end, Davis refuses to sugarcoat the growing pointlessness of the traditional branch. He advocates banks do something that helps them remain relevant with consumers and it's not holding onto the past.
"The old-style bank branch where you've got tellers on one side and desks with loan officers at the other and a velvet rope telling people where they're supposed to stand is over," writes Davis.
The example is meant to help illustrate the larger point peppered throughout his pages: leaders from any industry should expect change and adapt to it as quickly as possible.
That's also the theme Davis reiterated on a phone call with Bank Technology News Wednesday. "It's coming at you all the time," says Davis.
And the banking industry has been having its needing-to-change moment for years.
"The elephant in the room is the evolution of the branch," says Davis.
Years ago, Davis recalls thinking Umpqua "would get run over" if it failed to figure out a delivery system that gave people reasons to come into a branch when technology offered them potentially more efficient ways to interact with the bank.
That's why Umpqua, which celebrated its 60th birthday in early November, has invested in fostering a quirkier branch culture to stand out from the banking herd. The financial institution lets people use its branch space (called stores) to do fun activities, like Wii bowling and yoga classes, for example. The idea is to foster the feel of a community center to entice people to come into the brick-and-mortar location for reasons other than cash a check, says Davis.
"I'm not saying Umpqua has it all figured out," he says.
It does have a head start, however.
Umpqua also weaves technology into its stores to enhance the customer experience rather than simply use software to speed up a transaction, he says. Take the interactive wall in its new San Francisco location, for example. The wall displays a number of apps with QR codes including ones Umpqua developed in house such as a home finder app that people can scan to download onto their phones.
Beyond the need to address change swiftly, Davis stresses the importance for leaders to inspire and motivate their teams to reap success. "By definition, a leader is an optimist," says Davis. "You have to be."
That's especially true when times are rocky. "Too many people have their heads in the sand when a crisis hits," he says.
Davis practices what he preaches. When he learned Occupy participants were going to protest against Umpqua, he wanted to make sure they were educated about the bank's policies and practices and scheduled a meeting with the group's leaders.
"The opportunity to sit with them was low risk," recalls Davis.
In the end, the protestors didn't walk against Umpqua.
These days, Davis is working to prove to naysayers, and there are many, that Umpqua can remain a community bank at its asset size. "No matter what size we are, we will remain a community bank," he says. "Size is nothing to do with it."
Davis has no near-term plans to write another book but said it could happen again (Leading Through Uncertainty follows one he penned in 2007). "A fun pastime for me is writing books," says Davis. "[But] not right this minute."