“Where and when can I meet you?”
When was the last time your financial institution asked you that?
Now try this one…
“Be where the customer is.”
How many times have you heard that? It’s a favorite battle cry among consultants who normally offer this advice in the context of mobile or social channels. But if you take this consulting soundbite seriously, you might come to the same conclusion as Alamo FCU.
This ambitious $43 million credit union with only two-and-a-half branches and 6,902 members is rolling out — literally, on four wheels — a Concierge Banking service.
“It’s a completely new way of financial and banking services that comes to you, whenever and wherever you are,” the credit union explains.
If a member wants to discuss a car loan, mortgage or any other product Alamo offers, the credit union will send someone over to their office, home or even their favorite coffee shop. The service rep will even pull up driving a cool, Alamo-branded SUV cruiser.
Concierge Banking is also available to non-members looking to join, a perk that’s sure to take the sting and inconvenience out of bank switching for many consumers.
Alamo says the service is available “whenever it’s convenient for you,” but it wasn’t clear whether the credit union includes 2 am on a Sunday morning or just means “within reasonable business hours.” But you have to admit, it would be kind of fun to be hanging out with friends at an all night party when you decide to impress the crowd by summoning your banker.
“You don’t wait on us,” says Max Villaronga, President of Alamo FCU. “We wait on you.” A clever and catchy way to sum up the service.
Villaronga says that the concierge will not carry cash but will be able to open accounts, take and complete loan applications, assist new members in switching from their current bank, and set up automatic bill pay or mobile services.
“Alamo FCU Concierge Banking is the first of its kind in San Antonio and the next step in providing the best customer service to the busy people in our community,” Villaronga explains. “This type of revolutionary financial experience is something other banking institutions will not provide.”
You can say that again, Mr. Villaronga. Usually doorstep banking is reserved for a bank’s most well-heeled customers. Except for a handful of private banks, very few financial institutions even offer it. And for a tiny little Texas credit union to even consider the idea is nothing short of audacious.
“This is something that the busy professionals of San Antonio have been wanting for a long time,” Villaronga says. “A way to make their lives easier without spending hours in a bank waiting.”
Could Doorstep Banking Be the Answer to the Branch Dilemma?
What if Alamo FCU is on to something — something really big?
“Most banks have invested heavily in expensive headquarters and facilities with their customer’s money,” Villaronga notes.
True. Banks and credit unions are still building branches. But many industry observers say this is a huge mistake. Consumers are fleeing branches in droves, so how can you justify the investment, they ask.
But for a credit union as small as Alamo FCU, Villaronga doesn’t have much room to be wrong. He can’t afford to speculate on a branch that may or may not be viable in a few years, no more than he can afford to compete with big banks in the tech arena.
So what can a retail financial institution do if it wants to grow new relationships without adding brick-and-mortar branches? Maybe Concierge Banking is the perfect answer: lease a new vehicle, hire a banker and you’ve got yourself a branch on wheels.
Branches aren’t dead yet, and probably won’t be anytime soon. For some consumers and some transactions, there isn’t any other (acceptable) substitute than meeting someone in person. Whether a consumer craves face-to-face contact or the transaction is complex and better handled in-person, there are simply going to be instances where bankers will have to meet with customers, and this will be the case for years to come. But that doesn’t mean the meeting has to occur in a $2 million building the financial institution owns. These meetings — that will probably happen with less and less frequency as technologies evolve — can occur anywhere.
Maybe someday in another decade or two, retail banks and credit unions aren’t building any branches, they just have video tellers, video banking services, and a fleet of vehicles. Perhaps that’s the “delivery channel mix of the future” for face-to-face banking interactions.
Treat This Thing Like The Big Deal It Really Is
It’s great that people can call a phone number to book an appointment. If Alamo FCU really wants to stress interpersonal interaction between staff and members, this might be the right way to go. But they could also consider adding an online form to the Concierge Banking page allowing site visitors to book (or at least request) an appointment.
Alamo FCU does a nice job calling attention to Concierge Banking on the homepage; it’s getting around 10% of the available premium real estate. But Alamo should probably tout the new service with a greater degree of fanfare. The idea of “banking services delivered to your doorstep” is such a radical idea, Alamo could justify including Concierge Banking as an option in their website’s main nav bar. Or they could slap an omnipresent ad throughout the site.
The page on Alamo FCU’s website listing locations and hours should definitely include some sort of prominent link to the Concierge Banking service: “If these options and times don’t work for you, try Concierge Banking. Click here.” You want to see a healthy “online conversion rate?” Probably 1 in 3 people hitting the “Locations & Hours” page would click through to the Concierge Banking page.
If Alamo FCU really wants to see its Concierge Banking service take off, they could give every member a slick little business card with little more than a logo, a phone number and the words “Call to Make Your Concierge Banking Appointment.”