With an economic downturn taking shape on the horizon, financial institutions must look inward to maintain margins and the health of their banks. In doing so, they will be able to serve customers better.
Astute executives I meet with realize the intrinsic value of “controlling what they can control.”
Banks can help customers optimize their cash and working capital. But to be able to serve customers with the best services at the most competitive prices, banks must first focus on the efficiency of their own organizations.
Invest in RPA, ITM Automation
Prudent investments in high-return technology can offer immediate benefits to bank efficiency. One such high-impact technology is robotic process automation, or RPA. RPA has evolved from a futuristic discussion at trade shows to a robust, enabling technology that can lower operating expenses raise productivity and reduce errors.
Automating labor-intensive processes enables banks to save time, leverage scarce resources and focus on creating unique customer experiences, while eliminating redundant work and tedious tasks. Getting started in RPA has become easier. A technical partner should offer pre-bots that are pre-designed, pre-built and developed from common industry-driven use cases. Pre-bots offer financial institutions an immediate, low-risk entry into RPA. These ready-to-run bots can offer a bridgehead and potential early success into RPA, along with providing an easier avenue toward more comprehensive automation.
Another high- and immediate-impact technology progressive banks are taking advantage of is integrated teller machines, or ITMs. ITMs provide an in-branch banking experience without customers ever having to leave their car. Consumers can interact with tellers via live video to make deposits, cash checks, make loan and credit card payments, withdraw funds and transfer funds. Exact change is available for check cashing.
Video teller technology gives customers the ability to interact with a live video teller from a centralized location, extending the reach of a bank’s most capable client-facing staff. This can help banks efficiently expand into new, alternative markets.
Determine, Execute Your Strategy
Highly efficient banks identify their strategy and then execute the supporting tactics with a single-minded purpose. Smart bankers don’t try to be all things to all customers; instead, their focus is on one or two overriding objectives, such as becoming a low-cost provider, an exceptional service organization or a leader in innovation. While these goals are not mutually exclusive, in practice, few banks can progress them all in parallel.
The best bank leaders, choose their primary objectives wisely, then seek outside expertise in areas that help them accelerate strategic objectives and plans. They actively network with peers in industry events and conferences, they learn from best-in-class partners and they seek the advice of experienced banking experts. They never stop the learning process and apply a wide range of experiences to their own plans.
Continuously Improve Business Processes
Well defined, repeatable business processes provide the foundation for how work gets done within a financial institution. This allows for tasks, technology and tools supporting a process to be redefined or implement an entirely new process based on automation.
Business process improvement (BPI) actions, undertaken by subject matter experts, deliver the insight required to execute more efficiently, create value for customers or enhance revenue for the institution — or provide all three. Tactics for growing bonds that crossover business lines with BPI include:
• Establish cross-functional teams to participate in collaborative facilitated sessions to identify and help institute process changes.
• Have leaders “walk- he walk” by inviting peers from other business units to participate regularly in staff meetings.
• Distribute regular internal communications as widely as possible within an organization.
• Create centers of excellence for sharing and knowledge transfer.
• Reward collaborative efforts that produce tangible results.
BPI helps financial institutions uncover opportunities to eliminate non-value manual tasks while digitizing and removing paper from manual processes.
Align Skills With Strategy, Needs
The culture and people of today’s banks are critical in executing an organization’s strategy and tactics. As automation replaces mundane tasks, bankers must become universal relationship managers and problem solvers. Continuous training, like continuous process improvement, is the norm for well-functioning financial institutions.
Technology partners with robust training methodologies — which are also familiar with the newest business processes — can help bank personnel ensure they’re using procedures, workflows and technology that best meet their clients’ needs with the greatest efficiency.
Even in uncertain economic times, savvy bankers who invest in automation, determine and execute a well-defined strategy, continuously improve their business processes and ensure their staff have the correct skills will develop the framework that characterizes high-efficiency financial institutions. Those efficiencies will, in turn, empower banks to serve customers better and at lower cost.