The holiday season is upon us, and planning for the coming year's initiatives is well underway. But something else is keeping you up at night. It's no longer Tarp, Dodd-Frank, or the 'great recession.'
You're being visited by spirits, you say? And their message has a haunting theme: Don't be a scrooge when it comes to your bank's technology
The spirit of your bank's past represents technology you should be leveraging, but aren't. This spirit might be best portrayed by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who founded Google. Are you utilizing web analytics and search engine optimization to measure your site traffic, online user experience and addressing lost opportunities? While your inner scrooge might not want to pay for Coremetrics, Omniture, or Unica, you should at least be taking advantage of Google Analytics. This will help your bank understand why people come to your website, how to make online marketing campaigns more profitable, and provide insights as to what your customers are doing beyond the login.
While you're setting that up, you need to really think about whether your site needs a redesign (if you can't remember when you last did a brand refresh, then it's probably time), what functions need to be added to online banking (do you offer PFM? P2P? Mobile? If not, then it's time for an RFP), making it easier to open a new account online (look at Andera, uMonitor, and CashEdge), or adding a social component to your site (beyond adding share links to social media, USAA and America First uses BazaarVoice for customer reviews). Reducing wasted opportunities will keep this spirit at bay.
The spirit of your bank's present represents technology you have but don't use very well. This spirit can best be personified by Apple's Steve Jobs, who's made a good living pleasing customers through technology and optimizing the user experience. While you might think you are delivering great service through your technology, how do you know if you are truly delighting your customers? It might be time for an intervention, and you can appease this spirit by ramping up efforts to measure the user experience by listening to the voice of the customer.
If focus groups, mobile surveys and eye-tracking studies sound beyond your reach, contact a company like AnswerLab or Foresee Results. Research studies might change your perception of the important connection between technology, service, and satisfaction. You might find that something simple, like changing your website's search function to be more conversational and solution focused (like First Republic did with Q-Go), goes a long way toward delighting your most important fans.
The spirit of your bank's future represents the current technology shift that may fundamentally changethe banking industry. This spirit's message, best delivered through Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter and Square, is really twofold. While the world is becoming more and more connected through social media, banking and payment technology is becoming more disconnected and mobile. Creative engineers are hard at work, looking to capitalize on areas of technology neglect. Examples of this are companies using PayPal-X to provide money movement through mobile apps and social networks as well as Dorsey's own Square aiming to become the next low cost mobile payment provider. While your bank isn't responsible for the macro changes underway in fintech, you'll certainly be impacted because your customers will demand that you keep up with these changes.
With the banking industry weakened by the recession, will new startups like Bank Simple, which isn't a bank at all but uses technology to act like one, become the new model? Or will Near Field Communication, which enables mobile payment at point of sale, propel mobile providers to become the new banking mechanism of choice? While the book Bank 2.0, by Brett King, makes a compelling case that the industry will be forever changed by this technology shift, this is still a banking industry full of creative people that know a thing about innovation.
If this spirit keeps you up at night as well thinking about your bank's technology, then do something about it - join the conversation at your bank, talk to your technology providers, and get involved in building an industry that is better prepared for the coming changes.
Bradley Leimer manages the online service group for Mechanics Bank in Richmond, Calif. His background in marketing and technology in the financial services sector includes brand development, social media and user-experience research. You can follow him on Twitter and find him on LinkedIn.