A supportive bank culture is critical for success

John Epperson
A supportive bank culture is critical for success

Traditional banking has been around for a long time, and sometimes consistency has led to complacency.

Years ago, community banks knew their local customers and could rely on their continued business. Banks could succeed without accommodating a world of variables.

But today, the financial services industry is changing more quickly than ever. Checking accounts, access to credit, and payments no longer require bank loyalty or relationships. Specialty providers appeal to customers with newer, faster, and more niche offerings – especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strategy and action consulting for banks and financial services

A new way of doing business isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a have-to-have.

These days, banks that can’t – or won’t – change with the times get left behind. Some scenarios include:

  • Highly specialized fintechs that can react quickly to changing customer needs faster than banks
  • Loyal customers that age out of many traditional bank products and services
  • Young employees that yearn for more purpose-driven, exciting work

Responding to change doesn’t mean banks suddenly have to become fast and flashy. In fact, it’s probably better for long-term success that they don’t. Increased risk and mismanaged compliance can bring business to a halt.

The question is: How can banks maintain the security and reliability that customers appreciate and regulators and management demand while moving forward with progressive strategies?

Real change goes beyond updating your offerings and channels.

Real change goes beyond updating your offerings and channels.

The solution for finding a middle ground between progress and dependability lies in an aligned organizational approach. Finding a home between competing in a fast-paced financial services industry and providing the reassurance to their customers means banks need to address customer needs and support their personnel.

Beyond updating offerings and channels, banks should:

  • Get the entire organization focused on understanding how and why customer needs are shifting
  • Think about how the bank can meet those changing customer needs
  • Invest in technologies that directly support employees and simplify customer experiences

Banks also need to be flexible as they go through changes. Some barriers to change can make it harder to solve problems or change behaviors – from long-term vendor contracts to rigid employee roles to an organizational aversion to change.

If your bank culture supports employees, they’ll be able to support your strategies.

If your bank culture supports employees, they’ll be able to support your strategies.

Effectively addressing the needs of the business during periods of change starts with supporting employees. When employees share the same vision, have an appetite for change, and aren’t constrained by silos, they can more confidently make informed decisions.

  • Train employees and share experience. Employees with years of expertise in areas such as commercial lending or wealth management will eventually retire and take their skills and experience with them. Now’s the time to start or reinvigorate technical and functional skills training programs and organize roles so that management can foster an atmosphere of learning.
  • Give employees the same up-to-date information. Staff and units within a bank can more quickly identify and solve problems and better serve customers when working from a single source of complete, relevant, and up-to-date information. This central truth can make customer interactions seamless from one interaction to the next while adding to the pool of usable data.
  • Create the time to solve unique problems. Streamlining internal operations and making sure automated services work without human intervention can lower product costs while easing workloads. Changes like these allow employees to spend more time on critical and strategic thinking, business activity monitoring, and project improvements.

Fostering collaboration can help your bank thrive.

The entire organization needs to work cohesively and collaboratively. A bank culture that relies on effective measurements, fosters intentional collaboration, and uses embedded tools can better meet the challenge of change.

Fostering collaboration can help your bank thrive.

Effective measurements

Banks can help their employees, managers, and teams make timely and informed decisions not by asking them to robotically move from one step to the next but by empowering them to analyze marketing and customer data, internal reports, and trends. Then, individually and in teams, employees can study and evaluate metrics to quickly make decisions and guide staff through the jobs to be done. Are processes getting faster? Are operations generating more resources? This eye on internal productivity, performance, and capacity can be a cost-effective way for banks to mark progress.

Intentional collaboration

When faced with problems to solve, a bank culture of teamwork allows employees to immediately collaborate on solutions. The best environments help front-office business lines automatically and instinctively work with the second line and other appropriate departments to define issues, strategize around goals, and more clearly coordinate actions. Employees that are actively involved in coordinated, team-based solutions tend to be more engaged, and they might report more satisfaction with their jobs and stay with the organization longer.

Embedded tools

Collaboration and information are foundational to supporting strategic execution, but offering the right information and tools is essential for getting the job done. Technology platforms, automation, and third-party partnerships can support departments and teams in their day-to-day work of serving customers and with projects that create the next level of capabilities. Even customer service can help boost profitability through the use of expected and easy-to-use self-service products and channels that don’t need immediate human attention.

To get internal strength, look outward for support.

Marrying the innovation of fast and flexible tech companies and the charters and regulations of the banking industry is no small feat. That’s why it’s important to learn from the experience of those who have been through it before.

It’s not enough to understand the business. Bank leaders need to see where pitfalls and potential lie as organizations shift, which means knowing each piece of the organization, understanding regulatory expectations for responsibilities and oversight, and playing their part in the greater strategy.

To get internal strength, look outward for support.

Crowe can help you find the way forward.

Crowe has been here before. We’ve rolled up our sleeves and helped banks through the process, navigating roadblocks and celebrating successes. We know your business and can help you find the answers you need to move forward.
John Epperson
John Epperson
Managing Principal, Financial Services