When the pandemic is finally in the rearview mirror, the shift to digital banking will stick.
But as Doug Brown, president of NCR Digital Banking, told PYMNTS, financial institutions (FIs) will have to provide a cross-channel, digital everywhere experience for consumers that allows them to shift fluidly across online and in-person conduits as they consume various financial services.
And the branch — the pillar of the bank — may never look the same.
As Brown noted, the massive surge across all mobile channels brought with it digital engagements that cut across all demographics, from Generation Z to baby boomers, but largely “because there was no other option.” Branches were closed, and there was the overall fear of being out and about, so call centers were backed up. That led to an influx of new mobile banking users, who started to conduct their financial dealings “on the glass” of their devices.
FIs also enhanced and broadened their mobile banking feature sets, said Brown, which helped boost utilization. Drilling down a bit and the features most valued in the dark days of the pandemic included money transfers, mobile check capture and setting preferences for ATM usage (with an eye on having as little physical contact as possible).
“Mobile was just integrated into the cross-channel journey,” said Brown, especially as consumers also sought to engage with human staff at the FI.
This consumer preference for cross-channel interactions will remain in place, Brown said, depending on the complexity involved in a transaction or service. For example, sending money to friends and family can be a “self-contained” experience, while at the other end of the spectrum, applying for a loan might be initiated on a mobile device but would likely still involve other channels along the way.
“A loan is not something that lends itself to the ‘30 seconds for successful completion’ paradigm,” he said.
Questions are common as the process winds on, as documents need to be provided, and live humans can be invaluable in helping educate and aid the consumer on the journey.
For the FIs that want to enable that cross-channel journey, “you need the concept of being able to initiate, pause, resume, come back, gather things that are needed,” he said. “We expect the need for a full set of capabilities continues going forward.”
Evolution Of The Branch
Against that backdrop, the branch experience itself will evolve.
“There’s still a desire for a connection to a branch and/or a banker and a banker relationship — even if it’s not always ‘anchored’ in the branch,” he said.
Branches are synonymous with security and trust, and just like the surge in mobile banking activity, the value proposition of the branch setting cuts across demographics, too, according to Brown. Within the branch itself, we’re likely to see growth in installations of interactive, self-service kiosks (but staff is on hand to answer any additional questions).
During the pandemic, he said, NCR saw use of those interactive kiosks surge by hundreds of percentage points.
“Branches will not go away,” he said. “They are a key part of the relationship model for community banks and credit unions, but the key is how to digitize the experience” with features such as scheduling in advance in order to make the experience more relevant to today’s tech-savvy users.
Execution is key, he said, as FIs must make sure they understand the customer and their needs, which can be fluid, and FIs also must make sure they personalize their offerings. He pointed to NCR’s ability to provide banking as a service, especially to smaller players, in a way that provides “agile, innovative infrastructure and a technology layer” that can help banks and credit unions manage change.
The cloud-native, architecture-agile development that supports custom development capabilities from an application programming interface (API)-based platform allows FIs to configure, assemble and differentiate what they’re doing versus competitors. He said that makes for a “digital everywhere” strategy that moves beyond being merely “digital first.”