Why Every Retail Financial Institution Needs a Digital Champion Now

Is anyone spearheading your organization's digital strategy? Here's what banks and credit unions should be looking for when creating this new role.

What differentiates one financial institution from another when core providers and compliance requirements make bank technology essentially flat across the banking industry? How can a bank or credit union position itself as a revolutionary “virtual institution” delivering the best digital experience when tech solutions are provided by third-party services that are available to all of them?

Technology alone isn’t the answer.

Obviously advanced technology and IT resources are critical to any institution’s success, but the value of any tool rests with the wielder. You need the right workforce in place for your IT initiatives to really pay off, particularly if you’re serious about a digital-first strategy.

Enter the newest member in your executive suite: the head of your virtual banking experience. Your digital champion.

What Makes Your Digital Champion a True Rockstar?

They are extremely tech savvy and independent. They don’t rely on other departments or vendors to come up with new improvements or updates to their service offerings. Instead they have a relentless sense of curiosity and a commitment to solving problems. They are constantly researching, planning and helping implement new solutions. They possess enough marketing knowledge that their title could be easily swapped out for “Chief Marketing Technologist,” but they simultaneously have so much experience with backend technology that they fit in seamlessly with IT folks. They are well-rounded and approachable — skills vital for interdepartmental communication — and have a keen eye for details, processes, efficiencies and reporting.

What Makes Digital Champions Tick?

Your digital champion need to understand today’s virtual consumer better than anyone else inside your organization, because they know aspect of the customer experience is critical to maximizing conversions and retention. That’s why they should be your consumer advocate behind the scenes. They should always be looking for new ways to remove barriers for consumers, willing to sacrifice backend features and functionality for frontend ease and convenience. Their decisions are based on hard facts, true competitive analysis, and a little gut instinct. Most importantly, they need to be empowered to make these decisions.

How Do Digital Champions Think About Marketing?

Your digital champion won’t look at marketing as just a way to get the message out there. They will look at marketing as a tool for building relationships. No project is ever fully complete, as they are always finding new ways to improve upon the services offered on behalf of every business line — virtually. Because they think like a consumer, they will continue to ask for new ways to make the experience better for all parties.

How Does a Digital Champion Communicate Their Role?

Their work must be understood and appreciated by the broader executive team, and in many cases, the board of directors. There are few instances where a financial institution will find success with its digital banking strategy when the culture of the organization does not understand the overall direction nor accept the necessary technological advances needed to pull it off. That’s why you need a digital champion who has enough experience interacting with C-level execs and directors to be comfortable communicating their strategy, objectives and outcomes. They need to be cool under pressure, because they will be taking heat from many different directions.

Where Do You Find Your Digital Champion?

Finding them is relatively easy, but getting them to ditch their current job to come work at a bank or credit union will be significantly more difficult. These motivated, hard-working, tech-savvy leaders are looking to work for organizations where the potential for growth — both personal and corporate growth — is high. The right candidate will be a technological enthusiast who wants the challenge of transforming a traditional institution. They thrive on such challenges, and need to be rewarded equally. They know that a series of small victories can lead to a big payoff, both for the organization and themselves.

While some guidance and goal-setting will be necessary, these executives take responsibility for their own growth, and believe that the only way they will advance their careers will be through self-motivation. Which is why the best digital champions will always be asking themselves this question: “Is there a better way to do this?

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