Banking Strategist’s 2020 Retrospective

2020 is coming to an end, and I for one am not sad to see it go. It has been a difficult year to say the least, but for better or for worse, American perception of the banking industry has markedly improved. Surveys from American Bankers Association show that 3 out of 4 Americans rate the banking industry’s response to the pandemic as “excellent” or “good,” with 9 out of 10 account holders “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their primary bank. In a time when many small businesses needed help, our industry went into overdrive with many friends and colleagues logging incredibly long hours to deliver PPP loans with over 4.5 million loans closed, totalling $500 Billion, in record time. On top of this, lenders across the country have been working with customers to take advantage of a low rate environment with mortgage refinances reaching a ~17 year high.

We saw big gains in inclusion and representation when Jane Fraser was named CEO of Citigroup Inc.—the first woman to run a big U.S. Bank—and with Bank of America’s $300 million dollar commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.

With all of these opportunities to engage and help our communities, it was easy to be distracted from our core strategic plans and the accelerating shift in customer engagement needs. Many financial institutions were forced to put strategic initiatives on hold to manage manual underwriting of the PPP program—or figure out how to communicate branch closures—or how to set up their employees up to work remotely in a secure and effective manner. The cracks in the technical foundation for many institutions came to light this year. My own refinance took over 120 days to close as conditions were overlayed due to COVID, forms were misplaced, or a combination of both wet and e-signatures were required. There is a bright side to this. Many banking executives better understand that technology strategy is integral to not only achieving strategic plans, but overall business continuity and operational risk management.

The banks and credit unions we worked with prior to the pandemic saw an immediate proof of concept utilizing Salesforce as a platform and MuleSoft’s integration and API reusability to quickly manage PPP workflows and standup nCino as an origination system in a matter of weeks. Clean and timely communication was sent to members and customers, helping them navigate their options in a financially stressful time. Bankers could safely and easily schedule time with their customers as needs arose, alleviating the stress of painful scheduling back and forths. The conversations I have with executives from these institutions are around YTD growth targets, meeting and exceeding KPIs and improved SLAs and CSAT ratings, and continued focus on strategic planning rather than a “just trying to stay afloat” mentality.

For the work we do at Zennify, this year has accelerated the focus we have on giving financial institutions the right technical tools to measure and meet their strategic goals, no matter what 2021 brings our way. Having the right foundation to quickly pivot to meet the changes in customer expectations (with an accelerated shift to digital) has always been important, but more so now than ever. With the right tools in place, we can take advantage of data-driven marketing, workflow automation, streamlined underwriting, AI and the deep insights of analytics tools. All we have to do is ask the right questions:

  • Do we have the right tools in place to deliver the customer experience we want today, and to reach the customers of tomorrow?
  • Are we enabling our employees to be efficient and effective at their jobs? Where are the pain points and how can we help?
  • Can we reach our targets with the tools we have in place today or are we leaving money on the table with siloed LOBs, repetitive systems, tech debt, or overstaffing due to a broken process or system?

Now is the time to put together your strategic plan for 2021. Do not miss this opportunity to have real conversations about how to enable your business with the right technology roadmap. We are here to help.

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