BankTEL Systems received the Hall of Fame Award at the 2018 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Exporting.
COLUMBUS, MISS. (PRWEB) DECEMBER 18, 2018
BankTEL Systems was among the honorees at the 2018 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Exporting, in recognition of its success in increasing export sales of accounting software for financial institutions.
BankTEL is the developer of ASCEND, a cloud-based software solution used by banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and other financial institutions worldwide. BankTEL serves over a quarter of the domestic market, making it the top FI accounting software provider in the US. Since 2009, it has had a growing overseas presence, and now includes institutions all across the globe.
“I’m proud of serving the American community and regional banks that support small business owners and are the literal economic engines of their towns. I’m also truly excited about how successful we’ve been in growing our presence in financial markets beyond the US,” said Boyce Adams, Jr., President and CEO of BankTEL. “Mississippi supports entrepreneurship and industry, and it has always been a privilege for BankTEL to call Mississippi home. I consider it a big honor for our success to be recognized and celebrated by our state’s leader.”
As more bank customers want digital apps that allow them to complete transactions from their mobile devices, banks should equally emphasize their personal touch and human factor. Financial institutions employing the most uptodate technology can improve the efficiency of their operations. However, also stressing the human factor is more important than ever.
Outstanding customer service, at the root of the depositor/borrower demands for high tech ability, is still driven by human interaction. Superior customer service is the primary reason for these demands. However, people still want to deal with people, particularly when it involves their savings and loan accounts..
The Impact of the Human Factor in the Digital Universe
New digital technology is amazing. The ability to perform almost all banking transactions from PCs, tablets and smart phones is overtaking the bank world. However, the advantage appears to be with those banks remembering that the personal touch differentiates them from their competition.
Those financial institutions that heavily use the human factor in combination with offering the most cutting edge digital apps, stand above the crowded bank landscape. Engaged bank customers care about their institution and its employees. This can make a significant difference in the bank they choose as their primary financial institution (PFI).
Emphasizing digital features, along with the human factor, impacts banks in at least two important ways.
- It satisfies the overwhelming customer demand for the latest in technology
- It emphasizes the bank’s ‘customer first’ focus.
Since banks in the U.S. and Western Europe are heavily regulated, it becomes challenging to differentiate one from another. Unlike other consumer retailers, banks cannot offer incredible discounts in deposit or loan services. Yet, they must find ways to distinguish themselves from their competition to be successful.
This situation presents numerous difficult challenges to banks. The solution: Banks should offer the latest high tech digital abilities, with strong back up from their human professionals. Bank customers who have built lasting relationships with bank personnel (at all levels) typically are loyal to their institution, as long as it offers the high tech features customers want.
According to PA Consulting, the need to use the traditional human factor is a “wake up call” for the world’s banking community. While customer innovation is important, it’s only as vital as emphasizing traditional human values.
When a bank’s customer base loves technology and social media, financial institutions make significant personal connections when offering the most recent tech apps. However, while Internetonly, nonbranch banks can be effective in B2B environments, B2C banks flourish when using the personal touch, in addition to their high tech offerings.
Internal Innovations Help Bank Customers
With the internal bank management innovations becoming more innovative, some tech software features, particularly from top innovators, like Banktel, also deliver bank customer benefits. For example, Banktel’s vendor management app typically improves bank customer experiences, along with lowering financial institution costs.
Increasing banks’ bottom lines, using cutting edge software, allows financial institutions to offer depositors/borrowers better terms and interest rates. These internal innovations permit banks to offer more advantageous terms to their consumers. When banks use internal tech advances to offer better terms to customers, they stand above their crowded competitive universe.
Bank customers appreciate these relatively small competitive advantages, as they need to do business with someone. When their PFI offers the most recent technology in combination with caring, human intervention, people appreciate their bank’s concern for maximizing their money and convenience.
Regulators focus on bank safety and stability. Customers focus on outstanding rates, terms and service. These seemingly divergent objectives, however, are related. Consumers want their PFI to be safe and secure, but also offer the maximum in better terms and cutting edge digital ability.
Customer digital innovations, matched with the human factor, achieve both goals. Using internal management software further enhances the customer experience and satisfaction. Banks that offer the optimum in technology, supported by their human personnel, enjoy the most success—as do their customers.
How profitable are your banking transactions? While the number of transactions is increasing at a steady rate for the modern bank, many of the transactions being carried out today are simply not profitable for the bank. The number of hidden costs associated with the transactions added to the overhead cost of facilitating those transacts eats the bank’s profits. If you are going to make a profit as a banking entity, you need to be able to find, and then eliminate, these costs. You also need to develop working strategies to handle the inevitable “zero revenue” transactions.
It’s important for banks to realize that most of the hidden costs are not cut and dried fees. They are the operated costs behind making the transaction. While you may pay $0.10 per mobile transaction, for example, you must realize the number of other costs you pay to complete that final transaction, including paying for the software, the people to run the software and the IT professionals who step in when the programming does not work. Here are some common types of transactions that have hidden costs that are eating your revenue.
Double Costs During Core Banking Renewal Periods
When you are making the transition between two core systems, you will often have a period of time when you are running two systems at the same time. This creates two parallel costs from the two parallel core systems. With separate software monitoring and reporting on the old and new programs, you end up with double the expenses.
How can you avoid these costs? When making the transition from an old core banking system to a new one, explore opportunities to use one monitoring system for both systems. Not only will this lower costs, but it also gives you more accurate results, as you will have the same type of data from both the old system and the new system.
Fees in Mobile Transactions
Today’s consumer demands an easy to use mobile experience, yet the customer facing experience is just a drop in the bucket of the entire mobile experience. The backend processes can be quite complex and involve multiple systems in order to get back that transaction back to your bank. When implementing mobile transactions at your bank, make sure you understand all of the hidden handling costs across the process. This may go beyond the few cents advertised for the transaction by the service provider. Look for services with minimal handling costs and a good customer facing experience to make mobile banking both convenient for your customers and profitable for your bank.
Costs for Analytics
Your retail team relies on detailed reports to make wise sales decisions, but have you looked at how much those reports cost to produce? While not a fee, per se, these costs can limit your profits. Also, the labor intense processes often employed to create analytics can cause the data, which your retail professionals rely so strongly on, to be outdated and ineffective.
Finding more efficient ways to gather and use this data will help limit costs and increase productivity. Finding Problem Transactions Problem transactions are a costly fact for today’s banks. Sadly, the fees charged to the customer do not come close to covering the fees paid by the bank to track down the problem, in almost every instance. Add to this a marketing push to cut overdraft fees and fees for bounced checks, and you have a costly situation for the bank. Making this area of your bank more efficient will help cut down on the constant fees that make these problem transactions a true drain on your resources. This, in turn, will limit the number of zero revenue transactions your bank completes.
As a bank, you must learn to track down these hidden costs in order to remain competitive and profitable. Find, and then eliminate, these costs to make your bank as efficient and effective as possible.
The Wall Street Journal headline reads “More Risky Loans Allowed.” It is a non subtle “shot” at Washington for eliminating the risk retention provision, once a primary component of the Dodd-Frank Act, forcing mortgage lenders to retain, at least, a small percentage of every mortgage sold into the secondary market. The focus was to effectively prevent another housing bubble, replete with its unfortunate “boom and bust” features.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, in its attempts to expand credit and lending, supports lowering down payment minimums back to three percent. Late October 2014 also saw the Federal Reserve (and other regulators) approve rules that permit private mortgage-backed securities with no down payments of any level. Dissenters note that bureaucrats should never be allowed to dictate terms of private contracts of any type.
New Congress Reforms?
Since the midterm elections are now a fait accompli, it appears the new Congress is charged with creating significant reforms in the housing market financing arena. Until or unless that happens, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) will still dominate the housing finance market, as they have in the past.
The original Dodd-Frank Act (2010) referenced “qualified mortgages,” as those eligible for sale or securitization in the government related mortgage financing market. Qualified mortgage sales included a provision that forced lenders to retain a percentage, originally at least five percent, of the mortgages they sold.
The theory: Instead of selling 100 percent of their mortgages, leaving zero risk for banks and other direct lenders, they would retain some risk of default, unlike the unbridled lending in the residential market during the first decade of the 21st century. After passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, the common phrase became “everyone has skin in the game,” noting that all participants had some risk for losses.
Skin in the Game—Or Not?
The Wall Street Journal calls the new rules, the “no skins game,” since borrowers need not have any deposit and lenders need not retain risk. The regulators continued to use the phrase “risk retention rules,” even as they waived the original minimum retained ownership regulations.
When the new Congress debates mortgage reforms, it will face mounting pressure to eliminate the no risk modification before a new housing bubble rears its dangerous head. Reforms that stimulate safer lending are welcome; another housing bubble and the inevitable meltdown that follows are not.
Another “feature” of the new rules may be even more damaging to the business community. Regulators mandated lender risk retention for “leveraged loans.” This financing involves bank loans to companies already carrying heavy debt loads.However, regulators placed the five percent risk retention rule on the buyers, not sellers, of these contracts.
Opponents rail that there is neither logic nor accountability on the banks or lenders making these risky loans.
Whatever the regulators’ motivation, an unintended consequence may potentially surface. This initiative may well discourage lending to commercial organizations. Should investors rebel at the percentage of leveraged loans in collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), the market for loan purchases may dry up. Lenders would then be forced to keep business loans in their portfolio, while assuming all of the risk of default. Since the Fed has now ceased its massive investment in mortgage securities and CLOs, the potential problem could quickly escalate. With low credit spreads already squeezing profit margins, adding further risk to questionable loan packages could turn off the secondary market faucet. Christopher Dodd (Senate Banking Committee) and Barney Frank (House Financial Services Committee) had envisioned a much different outcome for their Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Intended to consolidate regulatory agencies, better safeguard financial markets and create tools for managing financial crises. The Dodd-Frank Act objectives appear to be sidestepped in the latest regulatory action.
Profitability and Asset Preservation
Although profitability remains a primary goal of banking institutions, the lessons learned during the housing and mortgage crisis taught many about the equal importance of asset protection. It appears that, before the housing bubble burst, even experienced lenders may have downplayed the asset preservation factor. The recent regulator actions may give Congress stronger incentives to modify, if not rewrite, the Dodd-Frank Act, including addressing the repeal of the well-intentioned “risk retention” provisions. While some of those new to the banking industry may welcome the lack of “risk retention” regulations, seasoned bankers who lived through the Great Recession understand the major role asset preservation plays in keeping financial institutions strong, stable and viable.
Millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 34, are a target market for a lot of banks. These are the consumers who have years of saving and investing ahead of them. Yet a recent report from USA Today found that these young adults, in spite of a financially responsible mindset, are finding it difficult to save and invest.
In the report, USA Today partnered with Bank of America to perform the Better Money Habits poll of Millennials. The group surveyed 1,001 people in the 1834 age group to determine what they believed about finances and how they were acting on those beliefs. Interestingly, the reports findings were a mixed message.
In the survey, Millennials reported feeling that they had good financial habits and were planning to live better off than their parents as older adults. Yet the report also found that a third of those surveyed were receiving regular financial support from their family. While they indicated they lived “within their means,” the report also found that many were living paycheck to paycheck.
Most interesting to banking professionals is the emphasis on getting rid of debt that this demographic had. This means that banking professionals need to target these consumers in another area, and many are turning to savings as their target product to offer to Millennials, but this may not be effective. According to the survey, many of this demographic are still unable to put away money for their emergency savings while also reducing debt, so they were having to choose between the two priorities.
Millennials Want to Save
According to the report, Millennials do want to save. In fact, 69 percent of those surveyed indicated they had a savings account, but most of them had less than $5,000 in that account. To top that off, 41 percent are stressed about not being able to put enough money away for the future. Yet, not many indicated they were successful at saving. Only 36 percent indicate they are excellent at saving money. So the desire is there, but the ability and knowledge to achieve that desire is not.
The Cause of this Struggle
What has caused so many Millennials to struggle to save, even though they want to? Some will say it is the job market. The market has been slow to improve, and wages have stagnated especially for entry-class workers. Students are graduating with th
ousands of dollars of debt that they have to begin paying off immediately. The end result is a demographic that is knowledge-rich and cash-poor.
How Banks Can Help
As a bank, how can you help Millennials realize their desire to save while living within the confines of their current financial situation? The answer is two-fold. First, the bank needs to focus on providing education. Millennials are used to living for the now. They are not focused on the future, and they need to be given some education about the need to focus on the future. Targeting this demographic with informative marketing materials or the services of a certified financial planner can help.
Second, these savings solutions need to be easy. In order to save, busy Millennials in the heart of their careers need it to be automatic. Encouraging them to sign up for automatic drafts, for instance, will ensure that they are consistent with saving.
Remember, Millennials are not failing to save because they don’t want to. They are failing to save because they don’t feel like they can. Provide them a way to do it that is reasonable and in line with the current financial situation, and watch as you gain more and more of these long-term accounts.
As banks face rising costs and less engagement within their branch locations, many are choosing to automate and eliminate paid possessions in order to cut costs and remain profitable. Yet there’s one potential downside of branch automation, and that is the fact that it can alienate customers. For the branch that needs to automate, these strategies will help limit the risk that the automation will turn to alienation.
Automation can remove the job of the teller in many aspects. Customers can use the ATM to retrieve cash and even deposit checks electronically. In order to save money and continue to automate the bank’s processes, while still providing the customer with an inperson experience when it is wanted, many banks have chosen to combine the teller and the sales professional into one.
By equipping the sales professional with teller abilities and responsibilities, and allowing this professional to roam the bank rather than staying locked in an office, banks can connect with customers and, potentially, make more sales. This phenomenon, which is sometimes called “pod banking,” keeps a friendly face on the bank branch as the sales professionals greet the customer faceto-face. It also eliminates the need for teller stations at branches.
Of course, the sales professionals who are taking on these new roles need automation to perform them well. Cash recyclers can eliminate the need to count back cash, balance teller drawers and reconcile cash, which can eat up significant amounts of time. With the right tools, these bankers can spend less than 10 minutes to perform tasks that traditionally took tellers hours, all without sacrificing the quality of the customer experience.
Going Paperless Without Sacrificing Customer Security
Another way that automation can be embraced by branches is through paperless banking. However, in order to keep customers, the bank needs to offer some form of digital record that is convenient and accessible to the customer. Emailed copies of forms, digital signatures on signature pads or even the customer’s own smartphone and online account opening options keep customers secure while eliminating the cost and time required to manage paperwork.
Automate Without Sacrificing Relationship
One of the fastest ways to alienate a customer is to fail to build a relationship with that customer. Prevent this problem by retaining the in person communication at the branch whenever possible, even while automating to save time on the backend. When customers come to the branch, no matter how automated it is, they need to be greeted with a friendly face.
Embracing Innovation That Makes the Customer’s Life Easier
What banking products are no longer in vogue? Can automation improve the popularity of these products? In some cases, yes. Consider the traveler’s check, as an example. Traveler’s checks are becoming less valuable as an option because of the time it takes to order and collect them. How can automation make this easier? Some banks have embraced a format that handles traveler’s checks electronically up until mailing the actual paper checks to the client. Digital records, digital ordering and even digital deductions from the customer’s account make the process more streamlined and easier for the customer.
Traveler’s checks are just one example, but this trend shows how banks must choose automation innovations that are strategic and helpful to the customer will help banks automate without alienating their customers. This requires a clear understanding of the bank’s customer base and what they need. Once this understanding is acquired, the bank can make wise choices about how to move forward with automation.
The key in each of these strategies is keeping the customer’s needs and desires in mind. By doing so, the
modern bank will be able to automate and save money while retaining their customers at the same time.
For the past few decades, technology has been as important a money to most banking institutions. Although previously lagging behind banks, credit unions also have placed a top priority on employing cutting-edge technology to better compete with their bank siblings.
In many ways, according the venerable Washington Post, financial institutions are becoming “quasi-technology companies.” This reinvention involves multiple important factors, including the following items.
Newer Banking Technology Initiatives
● New and/or shared branch innovations expand market areas and control brick and mortar costs. Shared branching is a particular favorite of the nation’s credit unions as they compete with larger banks having a “branch on every corner.”
● State-of-the-art electronic payment systems streamline consumer bill, credit card and loan payments, while allowing banks to offer the ultimate in customer convenience.
● Cutting-edge vendor management software systems permit financial institutions to manage vendor relationships, while controlling costs.
● High-level security to prevent successful cyber attacks is high priority. Banks utilize complex algorithms to strengthen security and protection of customers’ data.
Avant garde banks often institute even more cutting-edge innovations. For example, nationwide bank PNC opened two new “universal branches” (their term) in Virginia in 2014, replacing traditional teller lines with employees helping customers, while using tablets to access accounts. Wells Fargo, experimenting with Google Glass apps, has set up initial hightech locations in Washington, D.C.
Smaller community banks also are coming on board the technology train. For example, Bethesda, MDbased Eagle Banks has quadrupled its technology team since its 1998 opening. Eagle Bank’s COO commented, “The whole philosophy around technology has changed dramatically in the last 10 years . . . In today’s world the customers are the ones telling us what they want.”
This is vastly different from the days, not long ago, when financial institutions dictated the technology offered to customers. The most common current customer request is easy, safe access to accounts and services using their smartphones. For example, at Capital One Labs, the small, two-and-a-half-year old “technology spin-off” of the McLean, VA giant financial institution, small teams work on creating innovative technology, such as its mobile wallet app, independently or with equally talented partners, such as Apple Pay.
Cyber Security Equally Vital
Recent security breaches at some major retailers, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, keep cyber security enhancements on the banking industry center stage. Bank executives agree that using the most advanced technology is more than important—it is now critical to protecting customer information. Talented hackers seem to rapidly increase their ability to thwart even complex algorithms and multiple security levels. At times, data breach gurus seem to conquer security measures faster than new software can be developed. Hence, the banking industry goal of staying one step ahead of cyber security threats is becoming ever more challenging.
Vendor Management Platforms Control Costs
Proven vendor management platforms and applications offered by top banking software firms, such as Banktel, help financial institutions control costs, while efficiently tracking vendor performance and contracts. As outsourcing becomes more popular, vendor management platforms increase their role in expense
These applications are integral components to the renaissance and reinvention of banks and credit unions, large and small. Smaller institutions typically need to manage fewer vendors, but often lack the talent or personnel numbers to perform this vital function. However, proven vendor management software helps all financial institutions save money and take advantage of opportunities to increase bottom lines via cost control.
The reinvention of banks and credit unions with technology as the vehicle is disputed by few, if any, banking industry experts. For example, Capital One purchased online bank ING Direct for $9 billion (yes, with a “b”) to strengthen its Internet presence. CapOne still adds software engineers, developers, designers and “data scientists” to its staff to improve Internet and Mobile applications.
The commitment to cyber security, vendor management and mobile device banking will continue. While bank advertising may still focus on traditional customer values, the technology reinvention will continue behind the scenes with talented, creative design teams.
Increased competition, new technology that is keeping customers out of the branch and increasing costs across the banking industry has increased the demand on sales professionals to do their jobs well in order for the bank to make a profit. Today’s bankers can do well by keeping some sales tactics in mind as they try to sell more products to their customers. Without these fundamentals, your branch’s sales numbers will suffer.
Target the Right Prospects
The first step in successful sales is targeting the right prospects. Whether sales professionals working in the bank or calling officers who are soliciting targets in another way, bankers need the tools to target the right prospects.
It helps no one when your sales professionals spend their valuable time calling or reaching out to prospects, filling out applications and running credit checks for offers that are simply not going to go through. Why does this happen? It happens because all too often management expects their sales professionals to find their own prospects, or the bankers are given a list of prospects to contact that has not been screened. This wastes everyone’s time.
The truth, however, is that this is not necessary. Data on prospects is readily available, and the latest analytic programming can make it easy for bankers to receive a targeted list of prospects. Consider, for example, a bank looking to increase its business checking account numbers. By using analytics to identify the customers who are using DDAs instead of business accounts, and targeting those specific customers, the sales team will have a much higher rate of success.
Offer Engagement Services to Harvest Easy Sales
Another tactic that banks can use is targeting existing customers with engagement services connected to the accounts they already have and use. For example, a customer with a debit card and checking account can be enrolled in online bill pay or an automatic savings transfer agreement. Customers with credit products can upgrade to privacy protection.
Why is this so effective as a sales tactic? These customers already use, and hopefully like, your bank. As a result, they are more likely to accept the additional service. They are familiar with your bank and enjoy banking there.
Offer the Right Products
Your bank has many different products you wish to sell, but not all of these are a benefit to your customer. Banks need to teach their sales teams how to provide appropriate products to the specific prospect they are talking to.
How can you do this? Again, it requires data collection and analysis of that data. Your bank must know the demographic of its typical customer, and target those customers with the products that make sense for them.
Data can be collected in several ways, but customer service representatives are one of the greatest tools you have to collect this data. Customer service representatives need to make notes in a customer’s account when they hear information that could lead to a future sale. For example, when chatting with a customer who mentions children, a note can be made to offer a college savings plan at a later interaction. The more personal and targeted the product offering is, the more likely it will be that the offer is accepted.
Another way to do this is to create packages that target the demographic you see most frequently at your branch. In order to make these packages work, bankers must be trained how to match customers with a package offering.
Sales in today’s banking industry are not easy to come by, but with the right strategies, they are not impossible to make. Target the right people with the right products, and don’t forget engagement services, and your bank will be able to reach your sales goals more effectively, even in a competitive market.