Retail Banking Tech Trends: Three Execs Share Their 2022 Strategies

More financial institutions are optimizing their branch networks to meet changing consumer demands. That's driving interest in ITMs/self-service, AI-powered chatbots and tablet-equipped branch staff. Three credit union leaders share insights on what's working well for them as they strive to meet higher expectations.
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If you want to know more about how technology is changing strategies of community financial institutions, three banking executives recently shared their insights and plans in a webinar on 2022 retail banking technology trends.

The discussion revealed important details about what’s working, what’s not working, and what kinds of changes leadership teams are hoping to see as they plan for an increasingly technology-driven, mobile, and remote-based work future. Cody Willis, Senior Integration Strategist at CFM, a software company that integrates core banking systems with branch technology, moderated the event. The three panelists were:

  • Rhonda Drexler, Vice President of Branch Operations, CoVantage Credit Union
  • David Tuyo, President and CEO, University Credit Union
  • Samantha Amburgey, CIO, MSU Federal Credit Union

Two Tech Tools Find Increased Adoption

The panelists focused on two distinct technology advances that are making a difference in retail banking. The use of interactive teller machines (ITMs) has increased dramatically at financial institutions in recent years. Also known as “video remote tellers” and “personal teller machines,” ITMs have all the capabilities of ATM machines while allowing clients to speak with banking representatives in real time using video screens.

According to Rhonda Drexler, CoVantage Credit Union members have fully embraced ITMs and her institution is planning to add at least eight units to their network in 2022. She noted that the recent addition of an ITM into an underserved geographical market has been very successful — and spurred client demand.

Samantha Amburgey says MSU Federal Credit Union has replaced ATMs with ITMs at their drive-thru locations — and is finding success as well.

While there are approximately 12,000 ITM units deployed in the U.S., only a handful (approximately 1,100) are integrated directly to banking cores, with the remainder running standalone. That means without a teller on the other end of the video, the self-service transaction capabilities of these devices are limited. One solution that can help solve this challenge is universal self-service kiosk integration. This can increase true self-service capabilities, while also adding the possibility of assisted and full-service functions at ITMs.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also playing an integral role in helping financial institutions manage client requests, deliver services and resolve transaction issues. This intelligence comes in the form of AI chatbots, which are essentially automated agents able to deliver data to consumers and escalate issues to live representatives when appropriate, without putting people in “repeat” mode.

“We’ve beefed up our conversational AI chatbot to try and make sure it’s a 24-7 service option,” said Amburgey, whose institution has accelerated the use of digital technology since the pandemic. According to Amburgey, MSU Federal Credit Union has implemented AI chatbots across their service applications.

University Credit Union first added an AI chatbot to its website in July 2020, and after a successful launch, began embedding chatbots into the institution’s loan and membership apps. President and CEO David Tuyo said they have AI answering every single call coming into their call center, and about 25% of calls are 100% automated.

An AI Success Story:

A quarter of the calls coming into University Credit Union's call centers are fully automated using an AI chatbot — and it's helping to ramp up loan applications.

“AI is huge,” according to Tuyo. “We had over 307,000 calls answered and completed last year by our AI bots. On the loan application side, we had a 13% lift in funding and online loan applications because of our bots. That’s tremendous ROI for us.”

How New Staffing Models and Tech Solve Labor Shortages

Whether it’s due to the Great Resignation, the Great Retirement, or a combination of the two, banking has changed quite a bit since the pandemic began. The webinar panelists agreed that employee onboarding, staffing and retention processes have been challenging, and redefining employee roles is now critical to developing talented employees that want to stay long-term.

That said, implementing the right technology and staffing models has a lot to do with overcoming the current labor market.

The universal associate (UA) model is one such shift gaining traction. Also called “concierge bankers” or “relationship bankers,” UAs are trained to help customers start to finish with everything from simple deposits and withdrawals to loan applications and investment services. These team members place an emphasis on a high-tech, high-touch experience to ensure clients are aware of all a financial institution’s services.

These new roles bring several benefits including the elimination of siloed job roles, reduced branch operating costs, lower FTE, increased cross-sells, happier customers and higher employee satisfaction.

Modifying task loads so employees can work as member service representatives (similar to UAs) is an important part of CoVantage Credit Union’s onboarding mix. Drexler said they train employees to also be tech educators so staff can teach members how to use new technology and services. She noted, “If members don’t know what you’re offering, then the money you spend on that tech is not well spent.”

Amburgey said her credit union has moved toward remodeling their branches and spreading out flex service stations to allow for member privacy — and UAs are a big part of that change. By using a UA-based work model, employees can assist members from anywhere in the branch, take on expanded responsibilities, and feel valued in their roles.

Staffing Shortage Solution:

Hiring or training universal associates can help lower FTE count while also improving customer and employee satisfaction.

“We refined our value proposition at our organization,” said Tuyo. “One of the pillars is that we give valuable, conflict-free advice to our members. All of it is team-based.” At University Credit Union, employees receive specialized training to help them be knowledgeable and informed of credit union services so they can further advise clients. Overall, the goal is to allow members to be able to “plug-and-play” from anywhere — and employees to service clients from anywhere.

A big part of enabling universal associates also comes with the right technology. If employees are chained to a desk or teller line to help a customer, the UA model breaks down quickly. CFM has seen success with customers who have adopted an intuitive associate tablet interface that enables remote processing of transactions by any staff member.

Instead of needing a workstation to assist a customer, tablets allow cross-trained employees to fulfill nearly every job and transaction in the branch. And if the tablet is core-integrated, it can handle several types of transactions and other common requests from customers.

It seems financial institutions have been resilient in today’s changing world, and fintech partnerships continue to be a big part of their success. The leaders are those who are willing to adopt emerging technologies, efficient staffing models and continued employee education. Click on the link to view the retail tech trends panel discussion in its entirety.

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