Finding opportunity in uncertainty: Areas banks should invest in during and after COVID-19

Finding opportunity in uncertainty: Areas banks should invest in during and after COVID-19

In the age of disrupted portfolios, accelerated digital consumption, and operational models turned on their heads, financial institutions must face this dynamic economic landscape head-on to stay profitable. In between deep cleaning and surging customer calls, key components of your business from brand reputation to profitability are left vulnerable, which makes action during this interim even more pivotal. Taking your institution’s positioning, infrastructure, and customer profiles into account, we’ll examine key topics and tactics to maximize resources for now and into the future.

Brand Management

Community banks have always evangelized social responsibility, and now is the prime time to demonstrate that value by being a trusting, comforting source. In doing so, you differentiate and elevate your brand in the minds of your customers. Many banks have started adding dedicated COVID-19 sections to their website along with resources such as information regarding unemployment relief and the stimulus coming out of the CARES act.

Banks across the country have implemented the following measures:

  • Waiving overdraft fees and overdraft charges
  • Suspending foreclosures and involuntary auto repossessions
  • Deferring principal and interest payments
  • Increasing lines of credit or offering interest-free lines of credit
  • Offering emergency loans and relief assistance on consumer and business loans
  • Donating to schools, food banks, and community organizations from a local to global scale

While megabanks like Wells Fargo and Citi have more bandwidth to donate to community-based organizations and partner with national nonprofits for relief efforts, that doesn’t mean your branch can’t be a local hero. If your organization is supporting any charitable causes in your neighborhood, then you should certainly make that known on your website and social channels.

Your concern should pour through in your messaging. It can be as simple as highlighting in your website copy that customers who are facing financial hardships can call their local branch. Adding an FAQ portion about your changing operations can also be low-hanging fruit to keep people in the loop and cement trust.

Employee Retention

With this stressful period taking a toll on your consumers and employees alike, it’s paramount to focus internally with an eye on everyone’s well being and morale.

Foremost, you have to keep employees engaged. Whether you’re running lean or wondering how to allocate your employees among shifting demands in products and branch volume, cross-training is a time-worn solution to boosting employee engagement.

There are a few ways to go about implementation. One way is investing in employee training for digital products. Mortgage refinancing has surged in demand, so this is an example of a key product that you can allocate employees toward who might be accustomed to consulting on currently low-performing products.

Taking care of your employees also adds proof to your claims of social responsibility, as how can customers feel like they are in good hands with you if you have employees who aren’t equipped for success during this public health crisis? While it can be harder to pivot to remote work if you haven’t historically been a digitally-focused bank, you won’t be able to gloss over front-line employees distressed over their health or lack accommodating protocols, such as flexible scheduling, or remote employees suddenly burdened by technical difficulties and childcare obligations.

Whether you can assist your employees through remote support, revise your company insurance policy to lower copays, or help displaced employees instill their sense of value to your business through reskilling, these internal investments will pay dividends in employee retention and productivity.

Operations Optimization Via Digital Solutions

Even though keeping an eye on the day-to-day operational changes is paramount, this is the ideal, and necessary, time to address core operational difficulties. For example, with calls ramping up it’s become more apparent what routing pathways and customer service responses are least efficient.

While a portion of your customers might want to just stick to the traditional model as much as possible by visiting ATMs and striving for print payments, your digital-only population is going to be looking to you for answers, and your response will impact brand affinity, and therein retention, long-term.

There are multiple methods for implementation, such as investing in employee training or offering learning opportunities on your website. This could be as simple as using a screen capture that shows customers exactly how to navigate to the right tabs for their critical needs, such as checking their accounts, paying bills, and transferring funds.

Large institutions are at an advantage during this interim because they have reams of customer data and behavioral insights to fine-tune their products, but any start is better than inertia. While it’s perfectly reasonable to be vigilant when evaluating IT partnerships, especially with the additional hurdles of rigorous compliance standards, sticking to legacy systems out of habit isn’t going to serve your customers or your bottom line going forward.

Final Thoughts

Tending to your brand equity, employee wellness, and infrastructure on top of ongoing challenges is no easy feat. However, implementing a strategic and flexible plan to account for shifting habits and operations will not only help you grow out of this economic downturn—it will help you grow forward.