By Ron Daly, President/CEO
Virtual StrongBox, Inc.

It’s a sad fact, but the financial industry has a history of being slow to adapt to new technology. While many banks have spruced up their branches with customer Wi-Fi bars and touch-screen banking stations, most still use legacy core systems. But beyond the cost, core vendors, themselves, haven’t been very responsive to changing demands, so financial institutions mostly follow a “chewing-gum-and-bailing-wire” approach – tacking digital apps onto existing systems designed for physical branches.

Who’s in charge now?

The add-on approach may have worked when banks’ only competition was each other, and it was hard for customers to switch accounts. But that’s changed. Like phones, music, publishing and other industries before ours, banking’s turn to be disrupted has come. Only now it’s the customer who’s doing the disrupting. And they want it all: seamless integration of all bank channels they use, from the branch and call center to mobile, online and ATMs.

Consumers today expect every service they use (including banking) to have open communication channels, with push-button access to the provider, according to research by technology futurist and author of Flash Foresight and Technotrends, Daniel Burrus. “There is a realization that we need to speed up the processing time of mobile payments, loans and money transfers to drag the cautious [financial] industry into the 21st century,” he said. “[Banks] need to wake up and see the new game-changing opportunities or face losing their customers to rivals that have a better way to identify their customers’ unmet present and future needs.”

Further, given consumers’ demand and traditional core vendors’ slowness to act, analysis by Gartner shows that within the next three years, financial institutions will likely look for help from new technology players. “Startups and emerging providers of digital banking platforms offer banks interesting opportunities for innovation,” said Gartner research director Stessa Cohen in a May report.

Is your bank stuck?

Bank executives often say their current processes must work fine because they don’t get many complaints. Sadly, an attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t address customers who are quietly walking away. Oh, they may still have transaction accounts, but are they engaged? Accenture’s 2015 North American Consumer Digital Banking Survey revealed that 76% of customers consider their banking relationship to only transactional – an increase of 8% over 2014. Accenture cautions that banks’ customer base could steadily erode if they can’t deliver the service those customers demand.

Consider how your bank stacks up in meeting customers’ expectations:

  1. Can customers get a loan via digital or online channels without visiting the branch? This includes exchanging loan papers, pay stubs and other relevant papers, as well as e-signing documents.
  2. Can all steps of the mortgage-granting process be completed digitally or online, including electronically sending customers their “know before you owe” Closing Disclosure?
  3. Recognizing snail mail, email and faxing lack adequate security, are you able to assure your customers that the bank can fully safeguard all electronic documents that include personally identifiable information?

Your customers want your bank’s digital and online apps to be as intuitive and user-friendly as Amazon and Uber; but they also want to know their personal information is secure. How can you get out of the legacy quicksand with apps that customers think are subpar?

Cloud technology meets high-level security

Your bank can meet customers’ expectations by moving to the cloud … safely. Many banks fear the cloud because of security concerns – valid concerns. Most online documents are acted on and stored in the public cloud, with little security and people’s information commingled. That would be especially alarming if your members’ personally identifiable information was hacked.

Virtual StrongBox, Inc.’s Application Program Interfaces (API) provides a connection between existing systems and customer convenience. It makes it easy to develop features that solve issues with legacy technology, streamline workflows, safeguard customers’ sensitive information and cut costs while giving your customers the kind of effective, easy-to-use services they have come to expect.

Lay out what you want your apps to do, if you could have what you really want. Start with your customers and their digital devices and make sure that the new design works for them. Many software providers offer API connections to connect other types of new technology to legacy systems, allowing banks to delight their customers – a really satisfying experience.