The pandemic sharply increased the number of video banking interactions among financial institutions with the technology in place.
Before the outbreak, a handful of banks and credit unions were running a video banking platform. But after Covid-19 shuttered branches and choked off in-person visits, financial institutions around the world were desperate for digital alternatives to replace in-person interactions.
Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, says the massive shift from brick-and-mortar to digital banking channels will help spur more widespread adoption of video banking platforms.
“The way branches are used has changed dramatically in the last decade, that will continue to change in the next decade,” McBride notes. “Fewer and fewer transactions are taking place in the branch. Video makes it possible for the bank to go to the customer instead of requiring customers to travel to a branch.”
POPi/o, a leading provider of video banking technology, reported that its 120 retail banking customers were collectively generating around 30,000 video calls a month through its cloud-based application. They also added more than 50 new financial institutions since the pandemic hit, with implementation taking about 12 weeks.
Gene Pranger, POPi/o’s founder and CEO, says banking providers’ volume of video chats continues to grow and generate revenues for financial institutions. According to Pranger, general service calls among the firm’s video banking clients have dropped by 4%, while profitable interactions such as loans and new account openings grew by 5%. Four out of every five video interactions are related to new account openings or loans, he says. Consumers give video calls an average of 4.8 stars on a five-point scale, he adds.
“That tells me we are doing something right by providing the ability to have eye-to-eye visual contact with people in a way they are used to today with all the video conferencing going on in the marketplace,” says Pranger.
Video Banking Experiences at Three Financial Institutions
Unitus Community Credit Union, which covers the state of Washington and 15 counties in Oregon, had incorporated video banking in its 2019 strategic plan, with a goal of going live at the end of 2020 or in 2021. When the pandemic hit, the credit union accelerated to offer chat in June and video in August using an app from Glia.
On its web site, Unitus calls the online access Unitus’ Virtual Branch.
“The technology has to weave into the culture of the credit union,” said Char Sears, AVP for remote experience at Unitus. “We are presenting it as a branch experience — you get to see a specialist face to face. It is a warm experience, something members can touch.”
The approach seems to be working.
Video banking users have ranged in age from 12 (who got on with parents) to 94.
It took some training and adjustment for call center staff to transition to video from phones.
“When you add video you take in the body language and eye contact,” Sears explained.
Heather Bianchini, Digital Manager for Unitus believes many members will continue to use the remote tools like video banking even after Covid-19 subsides.
“We have seen members force themselves to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and realizing this isn’t so bad after all, and it saves time,” Bianchini said.
In early 2020, POPi/o had just installed a video system for Educators Credit Union in Racine, Wis. ($2.2 billion in assets), which planned to use it for mortgages, investment services, assisted car buying, and to support remote branches rather than have a person drive out for an appointment. But then Covid-19 forced the credit union to shut its branches. After the POPi/o team added a few lines of code to the credit union’s website and video platform, the platform became the go-to substitute for branches almost overnight.
The service was initially rolled out with a soft launch — available only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and with no promotion — while Educators felt its way through. At the time, only lending and investment staff had been trained on the software, so additional phone-based reps had to be brought up to speed. Members started using the video platform slowly at first, but call volume hit 950 sessions in August 2020, then surpassed 2,000 the next month.
InRoads Credit Union in St. Helens, Ore. ($310 million in assets), had a similar experience. Initial adoption of POP/io video banking was lukewarm until the pandemic shut all the credit union’s branches, said CEO Brooke Van Vleet. Then usage quadrupled. But it definitely helped that members were already familiar with video conferencing.
Ron Winter, Chief Experience Officer at InRoads, sees a big role for the tool in the credit union’s retail delivery and growth strategies. “I think video usage and adoption will continue to go up,” he said. “You can grow your footprint without adding bricks and mortar.”
How Video Fits with Other Digital Channels
Bankrate.com’s Greg McBride says video banking will eventually become commonplace, but will likely have limited and specific uses. Dedicating one employee’s time exclusively to one customer is more expensive than text chat or other digital interactions, so slapping a “Click for a Video Chat” on a financial institution’s home page isn’t a good idea.
For many service and support issues, it’s wise to have people work through other channels. Mobile banking questions, for instance, should be answered via chatbot, tech expert, or call center rep. However, some problems may be easier to resolve if two people can see each other and share screens.
Video Banking Tip:
Financial institutions want to encourage consumers to schedule video appointments with advisors to discuss high-value services (sales role) vs. quick responses to spontaneous questions (service role). There’s a big difference between ‘video tellers’ and true ‘video bankers’.
According to McBride, consumers who tend to prefer branches will have the greatest propensity to use video banking platforms, although users in digital- and self-service channels will also leverage video chat if/when they get stuck.
Using video chat to take the sting out of branch closures and extend the hours of the locations that remain will be increasingly important.
“This will become table stakes in the next few years,” McBride explains. “If it’s 7:30 at night and somebody wants to talk to an expert at their bank, they will demand that functionality by video.”
Bank and credit union employees might also demand video banking capabilities. Many of the more liberal work-from-home policies implemented during the pandemic will likely become permanent. If so, it’s hard to see how video banking doesn’t become a core tool used by customer-facing staff.
Rethinking the Contact Center’s Role
Daniel Michaeli, the co-founder and CEO of Glia, also expects video will play a prominent role in banking because it is more cost-effective to connect with video than it is to have someone full-time in a branch, and more convenient than asking consumers drive to a branch.
Michaeli doesn’t think video should be treated as a separate channel. He says it should be part of more holistic approach that provides consumers with a singular point of entry where they can reach the right person through any communications method.
“That requires a fundamental change to a more centralized version of supporting customers where the contact center has evolved beyond telephony and focuses on all those communication opportunities,” Michaeli explains. “Separating the video banking team is the wrong approach. You need a unified system that feels seamless to customers.”
“It’s fundamental to have a cohesive experience,” Michaeli continues. “It’s important to not isolate video banking.”
PSCEU in Harrisburg, PA ($7 billion in assets) used Glia to create Walter, a personable chatbot whose attire changes with the seasons. Working with call center staff, Walter learned to handle 120 of the most common questions and now services a growing number of callers without human assistance. When the issue does require a response from a service rep, Walter’s initial intervention can save agents up to five or six minutes that they would have had to spend with each person.
Luis Landivar, VP of Digital Architects at the banking technology company Temenos, says that prior to the pandemic, video chat was more of a ‘nice-to-have’, as most people preferred texting. “You could just send a message and take care of something else while you wait for a response,” he explains.
But during the Covid-19 crisis, video became the default mode of communication for those institutions that had it. Now, however, as we come out of the pandemic, banks and credit unions will have to ask when video makes sense and when people should be directed to some other option that doesn’t tie up bankers.
Landivar says financial institutions will have to scrutinize video a little more closely — from hard costs to digital storage considerations for compliance.
Before adopting video, Landivar recommends financial institutions ask smart questions:
- Do you value the personalization of one-to-one video calls over the efficiency of having five to six chat conversations going at once?
- Is the experience as intuitive and simple as Apple’s FaceTime?
- Do you want to take on the storage requirements for an auditable trail of video versus text conversations?
Despite his cautionary tone, Landivar thinks video will have appeal with younger Millennials and Gen Z, who are digital natives accustomed to video interactions. But Greg McBride at Bankrate.com, isn’t quite convinced. McBride believes Millennials and Gen Z prefer digital communications without having to interact with human beings.
The American Bankers Association says 68% of Millennials manage their banking entirely online, while a Zoom whitepaper says they prefer digital transactions 2–3X over in-person transactions. Other surveys, however, have found Millennials have a preference for video — a reminder that there’s a survey to support almost every fintech opinion.
In the not-so-distant future, video is likely to play a role in consumers lives, regardless of their generational cohort — part of an omni-channel journey. A consumer might initiate contact with an institution using online chat. From there it could move seamlessly to voice or to video. Or for something like a new loan application, video could be the first choice because it allows for more the kind of fluid Q&A that AI-powered systems don’t handle very well.
Down the road, institutions may start initiating their own video chats, if they spot a likely person in a digital channel. They could prompt a video chat to promote checking accounts, debit/credit cards, a personal line of credit, or perhaps investments.