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Community Banking in 2017 – What Will Stay the Same?

As people in the banking industry prepare for the fast approaching changes that will occur throughout this upcoming 2017 year, it is also important to do the opposite and examine what will stay the same in the financial industry.  In other words, there is something to be gained in exploring what will not change.  More than just the saying, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” we can resist the urge to improve or change everything and stick to what does work and use that information to preserve the very root of the community bank model; which is centered on people and relationships, and built on the foundation of trust and the reliance on that trust of the communities you support.  The following are a list of items that should be considered to remain constant within your organizations.

  1. Community Banks Will Still Serve Communities.

In Ohio, there are some community banks that are located in proximity to urban hubs, but many of you in the CBAO organization are located in smaller or ever rural communities.  While there is a tendency to be a shift to virtual or digital banking options in the more urban areas, there is still the need for one-on-one personalized service in community banks, especially in the smaller or more rural communities.  So based on geography alone, customers should be marketed to and served differently to accommodate their needs.

Author's Own Project Photos - Richwood Bank. Photography by Bella Photographics.

Author’s Own Project Photos – Richwood Bank. Photography by Bella Photographics.

Have you ever considered upgrading your facility to make it a compliment to your community?  When considering a redesign of or refresh of your branch(es), think about how the branch can still be the heart of the community and how to communicate that through design.  For smaller, rural areas or ones with older customers, the concept of making your branch a destination or a place where customers and the community as a whole are welcome can work as it offers a new place for social interaction.  Normally a smaller branch may have fewer customers so forming strong relationships and emphasizing the relationships with key customers is important.  Changing the environment can enhance the experience and solidify the branch’s place within the community.

  1. The Design of the Branch Will Still Focus on the Community Experience.  

Take advantage of your loyalty and commitment to the communities that you serve by making connections to it through your environmental graphics and the personalized messages that you present within your facilities, or on the digital message center affiliated with your exterior signage.  It is this grass roots approach of establishing an emotional connection between your customers, your staff, and the community that will define and sustain the community banking industry. When considering this approach for your branch, think about more than just incorporating graphics of local landmarks and sports teams but really conveying the elements that make your community unique throughout the space via graphics and nods to the area’s rich heritage through design and décor features.

Author's Own Project Photos - First National Bank of Durango. Photography by Bella Photographics.

Author’s Own Project Photos – First National Bank of Durango. Photography by Bella Photographics.

  1. Branch Transformation is a Process and Should Focus on People, Technology & Your Unique Market.

The branch transformation techniques that work in one market area or community may not be the right answer for all your facilities.  You need to know the demographic make-up of your individual branches.  Although technology will be integrated more into some of the branches of the future, it will be increasingly important not to lose sight of the human element.  People still want to have access to real people, and a trained staff needs to be accessible.  The concept of greeters and Universal Bankers or Universal Associates have been introduced and are here to stay, who are well versed in all the services you offer, but are also very skilled in terms of communication and sales.  Make sure your team is properly trained and on board with the transformation – put the right people and the right technology in the right places to provide the ultimate customer service for the unique needs of your customer, while allowing them to choose their preferred service delivery option.

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Author’s Own Project Photos – Branch Transformation. Photography by Bella Photographics.

  1. Bank Branch Activities are Shifting from Transactions to Interactions.

It is old news that transactions are on the decline at traditional branches, and banks need to be designed and marketed in ways that take into consideration the transformation from transactional based to advisory based training and sales centers.  The branch must take advantage of every possible client touch point, not to mention providing a better ROI for the bank by maximizing staffing and operational efficiencies.   In addition to studying the customer behavior, branch usage, and transaction data of the individual branch; the design needs to attract customers into the facilities to initiate that original customer relationship but also to market and sell the other products and services your organizations provide.  These may be the same services your larger competitors provide, but it is important that your team does so on a more personalized level and with the focus on the local connections.

Author's Own Project Photos - Forcht Bank. Photography by Bella Photographics.

Author’s Own Project Photos – Forcht Bank. Photography by Bella Photographics.

  1. The Aligning of Digital and Non-Digital Delivery Strategies Is of Utmost Importance.

In aligning digital and non-digital product and service delivery, the branch design must focus around making technology and trademark personal service work together to create the ultimate customer experience.  It is important that the integration of new technology be considered such as smart ATM’s or Interactive Teller Machines and digital technology, but this approach may only work within specific demographic market segments.  Technology should not eliminate personal service, but only compliment it.  Digital message centers, touch screen technology, and cross channel integration should be considered and integrated to provide a seamless and omni-channel customer experience, but do so in a way that includes a collaboration between the digital and branch channels.  Think technology complimenting personal service opportunities, such as mobile check in at the branch to avoid lines, tech bars that can handle transactions or other customer needs while waiting for personal service, and more. 

Author's Own Project Photos - ITM Technology. Photography by Bella Photographics.

Author’s Own Project Photos – ITM Technology. Photography by Bella Photographics.

In today’s ever changing and technologically advanced society it is extremely important that community banks make that commitment and strong connection to their communities and never loose site of the history that got them there!  The future of community banking is essentially tied to three things that will remain unchanged in 2017 and beyond:  relationships, trust, and commitment to the communities they serve.