The future of banking: Three solutions to keep up with changing technology

By Steve Allen | 15 March 2018

Remember the days when you would physically go to the store when you needed to buy something? We’ve come a long way since then. Nowadays, more and more people are buying online. Whether it’s through a web browser, a retail app, or a device like Amazon’s Alexa that’s programmed to order all of their favorite things for them, consumers have grown to expect an easy, digital experience.

This trend goes beyond retail shopping. Just as retail apps and ecommerce sites are replacing our grocery store and shopping mall experiences, banking apps and websites are taking the place of in-person banking. Want to deposit a check? Use your bank’s app. Need cash? Go to the ATM. When was the last time most people stepped into a bank? It was probably back when they first opened their account.

You may be wondering exactly how many people are using mobile banking these days. According to the stats, it’s more than half of all smart phone users, and an even greater number of Millennials. In fact, a 2016 study found that 53% of smart phone users were participating in mobile banking, and this number has continued to grow. Naturally, the stats are even higher when you look at the tech-savvy Millennial generation. The Federal Reserve reported in 2016 that 67% of Millennials were using mobile banking.

What does this all add up to? It simply means that the banking experience is changing, and that banks and credit unions must keep up with consumers’ expectations if they’re going to keep them coming back for more. Technology isn’t going away, so you’ve got to adapt to survive. Here are three ways that banks can keep up with changing technology while, at the same time, keeping their patrons satisfied:

Customer self-service portals

As Tina Wadhwa puts it: “The days of traveling to your bank, waiting in line, and sitting down with a financial advisor to discuss your financial future are already a thing of the past for many. But experts think that, for most of us, the bank of the future will be entirely virtual.”

Clients expect basic banking functionality from their banking apps, but banking tools can go beyond basic functionality like balance checks, electronic bill pay, and transfers. Electronic forms can be hosted on customer portals, allowing users to submit their inquiries and requests.

Need access to new member information? Find it on the self-service portal. Want to submit a credit card application? Visit the self-service portal. Have a question about what happens to your account when you spend money outside of your home country? Submit your question through the self-service portal.

When an electronic form is submitted, it can kick off a custom workflow that will take care of any tasks that can be automated. From there, the prepared work will be routed to the appropriate bank employee to be completed and then sent to the next step in the process.

Don’t get us wrong – it’s not that bankers can’t service these kinds of needs face-to-face. The fact is that, in our current culture, most bank customers would prefer to be self-educated and independent, and they’d consider the ability to take care of their banking needs online to be a benefit.

Automatic data entry and filing

Sure, self-service portals and mobile banking are fantastic benefits for bank patrons, but what about the people who are working behind the scenes? What about the banking professionals that are tucked away in their offices, day after day, hidden from the public eye? For them, there are different technological developments to take advantage of, like automated filing and data synchronization.

First, let’s talk about what automatic filing can do for you. When any document is submitted, received, or generated – whether it’s a loan application, a credit report, or a bank statement – it can be automatically filed away in a document management system. How? Through the use of OCR (Optical Character Recognition), the document management system can read the important information on the document, and file it in the appropriate place.

Once they’re organized in a secure, online repository, these electronic documents can be found quickly through a search for any of the values that are read by the OCR software. These values are called indexes, and they might include account numbers, customer names, dates, document types, and other pertinent information.

At first glance, it may not seem like automated filing would directly affect customer service, but it definitely has an indirect effect. In the long run, banking automation can save you money, time, and effort, which in turn will allow your organization to provide better, faster service to your patrons, while also making it possible for you to grow your customer base without having to add to your staff.

Sounds pretty good, right? And there’s another big thing that document management can do – it can make audits easier to manage. Here’s an example: When AgFirst, an organization that provides funding and financial services to farmer-owned financial cooperatives, invested in a document management and workflow automation platform, they found that the biggest benefit was how easy it was to make their systems available to external auditors. Mark Huff of AgFirst explains: “If we didn’t have this system currently, we would be paying a lot more for our external auditors to come in and review our loan files.”

Data sync across your systems

The second back-office technology that can benefit your organization is data synchronization. Let’s face it – humans make mistakes. It happens! If you could do something to minimize these mistakes, would you do it? With banking automation, your systems are all connected to each other. That means you can push and pull data between your systems, ensuring that all of your databases are in sync.

Why does it matter that your data’s in sync? Look at it this way: When your data entry is automated and then synced across all of your systems, you can eliminate 1) duplicate data entry tasks and 2) costly human error.

Data is entered once, automatically through OCR, and then it’s synchronized across your systems, ensuring that all of your information is correct and up-to-date, and bank errors are a thing of the past. Your organization runs smoothly, and this naturally extends to an increase in the quality of customer service your patrons are receiving.

This is only the beginning. Like all other growing industries, the future of banking is built on a foundation of constantly-evolving technology. Business leaders that stay informed and make investments in the right technology will be the ones that succeed and stand out from the competition.

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