Is Your Bank Ready for the Future?

In 1999, former Intel CEO Andy Grove published a book titled Only The Paranoid Survive. If his assertion is true, then banks and credit unions really are destined to become extinct, because there isn't much paranoia among banking executives these days.

Subscribe TodayEach year, Cornerstone Advisors publishes a What’s Going On in Banking? report based on a survey that asks bank and credit union senior execs what their outlooks, priorities, and concerns are for the coming year. This year, Cornerstone asked a new question: How future-ready are the functions in your organization?

Execs were asked to rate the future-readiness of eight business functions on a five-point scale:

  1. Not at all future-ready
  2. Not future-ready and falling behind
  3. Not future-ready but making progress
  4. Somewhat future-ready
  5. Very future-ready

More than half of respondents rated two functions “somewhat” or “very future-ready”:

  • Digital Banking — 57% believe that their digital banking capabilities are somewhat or very future-ready, while just 8% think their digital banking capabilities are not at all future-ready or are falling behind.
  • IT — 51% of execs say their IT capabilities are somewhat or very future-ready, with 9% admitting that IT is not at all future-ready, or is falling behind.

Not too far behind was marketing, with 45% of respondents rating the function somewhat or very future-ready. Roughly four in ten execs said three functions — payments, branch delivery, and fraud/risk management — were future-ready.

At the bottom of the rankings were the contact center and analytics. Just three in 10 execs rated their contact center future-ready, and just 23% said their analytics capabilities were future-ready. And compared to the other functions, a significantly higher percentage of execs said these two functions were not-at-all future-ready or falling behind.

Misalignment in the Executive Suite?

Interestingly, there were some significant differences in perspective between the CEO respondents and the COOs, CFOs, CIOs, and CMOs who responded to the survey. The CEOs’ future-readiness ratings were higher than the other execs’ ratings for six of the eight functions. The biggest differences were reflected in their views of the marketing, branch delivery and digital banking functions.

Delusions of Future-Readiness

I don’t know if this data aligns with your expectations, but this is most certainly not what I expect to hear from bank and credit union execs. Not only do my own conversations with bank and credit union execs paint a different story, but their generally conservative nature suggests a more cautious perspective on the future-readiness of their business functions.

Here’s why I’m having a big problem with these perspectives:

1) Digital banking functionality is nowhere near maturity. You think you know what new features, functionality, and capabilities will be developed and needed in the next 10 years? You’re ready for chatbots, APIs, and the Internet of Things? No way. And because many community banks and credit unions are so dependent on core and/or digital banking vendors, they can only be as future-ready as their vendors are. Next year I’ll ask CEOs how future-ready they think their vendors are.

2) Payments aren’t even present-ready. The changes that will be brought about by the future adoption of mobile payments are hard to foresee. Furthermore, a majority of community-based FIs aren’t up to snuff on their current payments capabilities: Few do a good job analyzing the payments-related data they have access to, nor they do a good job of driving adoption and utilization of their payment products.

3) Marketing and analytics capabilities go hand in hand. It boggles my mind that 55% of CEOs think their marketing departments are anywhere close to being future-ready. To be future-ready from a marketing perspective, you need strong analytics capabilities. So if 77% of execs think their analytics capabilities aren’t future-ready, then by definition their marketing capabilities can’t be future-ready.

4) Execs’ heads may be in the clouds — but their IT capabilities aren’t. There is a growing consensus that the future of IT is in the cloud. Yet, an August 2016 American Banker article indicated that regulatory concerns were slowing cloud adoption. A Q4 2014 survey found that less than half of banks were doing application deployment or testing in the cloud. My bet is that the respondent base in that survey was skewed towards larger banks. If large banks aren’t there yet, it’s hard for me to believe that community banks and credit unions are anywhere close to being “future-ready” when it comes to the cloud.

Addressing Your Future-Readiness

Try this before your next executive team meeting: Have someone in your organization create an online survey, and ask the exec team to rate the future-readiness of the eight functions listed above (or add more of your own) using the 5-point scale listed (or use your own — I’m just trying to make life easy for you). Then, at the exec team meeting, present the (anonymous) results to see how aligned the team is in its thinking about future-readiness. One of three results will occur:

1. You’re all aligned in thinking your institution is ready for the future. If this is the case, fire up the bong, light that spliff, and continue to smoke the wacky stuff. Let me know if you want me to facilitate the meeting.

2. You’re all aligned in thinking your institution isn’t ready for the future. If this is the case, you have two options: Improve your strategic planning process, or collectively get your resumes updated.

3. There are differences in opinion regarding your future-readiness. Discuss… and brace yourself for a fascinating debate.

For the complete copy of the Cornerstone Advisors report What’s Going On in Banking 2017, click here.

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