Banking challenges (Q&A part 1)

Q&A with industry specialist Tom Grottke

Ryan Plourde
| 12/3/2020
Banking challenges (part 1) – Q&A with industry specialist Tom Grottke

The Crowe CRM team is dedicated to helping businesses streamline operations and improve performance. In recent months, our blog posts have focused on CRM technology for the banking industry. I took the opportunity to sit down with Tom Grottke, my colleague and a managing director at Crowe, to help me gain greater insight into this sector.

For 35 years, Tom has been helping banks achieve greater efficiency. In this interview, presented in three parts, he shares valuable insights on banking industry challenges, success stories, and the role of technology in the modern bank.

We begin part one by discussing some of the top challenges banks are facing today. From organizational modernization to digital transformation, Tom explains why banks struggle with change and describes proven techniques for navigating forward. He also shares three reasons banks facing challenges can benefit from an outside perspective.

Ryan: What do you and your team do for banks?

Tom: Crowe works to help CEOs and boards develop their strategy and drive that strategy into action within their bank. We do strategic planning engagements, technology planning, system selection and implementation, and operational reengineering to drive performance. Many times, we work on enterprisewide projects driven by core system changes, merger integration, or a change in business operating model such as channel migration from the physical to the digital market.

Ryan: What are the reasons that banks come to you, and what are some of the pain points?

Tom: Sometimes executives observe ineffective or inefficient operating practices or allocation of resources in their retail banking business. This could reflect how they onboard customers, attempt to cross-sell, or coordinate service between branches, call center, and operations. Performance weakness could stem from the roles, processes, and technology used – for example, when current customer information sharing is not available between the call center, operations, and branches.

In addition, we often assist the commercial banking area. Executives hear complaints from highly paid lenders and key business customers, and deal with finger pointing among departments. We dig into customer onboarding, cross-selling, account management, and the service/support functions as well as assess the requirements among lenders, administrators, credit analysts, and loan operations. We look at roles, systems used, and coordination across departments. Our goal is to enhance customer service, free up lenders, and minimize process or operational risk.

We also pay close attention to mortgage banking. Lenders remain a key source of business, and their cost has not gone down. Thus, a well-oiled and efficiently coordinated origination process is a must. Because of heavy compliance risk and an increasing demand for customer-focused technologies, banks must simplify lender roles while driving quick, accurate, and detailed aspects of the mortgage process.

A final consideration in these areas is the desired integration, coordination, and strategic approach to differentiate banks’ delivery channels. The lack of real-time, relevant customer information sharing among critical customer-facing channels negatively affects many banks. Many times, the challenges center around the dynamics between front office and back office as well as the retail, commercial, and mortgage departments.

Ryan: Why should banks bring someone in from the outside? And why should they hire you?

Tom: Most of our competition is management. We regularly compete with the insiders who say, “I can do it myself. Why do I need consultants?” That is always true. We need to provide value and not compete with management, but help them succeed. Once clients work with us, they realize we are on their side and can help them complete an important project.

The first reason banks should hire us: The Crowe banking team has a broad range of experience. The senior professionals in our group probably talk with 50 to 80 banks a year. Each senior professional does 20 or 30 projects a year, but we interact with many more banks. We meet with them, we interview them, we give proposals, we provide networking assistance, and we do surveys.

That's not to say that our clients couldn’t do the work, too, but they have their regular job. My regular job is to talk with bankers. I have an email “Rolodex” that's 500 deep of CFOs, CEOs, COOs, and other executives. A lot of times when I’m asked a question I can’t easily answer, I can email dozens of bank officers. By the next day, I'll have five responses, and in two days, I'll have answers from 80% to 90% of them. It's a wealth of real-time information we can communicate with our clients.

So number one, we bring a vast array of knowledge of what other banks are doing.

The second reason: The reality is that organizations are sometimes not very good at projects. Since we are project specialists, our focus is the project governance, the scope, the plan, and the cadence. And we work to project completion. If we get off base, we're not going to get paid – so we're all about execution.

When management prioritizes a project, more often than not, an outside resource will make sure that project is completed on time. Of course management needs to be involved. When we're in there, management has to be ready to make decisions. When we're done, they'll have to carry the football. But the point is they have their regular job, too.

For extensive industry and project expertise, a qualified consultant should be more effective than an in-house resource. Any day of the week.

The third reason is resources. Internally, bankers may just not have the time. So it's up to the manager to make the decision. Will they defer the project or find another way to get it done? Banks hire us because we have a broad array of experience, we are solid with projects, and we can get things done.

We often say that our motto is “We work our way out of a job." I want to finish, and I want to get out. A lot of consultants have a bad rap because they never like to leave. That is not our model. We scope the project, we execute the project, and we leave.

In my experience, if you do that, the client will call you again because they trust you. Client trust is very important.

Ryan: Thank you, Tom.

In part two of our interview, Tom will offer his take on how the Crowe CRM team helps banks deal with change.

Have a question or interested in evaluating the CRM functionality in Dynamics 365? 

Proven experience and a versatile solution

Crowe works with more than 1,800 financial services organizations across the country, including about two-thirds of the top 100 U.S. banks.1 The Crowe CRM team is dedicated to helping banks improve efficiency and achieve greater success. With experienced team members like Tom Grottke, we continue to build upon the Microsoft Dynamics™ 365 platform to help improve the performance of our banking industry clients.

Crowe CRM for Banking, powered by Dynamics 365, provides the tools and information that enable bank staff to deliver efficient, high-quality, personalized service across all channels. It empowers managers and team members to meet banking challenges, reach business goals, and thrive in a changing marketplace.

Visit for more information about Crowe CRM services for Microsoft Dynamics 365 software.


1 Source: Crowe analysis of banking client engagements, January 2018

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Ryan Plourde
Ryan Plourde
Principal, Microsoft CRM Leader