Chris Cox, the head of Regions Bank eBusiness unit, was quoted in Bank Technology News on how personal financial management (PFM) tools will soon be part of a customer's everyday interaction with their bank once they login. I believe him.
But will they do it through your financial institution? In a separate article, Jim Marous of The Financial Brand, opined that Mint, a PFM tool that "screen scrapes" financial information from various financial institutions and aggregates it into their tool, is a serious threat to banks, thrifts and credit unions. I believe him, too.
PFM tools have been dogged by low adoption rates. Woe to the retail banker or IT manager in convincing the CEO that PFM is a must-have . If it was so critical, why are so few people using it? I doubt this will surprise you, but I have my opinions.
First, the likely adopters of bank technology tools are probably younger customers. I'm 49 years old and I have not demanded that my bank have a PFM tool because I don't think I would invest the time to learn and use it. In fact, I don't know if my bank has a PFM tool. My daughter is more likely to want and use such a tool. And guess what? She doesn't have any money... yet.
Bank profits are driven from balances, and expenses are driven by number of accounts and gizmos attached to those accounts. So effectively implementing a technology gizmo that is targeted to younger customers that currently generate little revenues does not make for a solid business case.
Secondly, I believe that PFM and other customer-facing technology tools have low adoption rates by your employees. Don't believe me? Why don't you poll them. Let me know how it turns out.
People sell what they know. When I was a branch banker, I sold the heck out of home equity loans and retail checking accounts. Why? I knew them much better than business checking or a commercial line of credit. So my branch had a lot of retail deposits and loans. It was what I knew and was most comfortable.
I read an industry article, and I apologize that I can't recall where I read it or I would link to it (although I suspect it was a Jim Marous piece again), that a bank required their employees to open accounts using the same online account opening tool that customers would use if they did it themselves in their pajamas. The employees didn't have to wear pajamas, but you get my point.
It forced the employees to know the tool that was available to customers. And why wouldn't you do it this way? You invest the money in developing or purchasing an intuitive online account opening tool and then saddle your employees with opening accounts using a clunky core processor user interface (UI) or tool? Why do we need both?
And if choosing, you should choose the one available to customers so your employees are subject matter experts on it. Imagine a customer calling the nearby branch for help using an online tool and the branch employee guides them through it, instead of transferring them to your call center or eBanking unit.
Don't stop at account opening. Transfer the logic to other customer tools, such as PFM. First, get your employees on it and using it via their own personal accounts. Only by repetition will they achieve the subject matter expertise to enroll their clients into it, train them on how to use it, and answer "how-to" questions about it.
And don't stop at retail banking tools. Many if not most community banks are focused on the business segment, and there are plenty of available tools to help harried business owners make their financial lives simpler. Since employees are typically not business owners, this will take a little more diligence in giving them the needed training and repetition to be fluent in the available tools. Perhaps you can set up a "test account" at a "test bank" and require employees to use the tool a certain number of times prior to crowning them "cash flow management" qualified.
Mint, Yodlee, Moven, and other technology platforms are working hard to win the loyalty of your customers via their "cool" platforms. Many, such as Geezeo, focus on helping community financial institutions offer cool tech solutions and yet retain customer loyalty through the FIs own brand. To win the loyalty of those that demand such technologies now, and when they have the wealth to drive profits, financial institutions must develop front line staff to be fluent in what is available. Only then will they enthusiastically demonstrate the technology (go into an Apple store and have a "genius" demonstrate the Apple Watch and you'll know what I mean), describe features and benefits and their own experience with the tool, get customer adoption rates higher, and build greater loyalty to your brand.
Or you could let Mint do it.