Webster Bank Preps for Payments Innovation with Two-Way Alerts

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Webster Bank's use of advanced alerting allows it to receive valuable, real-time feedback from its customers about how they prefer to make payments, says Greg Jacobi, senior vice president of distribution and customer experience for Webster Bank.

The $17.5-billion asset bank recently adopted Montise's two-way alerting system, which allows consumers to respond to alerts it sends about their product use and account security. The Waterbury, Conn.-based bank offers credit cards through Elan Financial Services, as well as debit cards.

Jacobi discussed alerts and the bank's other payments plans in a recent interview, which has been edited for length.

PaymentsSource: What makes the advanced alerts useful for your bank?
Jacobi: It's about making sure that people have information that can bring insight to them as quickly as we possibly can. It's also about building trust with consumers, that they know that we're going to inform them about what's going on.

PaymentsSource: Are there risks in managing the alerts?
Jacobi: You want to have the right pace with the alerts, that they're consistent with the customer's comfort level. You don't want to send out something every time we get a piece of information, and spew that at people. We want to make sure we have the right message at the right time.

PaymentsSource: How do you accomplish that?
Jacobi: If it's a marketing message, for example, you want to make sure we're bringing the customer's attention to something that can really help them. If we notice they're transacting in one way, we can mention another way that may be better.

PaymentsSource: Is that where the two-way alerts are particularly helpful?
Jacobi: A conversational alert may be a way to reach out to consumers and get a response on a different option to make their payments. They may be using one account for a particular payment, but may be eligible to earn benefits if they switched to a credit card which has points, for example. We can make them aware of that in an alert at the time of payment, and give them the chance to respond and change their payment on the mobile app. There's also the bill reminders that we can send at different points in time when payments are due, that the customer can respond to.

PaymentsSource: What does this advanced automated interaction require of your customer relationship management and data management systems?
Jacobi: The more sophisticated the alerts, the more important the CRM capabilities to personalize the alerts. We have work to do there. There is not as much work to do when the information that you are dealing with is contextual information that surrounds a particular type of payment. But, as you start to cross boundaries where you're talking about different products in the same dialogue, that is where we are going to make sure the information and data are solid. You don't want to send messages to people that suggest we don't know them.

PaymentsSource: How do the alerts help you build a presence in the mobile channel?
Jacobi: You can put the alert into the mobile banking app to make the app more interactive when people are using their app while out shopping, for example. With the suggestions and the ability to act on them, we can do more than putting simple 'yes and no' options on the app.

PaymentsSource: Will the alerts be a gateway for a broader mobile contactless payments play?
Jacobi: We have been waiting for some sort of watershed moment to signal it's time to move. We've been keeping a close eye on the technology, like [Near Field Communication] and the cloud, and I would say that in the next 12 months we will put something in the market that that will give us some real world experience. For a bank our size, we have to be careful about the experiments we run.

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